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Customer Snapshot: Great American Financial Resources (Part 1)

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Part 1: Investing Wisely In IT Asset Management

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Great American Financial Resources, Inc. is a successful financial services company with a reputation for excellence in money management and providing value to policyholders. For any company, IT asset management (ITAM) is a complex and demanding discipline that involves constant tracking and analysis of both tangible and intangible assets and activities. For Bryant Caldwell, Director of IT Asset Management and Finance for the Annuities Group of Great American Insurance Group (the Annuities Group), there’s an extra stress factor: the Annuities Group’s product line is closely tied to market movements, and the unique complexities of its IT infrastructure reflect the critical importance of constantly monitoring and responding to market changes and providing reliable, unimpeded information flow to employees wherever they are.

Caldwell oversees almost 1,400 software products and all endpoints located across the organization, from its offices in Ohio and Texas to employees’ home offices, plus a sales force located at various points around the country. He manages an annual budget of $24 million, a substantial portion of which is allocated to IT asset management. His responsibility covers virtually all aspects of ITAM including software inventory, license compliance, and support contracts, as well as managing hardware—servers, desktops, laptops, and all of the software that runs on them.

Caldwell is also responsible for managing the array of mobile devices that enterprise workers increasingly rely on to stay connected and productive. The group is currently developing a “bring your own device” policy for all company-issued and employee-owned mobile devices, whether they are company-supplied or employee-owned, and which run the gamut of just about every available device, platform, and carrier.

Evolving IT Asset Management Needs

Until 2012, the Annuities Group had used Novell ZENworks as their IT asset management tool. While the product had worked well for many years, Caldwell’s team started noticing a degradation in ZENworks’ ability to manage software assets after an apparent shift in product focus and business model. Valuable features and functionality had been lost in a series of product updates, and his team was forced to devote considerable amounts of extra administrative overhead to compensate. Caldwell explained, “We needed a different tool that could automatically recognize and manage a wide variety of product types, licensing models and usage contexts: freeware and shareware, licensing per seat and per user and so on. We also needed to be able to account for different kinds of installs, whether on a workstation or mobile device.”

To halt the resource drain, Caldwell initiated a search for a better solution. After an extensive evaluation process that included careful performance and cost analysis, he ultimately recommended a switch to Express Software Manager because of its superior functionality—especially in software inventory, usage, and license management—and the resulting savings that could be realized in terms of administrative overhead and overall costs. The Annuities Group transitioned to Express Software Manager in May of 2012.

Caldwell used a highly systematic approach to reach his decision.

“It’s fundamentally simple, but crucial, to put it all on paper and crunch the numbers to achieve not only potential savings, but also to estimate cost avoidance,” he says. “It’s tempting for some people to try to calculate everything in their head or execute by gut, but it’s just too easy to lose track of where you stand and end up overspending.”

In the next post, found here, we’ll talk about the specific issues and performance criteria that influenced Caldwell’s product selection, and the results that validated his selection.

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