Why Many Software Asset Management Programs Ultimately Fail

There is now an understanding within most organizations that having a software asset management (SAM) program in place is necessary to prevent overspend on software licenses, ensure software licensing compliance, and drive efficient IT processes. Truly effective SAM will focus on implementing strategies in three key areas;

People: Some organizations are able to employ a dedicated SAM Manager, or even an entire SAM team to develop, launch, and then maintain a SAM Program, and be the point of contact for all things software.

Process: Having the knowledge and experience to either select and utilise a SAM tool, or work with a managed service provider means these resources are being used to their fullest.

Platform: Selecting the right tool that best fits with the inhouse resources, or managed service provider, is essential in a successful SAM Program with buy in from the entire organization.

Gartner estimates that an effective SAM program will save an organisation up to 30% on software license costs in the first year of its implementation. Add to that the impact of cloud and SaaS on a business, and it’s easy to justify the investment in a SAM team, a SAM tool, and/or an outsourced SAM managed service.

… so, why do so many Software Asset Management Programs end in dissatisfaction for the customer organization?

Accountability for software licensing can’t be delegated

If an organization believes it does not have the skills and experience in house to implement and manage their software asset management program (and many don’t) the first thing they do is initiate Request For Proposal or Request For Information and go to the market with a set of requirements. The market then responds and, on most occasions, the organization ends up outsourcing the SAM program to a SAM partner. SAM partners tend to have a preferred tool, and so the customer will usually utilize whichever one they are advised will deliver the ‘right’ SAM service.

It’s a common misconception that because they are outsourcing the requirement to a third party, the organization’s responsibility for SAM is reduced. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case – while responsibility can be shared, accountability cannot.

Input from the organization is still essential

In my experience, the customer is often disappointed with Software Asset Management because their level of involvement in the early stages is more than they anticipated. If they’ve never engaged in SAM, they have never had people to manage it, they have never had processes in place to track it, and they have never had a platform for monitoring all of the data – they’re suddenly asked to provide a lot of information!

If a SAM partner is brought on board, they will likely have several prerequisites for managing the SAM program, one of which is accessing evidence that shows the customer has been purchasing software entitlement for ten or 15 years. The complexities of licensing mean it can be impossible to find that data, which means, no matter the partner, delivering the desired outcome is unachievable. The organization is shown to have a reduced license position, which will reduce the potential savings, and they may even have to buy more licenses to be in an assured position.

So, is an outsourced SAM managed service the answer?

I don’t believe it is.

If a customer outsources every facet of SAM, pushing it over to a third party and asking them to ‘look after it’, they completely lose visibility of the service. When responsibility is seemingly transferred in this way, the customer will become disheartened, disenchanted, and disengaged in the overall SAM program. What interest and what satisfaction do they have when it comes to managing their IT environment if they aren’t involved in managing such an important part of it?

A SAM engagement with a managed service partner needs to be executed in such a way that the technology is deployed, the customer is responsible for maintaining their license evidence, but the provider optimizes that position and puts best practice in place to reduce the risks associated with managing software. I believe a hybrid SAM Program is the answer.

A hybrid SAM Program: People, process & platform

Collaboration in software asset management is an organization-wide culture-shift that SAM Managers look to be involved with and drive. With a fully outsourced managed service, the data is collated inside one single tool, which only provides a certain level of analytics. The SAM Manager is stuck with a repository of information that they’ve been unable to engage in the collection of, and so cannot trust the reliability of.

In my opinion, a SAM Managed Service Provider has three clear steps to bring it back to the people, process, and platform to create a collaborative environment to analyse this new mountain of software licensing data:

Step One: Recognizing and understanding the skills an organization needs to be able to get their people involved in and be a part of the overall SAM program.

Step Two: Most organizations will have their overall process deployed, and so when a third party comes in they must be aligned with what’s in place. The third party must not try to reengineer that process, instead it should be enhanced and improved.

Step Three: If the tool is outsourced to a third party, there is no deep understanding and involvement of the platform. The underlying technology must be available to everybody involved so they may contribute to, and trust in, the success of the SAM program.

With a hybrid solution, the customer must still provide software licensing evidence. It is for the SAM team to validate, and be confident that it is a fair and true representation of the organization’s licensing position. The third party providing the SAM managed service can then qualify the evidence and upload it to the SAM tool for the SAM team to then learn and gain the experience and knowledge of the outcome.

This reconciliation phase, and the process of validating compliance, should include both the organization and their chosen managed service provider for complete trust in that data and to understand how the results should be acted upon. The SAM partner may do a great job, but the service is null and void if the organization doesn’t understand what to do with it. The hybrid approach keeps the organization in the driving seat.

SAM Essentials from License Dashboard

Designed to suit the requirements of medium-sized organizations, SAM Essentials gives the customer SAM team full access to manage their entire software estate with support from License Dashboard’s experts. The organization will identify three, five, or ten key software vendors for quick onboarding and immediate management, then receive quarterly health checks from License Dashboard SAM consultants so they know their organization continues to make the most from its SAM investment.

Sean Robinson

Sean Robinson

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