SAM is Dead, long live License Management

In 2006, I worked with a group of software industry specialists to help define an international standard for Software Asset Management (ISO/IEC 19770-1:2006). Based on ITIL best practice, this standard was developed to enable organizations to prove that they were performing Software Asset Management (SAM) to a standard sufficient to satisfy corporate governance requirements and ensure effective support for IT service management overall. 

Since the launch of this standard, License Dashboard has been working hard to conform with both the core and optional requirements associated to this framework, ensuring that not only do our solutions (License Manager, SAM Portal, Discovery) comply with the standard’s rigorous demands but also that we help customers develop and implement processes and policies in line with ISO 19700-1.

Between 2006 and today, software continues to account for an increasing share of an organization’s IT budget. Combined with the need to reduce costs and increase operational efficiencies, you would think it safe to assume that more and more organizations would be turning to Software Asset Management to meet these business demands.

But are they?  I’m no longer so sure.  Over the last six years many things have changed, but one thing has remained constant. When organizations finally decide to take a proactive stance on managing software, they always start with licensing. Not software optimization, or procurement rationalization – just establishing how they are licensed and where any overages or shortfalls might be. All this leads me to question we’re still not a little premature to be talking fully-fledged SAM to customers.

And this is borne out by our own marketing. We know that for every one user out there searching on the internet for ‘SAM solutions’, another five or six are more specifically looking for ‘license management solutions’ or similar. Our guides and webinars advising on how to deal with software audits are among our most popular.

So is SAM dead?
No, I don’t think it is ‘dead’, but I also think it’s still an ideal rather than an immediate reality for the vast majority of organizations. With most organizations devoting as much as 70 per cent of their available IT resources and budget to simply ‘keeping the lights on’, asking them to embrace the full gold standard for SAM is unrealistic.  However, given the current economic climate and its impact on IT budgets and those same organizations have good cause to be very interested in reducing their software spend by up to 20 per cent in just 6 months.

The same processes and procedures that will achieve this cost reduction – namely better software audit, license collection and the calculation of an Effective Licensing Position – are all key requirements of Software Asset Management.  So in a way, more organizations are already invested in SAM than perhaps realize it.

For many organizations, the creation of the Effective Licensing Position and the successful use of the results to make changes to software procurement, deployment and re-harvesting, is sufficient to help them meet their initial business goals. But it’s important to realize that this investment can lead to even greater returns as the company matures in its approach to SAM and decides it is time to start optimizing their use of software – looking at the complete lifecycle from request to approval, procurement to deployment.

First things first
With that maturation process in mind, it’s important to then return to the initial goal of cost and risk reduction through better license management.  The problem is to find a way of meeting those immediate business requirements while also ensuring that any investment made now continues to pay dividends into the future.

This is the challenge we address with the development of our solutions at License Dashboard.  We are constantly balancing the needs of organizations new to software license management against those of our customers that have been engaged in SAM for a number of years and are more mature in their practices.  It is this dual focus that enables us to ensure both that new customers can start realizing an ROI from our solutions from day one, while existing customers want to keep using our software years down the line.

That’s why the latest iterations of our License Manager solution have seen numerous enhancements to help organizations reach the point of producing an Effective Licensing Position faster than ever, yet at the same time we have been introducing support for new advanced software licensing models.  We apply this same philosophy to our other solutions – building Mac support into our Discovery solution, and streamlining the software request/approval process in our advanced SAM Portal solution, for example.

So, we haven’t quite gone full circle back to the days of only talking about ‘audit’ and ‘compliance’, but at License Dashboard we realize that our customers are often starting from square one; and that means getting a handle on what software is out there and how it is licensed.  SAM isn’t quite dead, but it’s definitely a case of ‘long live license management’!

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Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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