IT Asset Management (ITAM) has an image problem. All too often organisations embark on an ITAM or Software Asset Management (SAM) programme as a knee-jerk reaction to when they have been financially damaged by a vendor licence audit or an unexpectedly pricey agreement renewal.  

When SAM programmes are rushed into without a proper strategy, or without the organisation determining what success should look like and what measurable business value can be achieved, they are destined to end in dissatisfaction for all parties involved. When SAM is viewed as a ‘tick-box’ exercise, and bundled up as part of a wider software and services package from an organisation’s IT solution provider, it is also unlikely to go far beyond limited reporting and licence/deployment counting. 

If a SAM programme is not properly designed, it will be viewed as a hinderance within an organisation, making it difficult for the workforce to access the software they need and adding layers of unnecessary red tape. Even worse, it will be simply ineffective. The image of SAM within a business will be permanently destroyed if it is seen to demonstrate no value. The entire operation will likely be scrapped the next time budgets are squeezed or key individuals leave the organisation. 

What to Look for in a Software Asset Management Service 

Software Asset Management is not a ‘set and forget’ exercise, and the service you choose to engage with, as well as any supporting SAM technology platform, should reflect this. Your service provider should help you to understand what great, ongoing outcomes from an effective SAM programme look like.  

To help with this, we have identified eight areas of a SAM service that need to be included for an organisation to receive the true value that quality ITAM can deliver. If your organisation is beginning its journey to operating an effective SAM policy, it is not realistic to expect everything listed below to be in place on day one. However, your organisation should be aware of what success looks like and can evaluate how potential SAM service providers meet these criteria. 

Where an organisation has engaged with a SAM service provider or range of providers over several years, preventing the service from going stale and ceasing to offer the value it once did can be overlooked. Ensuring your SAM service is evolving in line with your organisation’s business priorities will keep the service moving forwards and continuing to provide value. 

1. Business Value – Does Your Service Deliver Real Business Value When and Where You Need It? 

Delivering value may seem like an obvious point to make. Of course, any service that an organisation invests in should be providing an adequate return on investment. However, when it comes to SAM and ITAM, the nuances of what represents true business value can be overlooked. This is where aforementioned ‘tick-box’ services begin to stumble. A SAM programme that is largely focused on producing repeatable reports, often Effective Licence Positions (ELPs), for an organisation’s major software vendors, will produce a high quantity of work, but offer little innate value.  

Organisations who aim to go beyond quarterly reporting and experience the true value of Software Asset Management should look for a service that allows them to target resource at priority activities where opportunity or risk is greatest, rather than a set schedule. It is unlikely that a full ELP report on a monthly or quarterly basis for most of your managed vendors will offer value by itself. Instead, your service provider should work with your organisation to spend the time analysing specific areas of your IT estate with the explicit aim of identifying cost saving opportunities or mitigating compliance risk. 

2. Flexibility – Can Your Service Adapt and React to the Unique Demands of Your Business? 

Flexibility is golden for SAM services. Any service that follows a rigid set of deliverables on set timelines is unlikely to provide much inspiration. Having structure to the service and planned activities is obviously important, but this should consider your organisation’s business priorities and goals.  

It makes sense to conduct thorough reports into key vendors when it is approaching renewal time, but you may not need this earlier in the year. If your business shuts down through the summer holiday season, does your SAM service flex to accommodate this? 

3. Access to Data – Can You Access and Share the Data Required to Make Better Business Decisions 

This is where a truly effective SAM programme can really start to provide exponential value to an organisation. The SAM or ITAM team within an organisation is one of the key data custodians for the whole business. The data that they hold has value beyond compliance and cost savings for software procurement.  

Making software deployment, licensing, user, usage and spend data available in an accessible format, arranged into dimensions of department, locale, environment etc that can be customised to suit the various business requirements within your organisation will empower better decision making and add efficiency to processes that are already in place. Helping colleagues achieve their own goals, rather than expecting them to contribute towards the SAM team’s work, is the best way to achieve stakeholder buy-in for SAM in large organisations. 

4. Stakeholder Engagement – Does Your SAM Programme Work with Key Stakeholders from Across Your Business? 

Engaging with stakeholders outside of the SAM team’s immediate sphere of influence is vital to enabling the change required to make cost saving recommendations a reality. However, this traditional view of the SAM/stakeholder relationship can be flipped on its head when the SAM team follows the principles of point 3 and turns their ITAM data into a valuable business commodity. 

This is particularly relevant in larger enterprise organisations that will consist of dozens of IT teams, working in remote locations with different priorities. By engaging with the stakeholders in these teams and taking the time to understand their goals and priorities, the SAM or ITAM team can design services or data provision that can enable the wider business to operate more efficiently. This spreads the value of quality ITAM throughout an organisation and can generate some great success stories which in turn attract more interested parties from within the business. 

Demonstrating this kind of success within your organisation is a breakthrough for the image of SAM and builds the business case for further investment into the organisation’s SAM or ITAM programme. 

5. Comprehensive IT Coverage – Do You Have a Complete and Accurate View of the Entire IT Network 

With this point we return to one of the more traditional obstacles that some SAM services struggle to overcome. Having a complete view of an organisation’s IT estate is the only way to guarantee that your software licensing is compliant, and budget is not wasted. Most organisations will have some form of asset inventory tool, and service providers will often provide their own technology or install their preferred SAM discovery tool to capture this data. 

Nevertheless, gaps in discovery are common, and your SAM service provider should acknowledge this and be working constantly to find new or innovative ways of ensuring 100% estate coverage. This requires input from both provider and customer, and good relationships with adjacent IT teams can be beneficial here. Security teams will often have their own IT discovery and inventory tools – a mutually beneficial relationship that shares data can help to enable both teams better achieve their business goals.

6. Confident Cloud Transition – Does Your Service Give You Insight to Confidently Move Workloads to the Cloud 

Cloud is often the largest the area of overspend for organisations, especially when there is lack of control or governance that monitors usage. An organisation’s SAM service can have a vital part to play here and enable CIO’s to confidently move forward with their cloud transition initiatives.  Understanding what software is being utilised, and by whom, as well as having a knowledge of the licensing requirements and potential pitfalls of cloud transition allows for better decision making and will generate long term success. 

The rapid increase in adoption of SaaS applications also provides a headache for IT and Operations leaders. It is very easy for individuals in an organisation’s workforce to procure SaaS applications, and very difficult for IT teams to be aware of what is being installed, utilised and paid for.  

When evaluating your SAM service, attention should be paid to the capabilities your provider has for monitoring cloud consumption, as well as tracking and managing SaaS deployments and usage. 

7. Manage Compliance Risk – Is Your Service Protecting You from Damage and Disruption Caused by an Audit? 

Amongst the array of benefits provided by a modern SAM service, it is important not to overlook the fundamental goal of operating compliantly and being ready to defend against a vendor audit. Many vendors continue to operate active and extremely profitable compliance programmes, your organisation should be aware of this and prepared to react.  

When it comes to vendor audits, the best defence is to avoid the audit happening in the first place. There are common factors that can lead to an audit being triggered such as change in purchasing patterns or major events such as mergers of acquisitions. Your SAM service should be able to work proactively with your organisation to counter the threat of an audit before it arrives. In the event of an audit going ahead, a good SAM service provider will be able act as the project manager, performing the quarter-back role of coordinating your organisation’s response and often dealing with the vendor negotiations directly to ensure the best possible outcome for the customer. 

8. Demonstrate ROI – Can You Relate Measurable Value to Every Activity Included in Your SAM Service? 

If you cannot perceive business value in each piece of work delivered by your SAM service, you should be questioning the rationale behind these activities. Circling back to the importance of business value in point one, if the activities in your SAM service are truly aligned to the requirements of your business, it should be possible to reflect outcomes in exact dollar amounts. You cannot attribute a dollar amount of value to an ELP alone. An effective SAM service provider will work closely with the customer organisation to create viable costed recommendations based on completed activities and follow these recommendations through to completion, engaging with key stakeholders in the business and providing the necessary data when required. 

Regular (often monthly) reviews of completed activity and planned work ahead are a simple way of tracking value demonstrating the return on investment created by the SAM service. 

Our team at FisherITS believes in quality ITAM and can help you proactively manage your IT assets so that you can save money on your software licensing and avoid audit penalties. We understand exactly what you need from your IT asset management and software license management programme. To begin your journey to SAM optimisation, contact us today.