The management of Software Asset Management information and the professionalism
displayed by staff are key issues for Software Asset Management. These key issues are greatly influenced
by your organisations code of ethics. The code of ethics is a guidance set of rules for staff to
reference when they interact with other people within or external to the organisation. These rules are
particularly important when interacting with individuals or companies external to the organisation. The
code of ethics of other organisations will be heavily influenced by the culture, staff and the industry
that the organisation operates in.
The management of information is
an important consideration in Software Asset Management. The software industry is highly profitable and that
brings with it a number of challenges, as there are significant amounts of money involved. Unknowing a
member of the software asset management team could be providing information or undertaking actions that
potentially are not in the best interest to the organisation. In this article we will provide some of the
situations to be aware of and what are some of the protections to put into place to mitigate disclosure of
The first discussion point will be
on the protection that needs to be provided on the information that a member of staff has. There are a
number of protections that should be provided, we won’t address them all but we will cover the main ones.
Being aware of confidentiality of information is a fundamental requirement for the software asset management
team. Organisations typically have a rule that access to information is based on a needs to know basis.
Using this as a guide, the commercial information that the software asset management team possesses should
never be made available to a vendor in any form. The software industry is a highly competitive market where
large profits are often achieved by software companies. With this in mind, a software company should not
have an unfair advantage over another software company, by having access to information of the another
company, that has been provided by your organisation. Having access to commercial information of their
competitors is a significant issue, which can lead to legal issues. There are a few simply measures to help
mitigate this issue.
One of the simplest measures is
that a software vendor is not allowed access to the software asset management teams work area. This will
immediately remove the opportunity for them to hear conversations, see information on desks or computer
screens that inadvertently is made available to them. Whilst you may be able to control what is on your
desk, computer screen and conversation initiated by you, there is very little control you will have with
other people in what’s on their desk, computer screen and conversations they initiate. The simplest solution
is that all meetings are held in meeting rooms that are not located in your work area.
During a meeting with a software
vendor (outside of your work area), one of the main tasks that a software vendor has, is to elicit
information from you to help with their future sales. These types of conversations are not an illegal
activity that is being undertaken by the software vendor (unless an inducement is being made, which would be
highly irregular and illegal). The more information that a software vendor has, then their chances of
achieving a sale increases, so be on your guard. The software asset management team needs to be careful in
what information they provide the vendor. If the vendors question is not appropriate then you immediately
tell them and that’s the end of that particular question. Information is restricted to the vendor’s
commercial discussion points. Questions on business decisions, future directions of the business are not for
your team to answer. These should be answered by the business and strategy teams. Politely refer the vendor
to these teams. Questions about other vendors are strictly “out of bounds” and should not be discussed.
Software vendors will always make the point on how their software is much better than their competitors.
Politely advise them that’s what all software vendors say, do not engage into conversation as you may
inadvertently divulge information about one of their competitors. It is important in meetings with the
software vendor that you control the conversation.
Email is a risk to inadvertently
providing information to the wrong software vendor. It is very easy to send an email to the wrong person.
There are some simple steps that may help in mitigating this risk. Firstly limit to the highest extent
possible, the amount of commercial information that is sent by email. Some organisations will have email
classifications that will stop certain information being sent outside of the organisation. Use these
classifications wisely to help you, to not send information over the internet that could be wrongly
addressed or intercepted. It is a better approach to meet personally to discuss and exchange commercial
information with the software vendor. When emails need to exchanged with the software vendor that involves
commercial information, it is better to ask the software vendor to email you first. This is a simple safe
guard in that it is safer to do a reply to an email than type in a person’s name, as it is easy to overlook
the auto select used by email clients that could be the wrong person.
The second discussion point is the
about the professionalism required from the software asset management team in interacting with individuals
or companies external to the organisation. As a representative of your organisation, there is a
responsibility on you to represent your company in the most positive light. The code of ethics provides
important guidance on the behavioural aspects on how to represent your organisation.
As in all walks of life, there
will be quite a considerable wide range of different people you will meet and need to interact with, in
Software Asset Management. Obviously there will be people on first impression you will be more positive to
than others, this is normal human behaviour. However, as a professional you need to treat all people
equally, below are few of the issues you should be aware of and the approaches that should be
The approach to interacting with
software vendors should be based on the personal qualities of acting honesty, impartiality, having courage
and displaying integrity. Let’s now explore these a little further. To act honesty with a vendor can cover
many and varied circumstances, we will focus on a few of the most important circumstances. A software vendor
sales person role is to sell software. Their performance and remuneration is based on how much software they
sell. They are given targets they much reach each quarter, for an overall end of year position. For these
periods, a software vendor sales person will advising their management what sales are being forecast and to
whom. When interacting with the software vendor sales person, you must act with total honesty on the
possibility of software sales to them. The software vendor sales person relies on this information to
provide their forecast to their management. A prudent software asset management professional will always
advise a software vendor sales person that no software sale is certain until your organisation has issued a
purchase order and/or signed a software contract for the software. Until that purchase order and/or software
contract has been signed, your organisation is not obliged or committed to that software
The impartiality of a software
asset management professional is a cornerstone of software asset management. In the IT industry software
vendors are very adapt in building allegiances to their products, with the IT technical people. It is very
similar to supporting rival sporting teams; one member of a team within your organisation will support one
software company, whilst another member of that team will support another. In terms of support, we are
discussing the IT technical person preferred software product over another vendor’s software product. This
preference is usually based on their own skill sets, knowledge and experience. Whilst this maybe perfectly
understandable from an individual’s view point, it’s not understandable from an organisational view point.
The software vendor will use the support of the relevant IT technical people to argue their case for their
software product. As the software asset management professional, you must be impartial to the choice of
which vendors software products are purchased. From your perspective the decision on the choice of the
software product, will be made by others to support a business decision. Your role is when that choice is
made, that the best price and terms and conditions are obtained from the software vendor. There are many
ways to reinforce the impartiality that you have as a software asset management professional. The most
obvious one is to continually communicate this to the software vendor whenever the opportunity arises. A
constant message, delivered by all members of the software asset management team will become embedded into
the software vendors understanding. Internally within your organisation this message needs to be repeated as
well. Apart for the software asset management team’s involvement in providing software licensing and
contracting advice on proposed product solutions, the software asset management team has no other decision
making involvement with the software product decision.
Being courageous is hard but a
necessary fundamental trait of a software asset management professional. There will be many occasions where
there will be the requirement to be hard conversations held with both software vendors and internal
organisational staff on a wide range of issues. Examples of where this may be required are when there are
complaints made against the software vendor (this could equally apply for internal organisational staff). In
drawing upon your honesty and impartiality values, you must investigate and apply an independent view of the
situation and most importantly the context that the situation existed in. There are always two sides to a
story and situations are normally complex and influenced by the personalities of the people involved.
Depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint, the usual path is to provide education and
guidance to both parties on how to mitigate this situation arising again into the future. It is not easy to
undertake these actions and it does take courage to address these issues, particularly the serious ones
where you need to bring in other parties for the resolution.
Another circumstance in where
courage is required is to stand up for the rights for your organisation. There will be people you deal with
from software vendors that will “just try it on.” Whilst this maybe a minority of software sales vendors,
these people still exist. This is often found when a software vendor tries to sell you more software when
you already have enough or when they say they make noises about software deployments, when your compliance
position is fine. Most people are conservative and unless they are 100% sure of their position will
instinctively go for the safer option of purchasing. It is important to challenge these types of software
vendors. You must ask them questions on what they are basing their information on. How have they drawn
together their conclusions. By going through this process with the software vendor, it will become clear
what action should you be really taking. Often you may find the software vendor has drawn “a long bow” from
a few snippets of information out of context into a conclusion that does not stack up, on the available
Integrity is not something that is
anointed upon you or is a right because you are a software asset management professional. Integrity is
something that is earned and recognised by others. Integrity is a combination of number of your personal
traits and values that include honesty, upholding moral ethical principles and to have a strong enduring
moral character. With the software industry deliver large profits to companies every year, it is important
that the software asset management team has integrity. With the amount of money involved in software, all
financial transactions must be done with the utmost integrity.
This article on protecting
information and professionalism has covered some of the issues that fall within these subjects. With the
large profits that software vendors achieve these issues and requirements are not easy. There are a number
of additional requirements and strategies on these subjects. More in-depth information will become available
in the topic specific articles and in-depth information articles.
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