So much of the Software Asset Management (SAM) blogosphere deals with keeping your asset data current: knowing where your machines are, what software is on them, how they are being used and tips & techniques on tools that can help manage the process. I even wrote a blog back in April of 2017 on ways to keep yourself current and excited about technology.

Did you ever think about how the SAM process (or any business process for that matter) that you currently have will continue after you’re gone? You’re not going to be in this same role forever, are you? (I know that sometimes it might seem like forever, but that’s a topic for another day.) I also don’t mean “gone” as in the hereafter; I’m simply talking about the time after you leave the role to go on to something else, whether it’s inside your company or outside at another company.

Consider this for a minute: For our loved ones, we have a Last Will & Testament that dictates the way that our assets (not SAM assets) will be distributed and utilized following our death. We might even have a Letter of Last Instruction, which is an organized way for us to give our families all the facts about where to find things like social security numbers, vault keys, online passwords, location of the funeral plot, life insurance, etc. (You didn’t know there was such a thing as a Letter of Last Instruction, did you? You’re welcome.) So what equivalent do we have when it’s time to turn over our roles, responsibilities and processes to someone else?

If you’re like many organizations, you may not have much of anything. It’s left up to the person departing to turn over the knowledge of the process and responsibilities to the next person. All well and good, but that’s like playing “Telephone”: a little something gets lost in the translation as the knowledge gets passed from one person to another. As time goes on, certain things get distorted or even lost.

The knowledge transfer process above sort of assumes that people change roles after long periods of time, but that’s not a valid assumption. An organization I know of that will remain nameless had a situation where the revolving door of employee turnover was spinning very fast – people were leaving and joining the company in a matter of weeks. It seemed like an entire team was new within a few months. Shortly after the revolving door stopped spinning, a particular part of a process broke. The I/T staff was constantly reporting that space on a shared drive was almost completely used up. While it was the responsibility of the SAM team to clean up the files on this drive, none of the replacement team members were ever informed that this was a responsibility of theirs and none of them knew which files should be removed. (Many of the files were not theirs; they were just “there”.) The I/T staff kept telling the SAM team to delete old files, but the SAM team did not know how to define “old”. Upon further review, it turned out that an entire part of the process was lost to time and employee turnover. The I/T staff stepped in and retrained the SAM staff about the process and the missing pieces, only because the I/T staff possessed “longevity”; they had been around longer that the SAM team and knew enough about the process history to bring it all together and fill in the knowledge gaps, even though they did not perform this process on a day to day basis.

What if the I/T staff couldn’t come to the rescue here? What if there was no “longevity”? How can you prevent your organization from encountering the same situation? I’d like to propose an idea which is outlined below. Please note that there are two actors – the person leaving (who is doing the turnover) and the new process owner (who is taking over). Although it would be nice if both actors have an equal stake in the turnover’s success, usually the person leaving has far less regard for the continued success of the role after he/she leaves. However, the idea below does suggest that the person leaving have some role in the turnover’s success. (The idea below is not SAM specific.)

  1. As the current process owner, create a document containing an outline about all parts of the current process. It is not a critique of the process; merely, discussion points of what is done currently and what you need to review with the new process owner. Ask yourself “what would I need to know as a newbie to make this process continue smoothly”? Use those questions to come up with the outline. If a previous outline exists, then try to use that to maintain continuity, but check it for completeness first.
  2. As the current process owner, create a document that contains empty sections for each part of the outline. This is your “gift” to the person who is receiving the benefits of your turnover.
  3. Perform the turnover with the new process owner. As a homework assignment, the new process owner will document what was explained by filling in each section of the empty document.
  4. The current process owner “grades” the document for completeness.
  5. The new process owner, along with the process team, compares this newly graded document with previous documents to ensure that the turnover is complete and nothing has been missed. The goal here is consistency; if there are any differences, they need to be analyzed and possibly documented again. If this is the first time going through this exercise and there is no previous document, then this new document becomes the baseline.

What is the result of the above steps? Your organization has now created a business version of a “last will and testament” that can be passed on to future generations of process owners. You’ve basically created process documentation, and are now reviewing that documentation, at a minimum, when ownership changes. You now have a process to document any process!! Rather than be in the dark, the new process owners can, uh, rest easy knowing that there will be continuity through the change in ownership, and you will negate the need for an outside consultant (the I/T team?) to come up with the process.

What does your organization do to ensure continuity as part of its turnover process?