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Examples of conflicting information or explanations of Software Asset Management include:
- Statements in public forums such as LinkedIn:
- “Software license optimization is SAM, stop over-complicating things.”
- “SAM is about and for license compliance.”
- Job postings for ITAM or SAM positions (e.g., SAM analyst) which clearly indicate that the position is specific to software license compliance, often for specific publishers. In reality, while SAM professionals need a basic understanding of licensing, their focus is on implementation and governance of the SAM program framework.
- Publishers’ positioning license compliance audits as ‘SAM’ reviews or services.
- Some technology providers’ positioning of their products as comprehensive ‘SAM’ solutions.
- Agreements for managed or outsourced ‘SAM’ services that include vague, general terms and a narrow scope, not reflective of comprehensive lifecycle SAM.
- “Outsourcer will be responsible for IT Asset Management, specifically, maintaining an inventory of installed hardware and software.”
- “MSP will be responsible for fulfilment of approved software license requests, and for license tracking.”
The inability (unwillingness?) to differentiate SAM and its subsets is one of the reasons ‘SAM’ initiatives too often fail to meet expectations: there are important differences in scope and objectives, as well as supporting practices. Clearly identifying this differentiation may be helpful in successfully planning and implementing your SAM program, including selecting appropriate industry solutions.
Software asset management and its subsets
Software Asset Management (SAM) is a subset of IT Asset Management (ITAM), and is focused on software assets, licenses and related services, as well as media (physical or digital) by which software is delivered.
A comparison of SAM and its subsets, follows, as illustrated in Figure 1:
- Software License Compliance is focused on avoiding ‘under-licensing’, by ensuring compliance with license entitlements – often with (inadequate) focus on the number of licenses as compared to software deployments. However, compliance must take into account other license parameters such as device configuration, geographic location, employee/non-employee, and many others.
- Software License Management, including software license optimization, goes beyond software license compliance to additionally focus on ‘right-licensing’ – avoiding unnecessary licenses in type, quantity and function. Most organizations are over-licensed for some products in quantity (e.g., Microsoft Project) or in product function (e.g., enterprise versus standard edition). In some cases, the software can be deployed more optimally to reduce licensing requirements and costs – e.g., relocating the software to a smaller server.
- Software Asset Management goes beyond a focus on licenses to additionally focus on the software product (asset) – function, currency, standardization, full lifecycle cost, and more.
Note that basic hardware asset tracking is a pre-requisite for all, particularly software license compliance, to ensure that each software license is sufficient for the device characteristics (e.g., processors and cores).
|Software License Compliance||
|Software License Management||As above, plus:
|Software Asset Management||
Why does differentiation matter?
As with most things in business and life, SAM success depends in part on setting appropriate expectations with stakeholders, and a common understanding of key concepts. More specifically, differentiation is needed in order to:
- Identify expected results (benefits).
- Establish an appropriate plan and budget.
- Establish standard and appropriate definitions – e.g., IT asset vs. license.
- Select/define an appropriate program framework to assess current practice and implement new/improved practices.
- Within that framework, identify necessary policies, processes, data, technologies and roles/accountabilities.
- Select appropriate resources, with requisite experience and knowledge. Provide appropriate training.
Bottom Line: We must understand and obtain consensus on the objectives and scope of our ‘SAM’ initiatives to ensure that we implement the appropriate solution – in all respects (policies, technologies, resources, roles/accountabilities etc.). Proper differentiation within SAM and its subsets will facilitate that understanding and consensus and lead to higher levels of SAM maturity and success.
An IAITAM Fellow, Sherry Irwin is the founder (1995) and President of Technology Asset Management Inc., and has over 30 years of experience in IT asset management (ITAM), including license, contract and vendor management, across a broad spectrum of industries. She is widely recognized as a pioneer, expert, educator and advocate in this maturing discipline. As an advisory consultant and mentor, Sherry advises clients on ITAM best practices, with a focus on minimizing costs, minimizing risks, and maximizing benefits related to IT investments. She also conducts a series of educational workshops and seminars on various aspects of IT asset management including ITAM strategy and program development, software asset and license management (SAM), and contract management and vendor management (CVM). Sherry is a former Gartner consultant (1989 to 1995) and a former advisor (2000 to 2003) to clients of Giga Information Group’s research and advisory service, as a Giga Expert and consultant. Prior to 1989, Sherry established and managed a centralized software asset management department at the Hudson’s Bay Company, responsible for software planning, procurement, budget and expense management, and associated policies and procedures. From 1977 to 1984, she was employed by Shell Canada, responsible for planning and implementation of information security and associated policies and procedures. She holds certifications in CSAM, CHAMP, CSM, ASM, CTPS, and Verafirm Professional, and is the 1992 Founder and Chair of the Canadian IT Asset Management Users' Group (CITAMUG).