Establish Your Software Asset Management (SAM) Techniques

February 4, 2016
Editorial Staff

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Editorial Staff

When it comes to managing your IT environment, Software Asset Management (SAM) is one of those headaches you just want to avoid. Unfortunately, for many businesses it takes a vendor audit to appreciate the real size of this gamble. To make matters worse, vendor audits are on the rise; it is now expected that 70% of organizations will be hit with at least one software audit this year.

The good news is that it is possible to get your SAM on track without waiting for that dreaded audit letter. Software Asset Management does so much more for your bottom line than minimizing that potential unbudgeted, unprepared, and highly unwanted bill.

So, how do you do it? Below are four key elements to getting your SAM processes underway so that you can regain control and instigate the steps to mature your SAM function.

1.  Engagement Scope

Start by mapping out your vision. What is it you want to achieve? It is imperative you have an objective amongst all of this so stakeholders can know what you are aiming for. Like with anything, careful planning, realistic timeframes, and attainable goals will make this project a success.

Set clear roles and responsibilities as part of a comprehensive action plan and identify people within your organisation who will support this. Stakeholders must be aligned with your objectives so that momentum isn’t lost. A key characteristic of ‘successful SAM’ is communication so that all parties can relate to the benefits.

2.  Deployment Visibility

Understanding what has been deployed in your environment is the next step. Maybe not that easy, right? With different teams involved in change and technology planning, SAM is often an afterthought. Therefore it’s not a surprise that new infrastructure and deployments do not get communicated to the person responsible for SAM or licensing. Software is frequently downloaded without the knowledge or approval from the business, and when certain applications are used on a corporate device, there are additional repercussions. Ultimately this leads to rapid environment obscurity that is increasingly difficult to be managed manually.

On a per-computer basis, what is installed? To correctly license software these days you need to fully understand the hardware environment and specifications such as processors and cores, virtual and physical allowances; therefore, provisioning a specialized inventory and license management tool is highly advised. There are a number of great SAM tools on the market today, with variations depending on your requirements and suitability. Some are great for Microsoft and Adobe as part of your desktop environment, however additional components are required for more complex scenarios such as Oracle and IBM.  For discovery purposes, an asset intelligence tool covering 90-95% of the estate is the general rule of thumb accepted by most vendors.

It’s worth noting that these tools, quite rightly, can be expensive due to the significance and quality of data they deliver by using software application recognition. The various SAM technology options are aimed at different levels of SAM maturity and complexity of environment, so be sure to do your due diligence. With this in mind, when deciding which SAM tool to adopt, make sure you refer back to your scoping session, involving your teams and their necessary outcomes as they will be the ones using this tool, so their buy-in is important.

If you have a tool already in use across the environment that you’re already one step ahead of the game. Performing validation exercises against Active Directory is a part of this process so always verify the data is a) comprehensive and b) relevant.

With these two principles secured, you’re ready to move on to the hit list.

3.  80/20 Rule

The power of SAM tools these days is the sheer amount of data they provide, discovering all licensable and non-licensable applications installed across the network as part of the recognition library. Where do you begin with all the insightful data you now have? As a best practice approach, I recommend you narrow your focus down to key vendors that pose the greatest risk to your business. Typically these will be the ones you spend the most on (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP for example) so use the financial data the business already has access to, to really leverage your focus. It is very likely they also present the greatest opportunities for optimizing your investments and will be the biggest triumph to implementing the software asset management process. Often we find that around 20% of the vendors make up around 80% of the company spend, so that’s a great place to start.

4.  Entitlement Clarity

Once you’ve got a clearer picture of your environment and you know which vendors you want focus your efforts on, you’re going to need the final data source: license entitlement.

In-house management of license entitlement is impressive when all the procurement records, contracts, invoice records, and license certificates are consolidated, especially with regular mergers and acquisitions. The use of spreadsheets and counting up box products is not only dull work but can be unreliable. Therefore, best practice suggests to obtain entitlement directly from the publisher for optimal clarity. These are the records that would be used in an audit scenario.

Interpretation of the publishers license statement is another challenge as products can be bundled and, as licensing metrics differ from publisher to publisher, it’s ok to not remember them all. Their Product Terms and Use Rights documents contain the relevant information, albeit ambiguous at times, but by making the efforts to perform this comprehensive analysis you can start to see risks and opportunities in your environment and look at ways in which you can use this to introduce the latest technologies, allowing you to innovate and enhance the business and its capabilities.

Bringing it all together

Having an inventory and license management tool is great, but being able to systematically collate and interpret all that complex data is where many customers stumble. They end up deferring to the judgement of the vendor in an audit and ultimately pay hefty fines. However, the reality is that making the effort to put a mature SAM practice in place brings real risk protection to the business whilst helping you find more room in an ever tightening IT budget.

The exciting thing is, this is just the beginning…

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