Taming the beast they call SAM

The Ideal

Imagine it: An up-to-date Effective License Position (ELP) for every single one of the multitude of products in use within your organization, and the controls in place to deliver cost-avoidances and cost-savings. Sounds ideal but is it achievable?

Unfortunately, it probably isn’t.

Sure, if your relatively small organization only uses Microsoft Office alongside a handful of client-based applications, then maybe you can dare to dream. If you’re one of the thousands of people who are pulling their hair out at the prospect of having to tame their organization’s software asset management beast, then perhaps not.

Wild Animal

Sometimes it feels like SAM is a wild animal; you understand the basics, but it’s unpredictable, difficult to control and prone to buck all over the place if you sit on it. Just when you think you’ve mastered SAM, along comes further unwanted behaviour you weren’t even aware of before – while teaching it to sit, you forgot to teach it not to bite.

This is where forward planning comes in. You need to have done a lot of research, or have called in a SAM professional before pulling out that lasso. What aspects of the beast are you going to be able to tame, and how will you keep it under control? Which behaviours will you have to learn to accept for now, knowing that the controls you put in place will eventually bring them in line?

Enough with the analogy. If you work in an organization with little control over its software asset management then you know full well the challenges that await (or perhaps you don’t and that’s what scares you). The question is: What can you do about it and how do you go about overcoming those challenges?


The very first step in taming the SAM beast is to define goals and outline what you want to achieve. Unfortunately, that so very often brings us back to The IDeal: Time and time again organizations tell us that, in order to achieve cost-savings and cost-avoidance, their goal is to produce up-to-date ELPs for everything with processes and controls in place for all aspects of the software asset lifecycle. It’s a great idea but frequently it can be the very thing that prevents reaching that target.

Ultimately your organization just won’t have the time and resources to bring all software assets under control right away. By attempting to tackle everything at once an organization is at risk of spreading its resources too thinly, setting themselves up to fail. Your goal should be to prioritize the biggest risks, and get processes, procedures and controls in place as soon as possible.

So how do you prioritize? You want to deliver cost-avoidances and savings but against which vendors will you see the biggest returns on your SAM investment? The answer is not a simple one….

Experienced SAM consultants can help significantly. We can look at the vendors in use across your estate and help you identify those that are actively auditing customers. At the same time we can identify those products that tend to become license non-compliant if adequate controls are not in place, or if they are on platforms or technologies that could increase the license requirement (such as Oracle on VMWare) – you may want to ask your procurement department which vendors contribute the most to your annual software budget. The bottom line is, you need to focus on the big hitters before attempting to tackle the small fry.

Part of prioritizing is knowing what to let go. When you sit down and take a look at that long list of installed applications on your estate you may have to accept that you won’t get round to reconciling the majority of them anytime soon. That may be the cost of being truly audit-ready for those vendors that pose the biggest risks. However, just because your focus is elsewhere doesn’t mean that you’re ignoring them. In putting in place processes, procedures and controls for SAM you begin to manage them.

It’s a Jungle Out There

Proper controls and focussing on the biggest areas of risk should be your top priority when implementing a SAM program. Be wary of any SAM professional that tells you they can produce a full ELP for all products on your estate. To bring us back to our analogy, that’s akin to someone claiming that once dropped into the jungle they can tame every animal in a number of weeks. Perhaps that’s not what you want. Perhaps, more realistically, they need to be taming the most dangerous animals. After all, they’re the animals that are threatening your village.

Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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