While the data and business reasons for ITAM investment may seem clear, many organizations still fail to get authorization for their ITAM activity. Understand your own organization’s best-practices for business case presentation, including the processes and templates used to secure project funding, can speed financial approval up considerably.
Templates and formats
Once you’re clear as to why you’re doing ITAM, what business initiative it is aligned with, what the requirements and costs are, and which budget the funding is being requested from, then you’re ready to start preparing the business case for presentation. While the content is important, the way in which the material is presented and articulated is key to a successful business case. You need to present material that is relevant, clear and easy to understand. To do this you need to understand what it is that your organization needs to know in order to determine how investment in ITAM should be prioritized.
Most organizations have an existing process for obtaining approval for investment, and often have set templates to use. While these do not always appear particularly user-friendly to IT or Procurement teams trying to complete them, they are designed to present the information that IT, Finance, and the business as a whole, need to assess whether there is a valid case for investment. I’ve worked with many organizations over the years to develop business cases, and I have heard many complaints about having to use a set template for presentation of the business case.
While these templates might be restrictive, they have been developed by key people in your organization to allow them to assess the relevant information in an efficient manner that will help them prioritize investment. Before dismissing the template, bear in mind that business cases that don’t use these templates may be rejected because they don’t contain necessary detail – and also because an inability to follow the standard process and complete the details that have been requested suggests that the person completing the paperwork doesn’t understand business priorities.
In order to get the best out of the template, talk to people who have successfully submitted business cases and had their funding approved. Ask them how they worked out what they needed to do, and how they managed to get what they knew to fit into the required format.
Talk to Finance about how to articulate the financial benefits of ITAM, as although there are other important elements to consider, the financial data showing return on investment and the time taken to achieve it is usually a key factor in prioritization. While much of the content will be descriptive text (problem, possible solutions, preferred option, plans etc.), there is usually a tabular section for headline financial information. Consider appending or embedding more detailed spreadsheets showing how costs and benefits are calculated as well as the comparison of the different options for those who may want to dig into the detail.
The format will dictate the content, so review the template carefully to see what information you need to provide and ensure that you have it. If you’re just setting out on your ITAM journey, it can be difficult to answer many of the questions (e.g., which budgets you expect to see cost savings against, and how much they will be) as you’re often in a situation where you don’t know what you don’t know. However, focus on what you do know, where you can get information and how you can use this to support your business case. Even if you have no ITAM tools to provide data, you may find that existing discovery, deployment, security and management tools, contract management and purchase-to-pay systems can provide useful information.
Before putting together the material you know about, go through the template carefully and work out where you are likely to struggle. These are the areas to focus on.
Make clear that you have considered several options and explain why the proposed solution is the best one. Broadly your options should be positioned as:
- Do nothing – carry on with the current level of capability and ask the audit committee to accept the associated risks.
- Do too little too late – wait until we have a major audit and then rush round and do our best.
- Do too much – there’s always an option to do all the ‘nice to haves’ that aren’t necessary to address your current requirements, but there’s a cost involved with including unnecessary extras, so looking at this option makes clear that you considered the scope of your proposal carefully.
- Do the right thing (i.e. what we’re proposing). Spend a sensible amount for a realistic solution that delivers to our requirements based on current and future business needs.
Articulating Financial benefits
Discuss the issues that have triggered your requirements with Finance so that they can identify how to account for the financial benefits. It is important to have clear guidelines as to what qualifies as a cost saving (saving against budget) and what is cost avoidance (not spending money we hadn’t planned on spending but might have to) and how the two should be assessed and weighted as part of the business case. While budget holders (who will need to sign off on the benefits) are generally focused on savings against budget, finance professionals are often more concerned about cost avoidance and ensuring there is minimal unplanned expenditure.
Most ITAM business cases are built solely around the cost of the tool or service that a third-party has quoted for. Many of them fail to account for the additional resources needed to carry out the processes, analysis, investigation and tracking of remediation and optimization activity, as well as recording and reporting on the success of the ITAM function in meeting business objectives and KPIs. These include:
People – Whether provided in house or via managed services, ITAM requires skilled people to ensure that it is carried out effectively. While the use of a managed service helps to reduce internal headcount and the overhead involved in sourcing and retaining experienced ITAM, SAM and licensing professionals, it does not mean that no internal resource is needed. Just as liabilities cannot be outsourced, ITAM cannot be outsourced – there is a limit to the responsibilities that can be assigned to a service provider, hence we see ‘managed SAM’ services rather than ‘outsourced SAM’. As a minimum, there needs to be an individual responsible for ensuring that the service is delivered, and recommendations are either rejected or acted on. In practice, even with a managed service, there is often a need to support communication and integration with internal IT and business stakeholders, and any outsourcers.
Process – ITAM is driven by the processes that provide the data and ensure the accuracy of its outputs. Without robust processes there is no ITAM activity. ITAM processes need to be carefully designed and integrated into business processes, as they are not separate from IT and business activities. There will be costs involved in process redesign, implementation and training, and an ongoing impact due to the need for continuous improvement both in terms of data quality and in processes as ITAM matures and the organization changes.
Technology – this is not just about specialist ITAM and SAM tools, but about all the data sources and tools needed to help manage all the different types of technology assets within our organization. Just as IT must consider the integration of each new system it onboards, so ITAM needs to consider how to access the data needed to populate the ITAM system. This data also needs to be cleansed; feedback provided on quality issues and analysis of the outputs must be carried out.
When putting the business case together, all these costs must be identified, considered and explained, to ensure that the solution stands up to scrutiny and the true cost of both the project and the ongoing support for ITAM is understood.
When planning any project there will be assumptions made, whether about the availability of data or resources, stakeholder buy in, or specific technologies that are already (or should be) in place. This section should include any assumptions by other projects that ITAM data will be available to support their work and highlight the associated timescales.
Risks & Dependencies
Your business case needs to include details of all risks and dependencies on other parts of the organization that may impact on the success of your project. These may be dependencies on other tools and technology such as financial, ERP, P2P or HCM systems, or on other projects being completed, or on specific resources being available to support the project. Dependencies should be carefully mapped so the impact of any delay or failure in one place can be tracked through the entire project. This section should also call out all dependencies that other projects have on the ITAM implementation and the associated risks of not being able to support them.
To learn more about how to articulate the benefits of implementing an ITAM function to the business and gain executive support, watch the recording of our recent webinar ‘Building The Business Case For SAM’. As part of our ITAM best practice webinar series, Victoria equips you with step-by-step advice on how to identify and engage critical stakeholders. Listen on-demand now.