The Successful SAM Manager Series: Overcoming Internal Resistance to Software Asset Management


If Software Asset Management is new to your organization or if you are new to a SAM role, it’s common to experience some level of internal resistance to SAM. You may even be feeling like somehow you are the “bad guy” now. And you would certainly not be alone. Many clients we work with today have experienced or are currently struggling with the same challenge. Oftentimes we chalk this up to internal politics (after all, everyone knows how hard navigating internal politics can be). But it’s worth digging a bit deeper into this topic because, as the SAM Manager, good cooperation among key stakeholders across the organization is crucial to your success.

How to spot internal resistance to Software Asset Management

Reluctance to share information or documentation (delaying or withholding).
The SAM Manager must interact with many key groups within an organization, including Finance, IT, Procurement, Sourcing, Contracts, Security, etc. Whether you are leading efforts to establish a compliance position or trying to gather historical information to be collected for input into a central repository, you have likely encountered reluctance stemming from a request you have made at one point or another. Initially, it may just look like they are busy, but eventually, their unresponsiveness feels like something more (and often, it is).

Defensiveness or unwillingness to accept results.
Should everyone cooperate upfront in getting you the data or information you need, it may seem like smooth sailing. Until that is, you begin sharing your SAM findings. Imagine the findings show millions of dollars in potential cost savings. You would expect others to be happy about this, right? The reality is that initially, these kinds of results may beg the question, “why were we overpaying so much in the first place?” The individuals who were involved in the “before SAM” processes of license and contract management could be less than thrilled with this kind of SAM success. 

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Now that we have looked at some common examples, let’s look at why this might be happening.

Typical reasons for resistance to Software Asset Management and/or Software Asset Management processes

They do not understand the big picture.
When we ask people what they think the role of SAM is and what it aims to accomplish, many people reply that SAM is meant to mitigate compliance risk. While that’s one objective, SAM aims to achieve much more than just compliance. Resistance to SAM may simply be a lack of understanding of why it’s important, what the ripple effects are, and how it can help others.

Fear of looking bad or worse, losing their job.
Whether it is uncovered that something was being done wrong or just not fully optimized, it is natural for the people who were involved in the processes “before SAM” to be fearful of something unfavorable coming to light, and ultimately of any personal repercussions they may face as a result.

Advice on how to overcome resistance to SAM

Each organization is going to be a bit different in what works for them, but we’ve seen success in overcoming SAM resistance in a few different ways.

Assess whether the push back is due to valid constraints or just unwillingness to cooperate.
If there is push back or delays in getting information or data, try to get to a point where you can tell whether this is a “can but won’t” scenario or a “will but cannot” scenario. Perhaps it’s not resistance from the individual, but constraints in getting the data. The more you can understand about the process before there was a SAM program in place, the easier it will be to help determine if this is true resistance (in which case you may be able to ease concerns) or actual constraints with getting the information to you.

Include product and/or business owners in the validation of the data early on.
It’s harder to argue with results when there is data to back it up. Involving your product owners and/or business owners in the actual validation of the data (before findings are presented) will ensure that they are part of the process and less likely to argue with the results since they had the opportunity to validate the data behind it.

Work to educate the entire organization on why SAM is important and how it can help them.
The most successful SAM programs we have seen are designed to allow SAM to be a service to other functional business units such as Sourcing and Security. The Sourcing team wants to drive software spend down; SAM can help with that. The Security team wants to know where blacklisted software is installed or which products are approaching end of support; SAM can help with that, too. To stop resistance before it starts, work to educate the entire organization (including end-users) that SAM impacts so many areas and take the time to explain how it can help them. People are much more likely to get on board when they can see the big picture.

Communicate a focus on the “go-forward” – from the right level.
One SAM Manager we work with has supported SAM programs at different organizations throughout of his tenure. When the findings from a license reconciliation showed that his current organization had a license exposure of nearly $30M, he knew that the people involved with managing the licensing prior to SAM being implemented would be fearful their heads would be put on the chopping block. The SAM Manager went directly to the CIO to gain support in navigating the situation, and they agreed the best approach was not to focus on WHY this happened, but on HOW to fix it going forward. This immediately made everyone who felt accountable want to become part of the solution.

In summary, anything new comes with challenges, but rest assured that eventually, if done right, SAM can be embraced, not resisted.