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Hardware asset management: Tips for channel managers

Channel partner managers may be tempted to neglect IT asset management, but they should work with their customers on this important task. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Why should channel managers care about hardware asset management? Many believe that any errors in IT asset management will create opportunities for the channel, but the fact of the matter is that it has the opposite effect. Loyal clients become disenchanted, they seek external consultation -- many of these consultants may be resellers or other vendors -- and the channel loses a loyal client. Channel managers should act as partners to their clients and even their consultants to create the most effective hardware or even IT asset management strategic plan.

Channel manager myths around hardware asset management

Let's talk about the myths that channel managers tend to perpetrate:

Hardware is just inventory management, why should I get involved? Organizations and the IT industry, in general, have mentally placed hardware asset management (HAM) as an administrative function where they are just doing inventory and checking off what hardware they have. From laptops and desktops to mobile devices, the conventional wisdom for HAM has been "tag and inventory." But that approach simply creates huge security risks, inflated financial commitments, issues with software licensing and compliance as well as knowledge retention gaps.

Noncompliance is good for us. If the enterprise has an IT asset management (ITAM) gap -- license or hardware noncompliance issues -- it's great for us. The channel can sell more licenses and other products, the client gains compliance and everyone is happy. This is absolutely untrue. The market has become more sophisticated -- from the IT leadership at the enterprise to the consultants who support them. While ITAM may not always be on the forefront in the IT strategic plan, there has been an increased awareness and education in the industry over the last decade. The fact that you -- as the channel -- are not assisting in good corporate ITAM citizenship may lead to a change in channel partners.

Channel managers should act as partners to their clients and even their consultants to create the most effective hardware or even IT asset management strategic plan.

The client is responsible for its own ITAM. That might very well be true, but when a company is a victim of a cyberattack or has a significant licensing issue due to a change in hardware or software Terms & Conditions, who will the client start grumbling about once the dust has settled?

Consultants are unfriendly to the channel. Consultants are often looked at as unfriendly, but they serve the purpose of providing expertise and in-depth knowledge that may not exist within an organization. The channel manager shouldn't look at consultants as mortal enemies, but as allies or frenemies. The majority of the time, an in-depth hardware asset management audit will uncover vulnerabilities that will lead to a need for additional IT assets or a change in IT assets. If the channel manager is working closely with the client and/or the client's consultant, it's likely the channel can assist with new procurements, upgrades and any other actions needed. The willingness to work with a client's consultant, whether an internal or external consultant, builds a sense of trust. Granted, my team and I are consultants, however, we've seen first-hand what happens when a channel manager just sells without care to their client's potential IT and corporate risks.

Losing a client from time to time is part of doing business. It takes a greater effort -- in terms of talent and financial investment -- to acquire a customer than to retain a customer. Over the course of a client's lifecycle, the client will likely spend more than three times its original purchase. In this case, hardware's ties to licensing procurement for each client create an opportunity for the various groups supporting hardware to cross-sell and upsell. Why would any channel manager look at a client loss with a shrug?

There are so many more reasons why channel managers should internalize their clients' concerns about asset management -- whether hardware, software or something else. While a product may be entrenched within an enterprise and it would be difficult to migrate to another vendor's solutions, we've been seeing a trend of IT asset reduction from select vendors only to have the enterprise wooed by another vendor. It takes years in the making, but the channel should guard against this vulnerability.

What can channel managers do?

1. Educate themselves on hardware asset management and how it relates to asset management, IT strategy, finances and the many other strategic as well as tactical areas.

2. Actively participate in discussions with clients about their HAM and how it relates to ITAM/software asset management planning as well as the strategic IT or corporate plan.

3. Build camaraderie with the consultants and leverage their knowledge even after a project is done.

4. Bring in your own channel experts when vulnerability is unveiled during a hardware asset management project.

As a channel manager, you'll work closely with your clients to fulfill their needs, but you'll be able to do so much more if you have more intimate knowledge of a client's strategy, needs and vulnerabilities. Trust is not given, but earned. By working side by side with your client, you can earn that trust.

About the author:
McLachlan is the CEO of Nahteava LLC, a management consulting firm specializing in IT and software asset management and advisory services.

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