Software Asset Management: Fixing the disconnect between IT and Finance

We all do software asset management, but are we equipped to do it properly? Technology can help bring together those whose responsibility it is to ensure compliance and efficiency.

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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.

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