What does a software asset manager have in common with Star Wars? According to ITAM/SAM industry veteran and Snow customer, David Mackenzie, it’s pretty clear.
“There’s that one scene where R2D2 is showing the hologram of Princess Leia, sending the message to everyone. She says, ‘Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.’ Honestly, that is ITAM in a nutshell. When everything goes wrong, the ITAM is the only person that can recover their organization from financial or cyber loss,” says Mackenzie.
We recently sat down with Mackenzie, a Senior IT Asset and Configuration Manager, to learn about his career progression, how ITAM has changed over the years, tips for software asset managers in 2021 and everything in between. He shares how he’s been able to use Snow throughout his career at companies including Arqiva, Dyson, Carnival UK and National Trust.
Can you tell me about your career journey and experience at each company?
MACKENZIE: The first company that I got exposure to Snow at was Arqiva. Initially, when I joined Arqiva, a lot of the information was in spreadsheets, and it was also in BMC Remedy, their ITSM tool of choice at that time. My job was to understand where the devices are set, the procurement processes and how these devices are managed.
Arqiva was using Snow before I had joined, but at the time, I don’t think they had the maturity to use the tool to its full ability. When we re-introduced the platform, it almost changed what we did overnight. There was this huge spreadsheet, which was their definitive media library. We would rely on the Joiner-Mover-Leaver process to alert us if somebody had moved so that we could reassign a license or terminate via a portal. But with Snow, it’s real-time, so as long as we had our compliance information in there and we were keeping in the green, we were happy. We could automate that process and understand how the numbers moved up and down. We became smarter about what we needed to renew in terms of cost because, looking at a spreadsheet, you can’t categorically tell what you need and what will happen in the future. You can’t see actual consumption.
Just before I joined Dyson, they realized that renewals were becoming quite expensive. They didn’t know what was out there. They were relying on people to ask, “Have you got a rough idea of who uses this? How many numbers do we need?” You’d have contractors going in and out all the time, and they’d give their input and then they would leave, and the knowledge would go with them. So, Dyson recognized they needed a decent asset management tool.
I went in and started up the function in terms of asset management, which had never been done before. The service desk was relying on information and spreadsheets. And also, each service desk representative had their sheet of information. Whether it was endpoints or client devices, they knew where some things were but couldn’t keep track of everything. For me, it was all about bringing in technology intelligence and giving them visibility over where things are stored.
When I joined Carnival UK, they were an existing Snow customer, which was hugely beneficial because I didn’t have to worry about implementing another tool when I joined. It helped us answer questions like, what do these ships do? How do they base their architecture? Are there any blackouts in connectivity? How do they map it going around the world? Snow allowed us to be a lot smarter about what assets the ships were carrying so that if we needed to do any decommissioning, we knew exactly where those devices were and when they should be retired. Using Snow was very handy, especially from a version control perspective, because you could map out where you need to do your upgrade paths.
Coming from an engineering background to then going into maritime law and looking at these devices on ships gave me a good understanding of maintenance windows, the risks, connectivity issues, blackouts and how to manage those assets.
At National Trust, I was initially brought in to set up a CMDB, map out their services, the hardware, the supporting stakeholders and provide the leadership team with forecasting.
Over the last 14 months at the Trust, we’ve accomplished some huge transformational changes. We changed the mindset around asset management. Before, it was just SAM, and now, it’s ITAM. ITAM is at the heart of what we want to do in terms of technology enablement, hardware selection, working with IT security and networks and collaborating with tier 1 vendors. When looking at the granularity of the data, we’ve had some very large renewals come through, and Snow License Manager (SLM) has allowed us to understand our users, our platforms and where applications sit.
What are four tips to being an outstanding software asset manager?
1. Be ruthless. Have the courage to ask awkward questions.
2. Don’t be embarrassed or feel ashamed to sit in the corner of the room and be quiet for the entire meeting.
3. Provide your critique and answers after everybody else has finished their conversation because what you’ll find, especially in the technology industry, is that it’s very opinionated. There are lots of people that have their own opinions and desires. But sometimes, it can be too personal. From an ITAM perspective, you need to be a diplomat and sit in the corner of the room and just listen to everybody’s opinion, value everybody’s speech, and then you can come in with your own critique and answers on how to improve process inefficiencies and waste.
4. Don’t work to one-year objectives. You have to map out to five years. With the way that agreements are changing now, large tier one vendors are happy to take the longer route and introduce more service offerings. So don’t be ashamed to ask, “What’s going on in the future?” Ask awkward questions like, “Do you think this will work?” or, “Tell me why you think this is going to work going forward?” Just ask those questions because I guarantee you that not many people will.
Why is ITAM important in the organization?
MACKENZIE: Historically, organizations didn’t have a dedicated person to say no. Customers would renew software for the sake of it. They never looked at the data and instead just trusted word of mouth. Customers would go to their colleagues and say, “Hey, I need to sort out renewal; how many seats do you think you’re going to need and what type of licensing?” Especially with ITAM, it’s nice to have leadership go to a specific team that owns that information rather than reaching out to the entire organization.
What is the future of ITAM?
MACKENZIE: I think in the future, asset management is going to kind of change and lead how organizations operate, and especially power enablement through the right tools. I think organizations are only starting to realize that the spreadsheet cannot be used going forward. You need a technology platform that can provide you information on the fly because audits, when they happen, are very quick.
With asset management, a good technology platform and visibility tool are key to understanding where people are storing things, where those devices sit, and the behaviors around how they work. It’s also important for pushing policy forward. You’ve got to be quite ruthless in asset management because your job is to protect the organization.
To learn more about our featured guest David Mackenzie check out his bio on LinkedIn.
This post is part of a series of blogs that highlight IT practitioners and their on-the-job experiences, diverse backgrounds and what it means to work in IT today.
If you’d like to share your story with Snow readers or nominate an ITAM/SAM star to tell theirs, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.