What does it take to be good at Software Asset Management?

Finding the right expertise to manage your internal Software Asset Management (SAM) project is currently proving to be a challenge. Whilst there are many people within the industry with SAM knowledge, what makes someone good at SAM? Why is being a SAM Analyst so complicated?

Let’s look at the types of people in SAM: They are either data people, coming from a database background, or licensing people coming from a LAR / software reseller type background.  No matter which side you start in, you must learn the other side. Neither is the wrong side, but in my opinion, you need to be a good data analyst as the tools don’t always work as well as they should, particularly if you can customize the recognition rules.

To be a good SAM Analyst, there are three essential skills and approaches:

Be satisfied the SAM data is correct.

A good SAM Analyst doesn’t just trust what the toolsets are telling them to start with. You’ll need to assure yourself that you have all your data and complete a few crosschecks; number of devices discovered vs CMDB vs Active Directory is a starting point. But you’ll discover that your Active Directory is a mess (because it always is), you’ll find that your CMDB has a scope of devices, perhaps only servers, or “managed” devices by central IT, and then there’s the unmanaged devices, Cloud or 3rd Party Platforms? You’ll now start to see that the data held within your toolset might not be the correct number of devices.

When it comes to discovery tools, the data must be collected correctly through the same source and include fully qualified domain names or the hostname. You’ll also have to bear in mind that Operating System information is often reported differently across different tools and may take some analyses to work out.

To ease into this first task on gathering the correct deployed data, I’d recommend you take a sample of devices, look at the RAW data from the discovery tool along with the recognised software and compare this information to your license entitlements. Does it add up? If so, you can start deploying this strategy over the wider environment.

Why is this important?

Typically, within a large estate, a few hundred extra rows of data won’t be overly noticeable, and your License Reseller isn’t going to say: “Excuse me but I don’t think you need to purchase these licenses!”. It isn’t their job.

Understanding Software Licenses

CALs are not particularly expensive until you start to consider additive CALs. Why pay for something if you don’t use it? Do you need Enterprise SharePoint CALs? If you have 400 SharePoint servers, it’s not easy to run scripts on them all and then analyse the results, but this is where you can save serious money. Don’t accept “This is how we do it because it’s easier!” – If it was your money you were spending you would soon find a way to save.

Tools that rely on a software licensing expert staying on top of the all the rules add another challenge for SAM Analysts. Personally, I want to see where the requirement is and be told what the options are, or, even better, what the different options are with a cost applied too. I am not a licensing expert, I know the rules, sure, but I am a data-driven outcome person. The outcome has to be correct, I can then apply the best license option available, which incidentally, I should try to do using the licenses available. Analytical skills are required here too. As a SAM Analyst, all the data available must be used to drive conversations with peers or stakeholders.

Analyzing different software licensing scenarios

Asking “what if” questions about your data will widen your knowledge and toll expertise. If all the virtual machines in a cluster are running at less than 10% utilization, can you put more virtual machines into the cluster or put cluster restrictions within VMware to stop the virtual machines moving? These are all things that the SAM Analyst can provide if they get a look under the hood of the SAM Tool. Don’t be afraid to do it, you’ll be amazed at how much you can do.

Continue to develop your analyst and licensing skills by improving the accuracy of coverage, implementing a SAM strategy and working with a tool or service provider who is willing to help you develop.

To read more on this subject, take a look at my LinkedIn article – The Day After The Consultants Leave

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Geoff Worsley

Geoff Worsley

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