Ask many organisations and they will say they already ‘do’ Software Asset Management. In fact, a recent study undertaken in the UK stated that SAM was the biggest single area of technology adoption in 2007.
With analyst firms like Gartner claiming that organisations can realise savings as high as 55 percent in their IT budget, it’s easy to see why more and more firms are looking to make improvements in their software procurement and management practices.
But making savings on this scale relies on the organisation working as one - something that sounds simple, but still a rare occurrence given the siloed department-specific mentality that continues to prevail in many operations.
In the case of SAM, this blinkered approach can lead to frustration and a failure to achieve the organisation’s goals - as there is often a disconnect between those charged with purchasing software assets and those who are responsible for making sure that the right applications are available to users across the organisation.
The two departments’ approach to SAM is based on different mindsets. The Purchasing team - as part of the wider remit of the Finance department - is tasked with managing cost within the organisation. The IT department, however, is primarily focused on IT service delivery and increasing the value of IT to the organisation.
And while both departments have a clear interest in SAM, they often speak a different business language and work within different processes - and it is here that some of the SAM problems start.
Bridging the gap between IT and Finance
Working on the basis that a SAM initiative usually comprises four key areas, we can map out how Finance and IT each have roles to play in the initiative’s overall success:
Asset Discovery (what is on the network at any given time) IT needs full visibility of the network. Finance needs to be able to report on volume and value of assets.
License Management (is the organisation effectively licensed, is there redundant software on the network?) IT needs to know how best to allocate available assets. Finance needs to keep license records and track costs
Deployment (pushing out new software and upgrades) IT needs efficient means for automating this. Finance needs to monitor acquisition costs.
Patching (are applications up-to-date) IT needs to ensure the security of the network.
As such, it is clear that the two departments both have a shared interest in SAM and therefore must co-ordinate their efforts in order to deliver success to the organisation. However, getting the individual teams to interact can be difficult, especially when many other department-specific projects and initiatives are underway.
As such, it is vital that the SAM project has two key figureheads. The first has to be an executive-level champion, someone with the desire and the clout to bring IT and Finance to the same table. The second is a single SAM project leader, empowered to make decisions and demand the necessary co-operation from stakeholders across the organisation.
Technology as an enabler
Once high-level sponsorship and clear project leadership have been put in place, the next key challenge is to physically get the IT and Finance teams working together. This is where technology has an important role to play.
For many organisations, even establishing a joint cohesive SAM project plan is a major challenge. With different staff and priorities, it is easy for the financial and operational goals to remain disparate and kept within their respective departments.
However, tools like the new FrontRange SAM Essentials are designed to break down barriers and help project leaders build a common plan which can be accessed, updated and analysed by multiple stakeholders across the enterprise.
In this case, all relevant SAM processes - from procurement through to deployment, usage tracking to re-allocation of unused licenses - are documented and incorporated into a project management solution.
This common repository then acts as a central point of reference for all individuals working on the SAM initiative, no matter what department or geography they are located in.
The next critical role for technology in SAM is the discovery of software assets across the network. While some organisations at the smaller end (typically under 100 PCs) might just about cope with doing this inventory process manually, any firm with a larger needs an automated solution to deliver accurate and timely reports on the actual software installations and usage.
While this information is primarily of use to the IT component of the SAM team, the data is also valuable to finance staff who are charged with accurately reporting on the volume and value of IT assets on the network.
While the IT team gets busy taking responsibility for identifying the applications located on the network, the finance team will be just as hard at work creating a repository of software purchase and licensing information. Here again is where technology has a role to play - tools like those from FrontRange provide a repository for multiple users across the organisation to centrally record information on software entitlements.
What’s more, some solutions will even automatically validate entered information to ensure it is correct (the complexity of licensing rules allied with a relative lack of licensing expertise within the finance department can inevitable lead to mistakes).
The final part of the jigsaw - from a collaboration point of view - is bringing together the information on discovered software assets and recorded entitlements. By comparing entitlement against usage, the organisation can both determine its current compliance situation as well as identify opportunities for cost-saving (re-allocating under-used assets, disposing old licenses, re-negotiating maintenance agreements to reflect current usage levels etc).
IT and finance staff could spend days, or maybe even weeks, locked away in a room comparing notes - or better still, an automated solution can create a reconciliation in seconds, giving both departments an accurate view of the licensing status across the organisation. Whether the individual SAM team member is primarily concerned with cost, service delivery or compliance - reports can be automatically and dynamically generated to give an accurate view at any time.
By giving IT and Finance teams access to common solution, everyone working on the SAM initiative can both play their individual part in the process (whether it’s the uploading of purchase information, reconciliation of discovered assets against license entitlements, identifying unused assets for re-deployment, reporting on the resulting compliance position etc.) as well as get a view of the overall position of the project.
This is the ‘technology’ element of a proven tripartite approach to SAM success that marries effective adoption of effective technology alongside ‘people’ and ‘processes’ - i.e. having the right people in place on the project and ensuring that people within the organisation are not randomly purchasing unnecessary applications on a piecemeal basis, while having effective procurement ‘processes’ within the company
In a cost-conscious world, IT and Finance leaders are already recognising that better controls, processes and technologies can deliver significant cost savings and productivity gains across the enterprise, particularly in the management of software assets.
By giving the IT teams the ability to automatically get an accurate and dynamic inventory of all IT assets on the network, these staff can deliver cost savings not only in terms of overall software licensing, but also improved service delivery, project planning and security.
Combine that with the ability to collaborate with colleagues in Finance who are concerned with the cost of software procurement, maintenance negotiations and other fiscal responsibilities, and you get a situation where two disparate parts of the organisation can effectively work together to a common goal.
Instead of fretting about compliance and the prospect of an impending software audit - which is now more likely in a tightening economic landscape that affects vendors too - the business can play to its new-found strength of ‘control’, and enjoy immediate cost savings from improved software allocation, volume license discounts, better price points, and more accurate asset depreciation across the entire software life-cycle.
Matt Fisher is Director of Centennial products, at FrontRange Solutions a developer of business software that helps organisations improve IT service management, IT infrastructure management and customer relationship management.