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Making the Case for Software Asset Management

Kris Barker, Co-Founder and CEO of Express Metrix, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

While IT managers and CIOs share the same overall goals, they aren't always on the same page about how to achieve them. Both are focused on managing cost and streamlining organizational processes. When it comes to making major purchase decisions, however, perspectives may diverge on how best to accomplish these objectives.

A case in point is the increasingly critical IT function of software asset management (SAM), which encompasses a range of policies and processes an organization can deploy to effectively manage applications throughout their lifecycle. SAM helps organizations more effectively direct resources toward achieving compliance, meeting end-user demands, managing version updates and overseeing network management — all easier said than done.

It's universally acknowledged that managing software licenses is difficult. IT managers will tell you that most, if not all, of the big publishers' license management tools are inadequate to deal with workplace realities. Yet enterprise software vendors are triggering an increasing number of audits to ensure compliance. It's hardly surprising that IT managers are seeking more specialized SAM tools with an emphasis on managing software licenses.

Is the "Safest" Solution Really Safer?

IT managers generally prefer to select best-of-breed products for discrete functions. But major IT software purchases are ultimately the prerogative of CIOs, who are much more likely to assume that the safest route is to leverage technology from vendors they already know. In the case of SAM, this often leads them to favor the enterprise-focused "framework" solutions, whether or not they have been put through their paces for their license management capabilities. Sometimes referred to as "one-stop-shop" suites, these solutions already serve other purposes within the organization, such as software deployment, service desk or network management.

While the CIO's higher comfort level with framework solutions is understandable, this line of reasoning can be a mistake. Differences in perspective and accountability between the two job functions can create blind spots, ultimately leading to the wrong choice.

For example, the typical enterprise often has hundreds of software titles, multiple application delivery platforms and an array of license models governing their software deployments. The more diverse the business environment, the more complex the IT challenges with implementing SAM policies across an entire organization. It's easy to be tripped up in the pursuit of license compliance without the appropriate tools. Several diverse factors contribute to this challenge, including a lack of centralized purchasing practices, inconsistency across departmental silos and insufficient internal expertise to interpret the idiosyncrasies of multiple license agreements.

Functional inefficiencies in the wrong SAM technology can undermine IT's overall performance, wasting time and resources with protracted implementations, overly complex interfaces and pieced-together components, manual intervention for key processes like reconciliation of discovered data with entitlement information and lack of analytics needed to detect potentially critical licensing issues.

Enterprise-focused framework solutions are generally more expensive — often taking extensive effort to deploy and overtaxing the corporate network, requiring one or more dedicated staff to manage these frameworks. They often lack the depth of license management functionality required to truly mitigate compliance risk or allow compliance-related tasks to be performed efficiently. For example, enterprise solutions often offer incomplete software recognition, provide inadequate or cumbersome reporting and provide insufficient support for diverse application delivery models. And support teams are unlikely to be SAM specialists and unfamiliar with the intricacies of license management.

Any of these weaknesses can drain precious IT resources and increase an organization's probability of failing a software audit, wasting money on unused licenses or both. CIOs need to consider venturing beyond their typical purchasing approaches and enterprise ISV comfort zone to options that will deliver on the real promise of SAM.

Speaking the Language CIOs Understand

Persuading the CIO that a dedicated SAM tool is a better fit for the task inevitably falls to IT. IT managers need to persuade their C-level counterpart that specialized technology is necessary — not just to eliminate day-to-day hassles of license management, but also to protect the value and ensure the effectiveness of your organization's entire portfolio of software assets. The purchase of a SAM tool, perhaps more than any other software investment, is a strategic decision that impacts every major performance area in IT: cost, risk and efficiency.

  • Reduce overall software spending.
    The average organization over-spends on software by 20 percent — a significant waste of money and entirely avoidable. A good SAM tool allows you toimmediately save money on licensing and support by identifying unused or underutilized applications. In some cases, these savings can outweigh the initial investment. Identification of software usage patterns can help CIOs make intelligent choices about whether to eliminate certain applications, reallocate licenses to other users, or renegotiate software contracts based on actual usage data. It may also be a big help in planning for major technology migrations. 
  • Avoid the high costs of non-compliance.
    Software publishers are increasingly conducting software compliance audits, paying close attention to enterprises with complex environments. Audits are disruptive, time-consuming and costly, especially without tools that can quickly provide the information auditors demand. These inconveniences, however, pale next to the threat of steep payments to publishers to cover license shortages, infringement fines or settlements.
  • Realize operational efficiencies.
    Dedicated SAM tools have more accurate and comprehensive software recognition, superior license reconciliation capabilities and license-centric reporting and analysis that many enterprise suites lack entirely.Such features are critical to avoid countless hours of the tedious, expensive labor of manually comparing what's discovered on company desktops and servers versus what's been purchased.

    Dedicated SAM offerings can also be deployed far more rapidly and less invasively — and require fewer staff with less specialized knowledge — than their enterprise-focused brethren. These products are generally sold and supported by companies with in-house SAM expertise and a strong emphasis on customer service, freeing up IT resources to focus on mission-critical operations and more strategic IT initiatives.

Reduction in spending, mitigation of risk and increased operational efficiencies are concepts that CIOs worry about every day. A dedicated tool can effectively address all three.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.