Ready for seat management? Then you probably don't need it

Ready for seat management? Then you probably don't need it

By Jerry Slaymaker

Special to GCN

Once again I find myself opposite my good friend Charlie Self, providing another viewpoint on seat management.

The approach of many seat management vendors has evolved.

The issue for both vendor and client is now less about whether due diligence is necessary and more about the nature and breadth of the preparation.

I think of seat management as the answer to a riddle: What is it that, when properly prepared for, is no longer necessary?

The better prepared an agency is to make the appropriate seat management decision, the more likely it is that the agency will receive only marginal returns on its investment. The more the client knows, the more specific the client can be about the services, costs and benefits of seat management.

What follows are six prelaunch questions that could help an organization define and defend a seat management contract. An agency may select a subset of these questions, but the answers to all of them probably will have to be addressed, either before implementation or during a post-implementation audit.

Who is the decision-maker?

This can have a major impact on the whole organization. Many chief information officers see this as their call. But the visibility and risk associated with implementing seat management may require a partnership between the CIO and the agency's chief financial officer.

Both have a vested interest in success. The CIO may be looking for service-level improvements, and the CFO for reduced costs. Together they can be in a position to overcome resistance to a change of this magnitude.

What is the standard architecture to be supported by the seat manager?

This question is critical. Does the agency understand and have the ability to document the architecture to be supported, to position the seat manager for success and to reduce the costs of seat management?

The wider the variety of architecture, the more expensive support will be. Positioning for seat management means the organization should consider migrating to a more consistent and consolidated architecture.

What are the current service levels?

Whether employees or contractors perform these services, agency chiefs must understand what they are getting today in order to understand what they want to order in the future.

What entity relationship agreements are needed?

Seat management's impact on the existing organization and work force is sometimes overlooked.

It involves management of distributed assets operated by organizations outside the traditional information technology organizations. It might also have an impact on local and regional information centers.

And, of course, employees want to remain employed. For other organizations, the seat manager will replace contractor support. There will be agencywide software site licenses that might not be permitted on seat manager-provided equipment.

Some agencies may consider a relatively new instrument, the entity relationship agreement. An ERA is designed to address issues associated with the migration from existing sources of operational support to the new seat manager. These agreements will let the agency maintain accountability for asset management and service delivery.

What is the current total cost of ownership?

This is a perennial favorite. In considering seat management, it is critical to understand the current cost of operation for whatever assets are going to be managed in a new way.

Before outsourcing, you might need that information to provide an independent government estimate for the seat management delivery order.

After outsourcing, the CFO may audit the task to determine if it was a sound business decision; without a base line, no comparison would be possible.

What should the business case address?

New regulations require a business case for IT initiatives. The business case for seat management should address its impact on the total cost of ownership, the business benefits to be realized, the risks introduced by the vendor, the technology, the culture and the size of the project, and, finally, the flexibility gained through potential benefits to the organization and potential support of future systems.

Now, back to my riddle. For some organizations, undertaking the due diligence required for seat management could increase efficiency to the point that seat management is no longer viable.

By involving the CFO in the partnership; moving to a more standard architecture to reduce the seat management costs; identifying and possibly improving existing service levels; developing an appropriate understanding of who is doing what; and recognizing and perhaps improving on the existing total cost of operation, an agency could, on its own, realize the gains that seat management offers.

Jerry Slaymaker, senior manager for the public-services division of KPMG Peat Marwick of New York, was until early this year the senior adviser to the chief information officer of the Environmental Protection Agency. He can be reached at

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