When an enterprise decides to take on in earnest the challenge of software asset management (SAM), it usually begins with a project. The enterprise usually has some pre-existing rudimentary tracking in place, even if only entry of service requests for software installation into a spreadsheet. The SAM project team will examine the requirements and capabilities for software inventory and entitlement tracking in the organization, select a product and/or service to meet its objectives, and implement the new solution in the enterprise environment. However, one critical element is often overlooked: conversion of the SAM project, after completion, to a sustained SAM and license optimization program.
It’s understandable that enterprises are often focused on the SAM project. The project is what should drive process implementation and improvement in the enterprise. The SAM project is aligned with the enterprise’s business goals; as part of the project, an enterprise must understand and design the right business processes to achieve these goals. The project phase is also when infrastructure to support SAM is deployed, when software inventory collection systems are integrated, and often when initial software reconciliation results are delivered. In some cases, the project might also entail some level of license optimization in which the organization’s license entitlements, including product use rights, are applied to minimize license consumption. This could be done for certain key vendors in the initial project phase, for example. This optimization process goes beyond traditional SAM and is a key requirement for maximizing the ROI of the project and/or the ongoing program. A SAM project is full of activity, usually has high visibility, and because it represents change, is closely monitored.
All good things must come to an end, and SAM projects are no different. By their nature, SAM projects are short-lived. This means that for the enterprise to achieve lasting benefit and a mature SAM environment going forward, the foremost goal of the SAM project must be the establishment of a SAM and license optimization program. Such a program delivers ongoing value to an enterprise simply by continuing and improving on the processes and technologies established during the SAM project. It sounds straightforward, but often this step is overlooked by enterprises. Of course, in many cases, some or all members of the SAM project team will be members of the SAM and license optimization program team. However, in some enterprises, particularly enterprises with significant IT outsourcing, at the end of a project, many resources will be redeployed onto other projects. Without a transition plan, the newly minted SAM environment will be neglected and will grow stale over time. Up to date reports will not be available, and ultimately the enterprise may need to create another SAM project to refresh the environment.
Therefore, in order to create sustainable SAM gains for the enterprise, a SAM project must consider how the ongoing program will operate. In particular, the project must forecast staffing requirements for ongoing license management activities, including maintenance of SAM infrastructure, software upgrades and issue resolution, and especially ongoing license reconciliation, compliance reporting and license optimization. Do not assume that the time required for these activities will not change from current processes. If an individual is currently tracking license allocations by manual spreadsheet input, it should take less time for the same person to do that using a more automated system, but they may have other more advanced reports to generate and analyze going forward. This could include license compliance reports, trend analysis reports and predictive analysis simulations to measure the impact of IT environment changes on their license position, to name only a few. The value of this more-mature SAM and license optimization analysis is certainly worth it to the enterprise, but it does not come for free and must be staffed to be realized.
In order for any enterprise to realize long-term benefits from a software asset management project, that project must be established as an ongoing program with appropriate staffing and support. An established SAM and license optimization program will allow the enterprise to realize a higher return on investment on SAM processes and technology, not just for three months after the project conclusion, but year after year.
To learn more about best practice processes for establishing a SAM and license optimization program, please download our whitepaper: NCC Guideline for IT Management: Software Asset and License Management Best Practices.