Over the years we have worked with hundreds of clients who have invested in a Software Asset Management (SAM) tool that has not quite lived up to its expectations. If you are newer to a SAM manager role, you may have inherited a tool that is not providing the value your organization needs. Or you may be in the early stages of evaluating a Software Asset Management tool and are not quite sure which one is best (or if you need one at all). Either way, here are some useful tips to help ensure your organization can side-step this all-too common trap.
But first, a quick note:
A tool suite will fully enable a successful Software Asset Management program. This may include contract management systems, CMDB, ITSM, publisher-specific tools and a primary SAM technology. The high-level aim of the core SAM tool should be to integrate with other platforms and provide management of critical inventories (entitlement and deployment) and reporting of the publisher or application license position. In the end, the selection of a SAM tool can be an initial challenge, however maximizing the value is part of the overall SAM maturity journey.
Remember, successful Software Asset Management involves the right People, Processes, AND Technology.
SAM tooling is the technology part of a successful SAM program. One of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make is the belief that just having a SAM tool makes for a mature SAM program. This “set-and-forget” mentality can cause a plethora of problems. A tool is just one part, albeit an important part, of mature SAM. Even the fanciest tool will fall flat if it’s not a part of the larger SAM picture. That means that you need to ensure you have not only the right people on your team but you have created the requisite processes/polices and governances to help ensure you will get the business outcomes that your company is seeking. Let’s illustrate this.
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To get the most out of a SAM tool, you need people who know what they’re doing and are responsible for key aspects of data, publishers or processes. Implementing and maintaining a tool correctly is no easy task. Even the most automated tools require manual work – an actual human who is checking that licenses are being assigned and consumed properly and completely ideally in the most optimized manner.
The core SAM team should identify individuals to have certain roles and responsibilities, including managing data flows, data quality, publisher-specific data collection and reporting. Data collection and management should align to the priority publishers the SAM program has identified. This may require hiring additional resources or identifying a partner to support certain aspects of the SAM program.
It’s important to mention that SAM tools don’t necessarily capture all the elements necessary to create a complete and accurate license position. That’s one reason why the core SAM team is so important.
Managing entitlement data is one of multiple processes which a SAM program may need to consider in order to achieve its desired objectives and capabilities. The SAM program roadmap should include implementation plans for key processes and critical dependencies, including technology and people.
Following a SAM tool implementation, organizations will begin by onboarding specific publishers into the tool. Onboarding includes the import of entitlements which can then be available for assignment against what the SAM tool has identified as being installed and consumed by users. A key element is to consider how that initial entitlement position will continue to be maintained. Too often this is not considered, and organizations who fail to keep their entitlements updated following initial onboarding into the selected SAM tool will soon find themselves in a position where they are struggling to trust the data they are getting from the tool. Thus defeating the purpose of why they invested in a tool in the first place.
It’s clear that there is no shortage of SAM tools in the market and finding the right tool for your organization can be like finding a needle in the haystack. In fact, a 2017 Gartner survey found that only 23% of respondents said that the capabilities of the SAM tools they were using aligned “extremely well” with their pre-purchase expectations. (* Gartner Publication G00343772, 08 Dec 2017.) So how do you avoid ending up with SAM tool buyer’s remorse and get the tool that you need from the start? Here are a few suggestions:
– Understand what your rationalized requirements truly are. This is one of the most difficult things to get right from a buyer standpoint, but it affects everything else. Make sure that you put in all the work and effort necessary to figure this out, it will make a huge difference.
– Priority publishers. Certain publishers will require additional tools, processes and manual data collection to comprehensively manage.
– Integration to other infrastructure technology. The integration of tools enables the flow and management of data. Compatibility of tools should be assessed to support the decision on a primary SAM tool.
– Understand the differentiators among tools. Many tools have similar capabilities, ensure that you know what makes each tool unique. You could ask each vendor, “what questions should we be asking of your competition?”
– Understand what the tools do not do. While it’s important to find out what differentiates a tool from competitors, it’s equally critical that you find out what each tool does not do – the things that you will not be told unless you ask.
– Understand how the tools do what they do. Typically, this requires talking to someone not involved in sales. We recommend demos with specific product specialists and not being afraid to dig into things to understand how things work.
– Use your time wisely. Don’t waste time with mis-aligned tools, it’s not worth it. Conversely, don’t spend too little time with the tools that do align with your rationalized requirements.
– Be Transparent. This is not always easy but being completely transparent is going to help the tool vendor understand your needs and will encourage transparency from them.
To learn more about SAM tool selection, see our “SAM Tool Selection for the Modern Age” article.
Take time to make the right implementation decisions.
SAM tools offer many options for integration with other systems and tools, such as in the form of connectors. It’s important to realize that the data within those systems will become the source of your SAM tool data. If you don’t trust the data in the system today, by simply pulling that into the SAM Tool you will have created a “garbage in, garbage out” issue. Unfortunately, we see this all too often, and once it’s set up this way, it’s difficult to impossible to fix after the fact.
Another very common implementation decision involves whether to install the SAM tool agent. Most in IT are in a constant battle against agent sprawl, so it’s understandable why it may not feel important to install yet another agent on the devices you are managing. Without understanding the value that comes from the SAM tool’s agent data, however, many customers will realize later on that there was important licensing detail that can only be gathered by the agent. A common example is edition of SQL Server. Identifying this manually is not only time consuming, but also defeats the purpose of having a SAM tool in the first place if it cannot give you the detail you need.
Realizing value from your Software Asset Management tool.
Maximizing the value of your Software Asset Management tool is dependent on establishing clarity on the SAM program objectives, defining the underlying processes to enable the SAM tool and finally the resources to required fully enable and drive success of a SAM program. It is not only selection of the right SAM tool, but it also requires a broader plan for the Software Asset Management program