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The Inventory Process Is Never Complete

Perhaps this sounds familiar: under the gun because of Publisher X’s request for software use audits, an epic fire drill erupts across your firm to gather and tabulate an inventory of what’s in use. Business units not normally involved in tracking software assets scramble to meet the demand to produce raw data, summaries and explanations of the products they use. Upper management, normally hands-off with regard to the gory details of software licensing and compliance, anxiously demand by-the-minute status updates on how the analysis is going; when it will be finished; and most importantly, what the firm’s financial exposure is likely to be.

At last, the day of reckoning arrives. The firm presents its position to Publisher X and defends its outlook, and final resolution is reached with the publisher.

Back in the office, after the dust settles and the audit is complete, internal teams breathe their sighs of relief. Perhaps they initiate a post-mortem exercise to identify process improvements, only to inevitably resume fighting the other fires on their radars. It might be fair to say that at this juncture, everybody has heard all they want to hear about Publisher X. “We’ll do better next time, now that we know what it takes,” they might be heard saying.

This moment might be the most critical on the road to ensuring the next time goes smoothly! Why? Because in the afterglow of getting this workload off their plates, the same teams and business units that just put out the Publisher X fire are much more likely to take their eye off the ball, allowing their SAM discipline to wane. After all, the firm has this nice contract with Publisher X that won’t expire for two more years – and certainly, we’ll remember these lessons when that day comes. In truth, though, when Publisher X comes calling, how often can we say that the process goes more smoothly than it did the previous time? That’s why the best chance to ensure better results next time starts now. Despite Publisher X fatigue, your firm’s SAM team should seize this opportunity to stay on top of the software tracking process firm wide.

In previous blog entries, I’ve written about the importance of marketing the significance of SAM. It’s never easier or more effective to communicate a message than right after a shared experience to which your coworkers can readily relate. This post-Publisher X moment gives you a timely example with fresh material for email blasts, newsletters, blog entries and knowledgebase collateral. Throughout your communications, you can highlight the pain points and advocate for the steps necessary to avoid similar issues in the future.

Simultaneously, you may want to consider instituting “practice audits”. You can use them as exercises to test the rigor and effectiveness of the firm’s inventory gathering – and ongoing tracking – processes. This will keep people focused on the task of tracking and updating software usage data, and keep everyone better prepared to report on their usage when called upon. Constituents will be better able to justify their positions, too.

As with anything, staying in shape is paramount to success. And like winning the Super Bowl (not that I can speak from experience), finishing a grueling inventory cycle can naturally lead to a desire to exhale. But now is the time for extra vigilance to keep all the players focused on the coming season and make sure they’re ready to play their best when the action starts again.

How are you able to keep people’s eyes and minds on the future, and avoid falling prey to relaxation after enduring a hard inventory process? How do you keep teams energized and determined to stay vigilant and not surrender the hard-won gains through complacency and inertia? I’d love to hear how you keep your teams engaged and enthusiastic about a better inventory process!