So you’re shopping for a Software Asset Management tool.
One of the things you’re certain to hear during presentations and demos is how quickly you can get to SAM nirvana. With their tool, you just enter your purchase details and any discovery data you have about software installations and voila! Magic happens behind the scenes and your SAM challenges are vanquished. Their tool is the mythical “easy button”.
If you buy that story, you’ll signing up for a constant stream of SAM challenges. In reality, proper and effective SAM programs focus on the “M” in SAM – Management.
Software Asset Management is comprised of a series of processes that need to be well planned and executed.
A SAM tool with a broad range of functionality will support these processes by helping to:
- automate them
- provide detailed tracking, and
- generate reports that will help you track your progress and successes.
There are multiple aspects of Software Asset Management that need to be properly managed for optimal results:
License Agreements – From the start, it’s critical to know:
- what products are included
- start and end dates that often have financial implications
- what use rights apply
- whether your organizations has multiple agreements that can be consolidated for better pricing, and
- what your maintenance and warranty coverage includes, among other things.
Product Portfolio – Having control over what software is introduced into your environment maintains a streamlined product portfolio. You’ll have fewer vendors and contracts to manage and a smaller number of products to support and maintain, from a personnel and financial standpoint.
Procurement and Provisioning – A well-defined, catalog-driven request, approval and provisioning process provides many benefits:
- Employees see clearly what products they are entitled to use
- They can be encouraged (or required) to request preferred products or lower-cost options
- Many aspects of the approval process can be supported by automated workflow
- Requests can be fulfilled with items that are already in stock, minimizing unnecessary purchases
- Requests for similar and related items can be consolidated for procurement, perhaps enabling discounts
License Positions – Proactively calculating current license positions on a regular basis can help your organization stay within the bounds of your licensing agreements. Not only can this exercise help you identify trends and potential issues, it can also greatly reduce panic and uncertainty if a dreaded audit letter arrives. License position data can also be used for ongoing license optimization adjustments, ensuring that your organization is able to meet its business and computing needs from an application at a minimal cost.
Application Utilization – You know that your software portfolio is lean and mean and that you’re in compliance with license agreements. However, do you know whether all of the software that is deployed is being fully utilized, or used at all? Are there departments requesting applications that may be idle and unused on another desktop or server? Application utilization monitoring supports automated license harvesting (another SAM process in itself) and helps reduce new purchases, minimizes unused products, and trims maintenance and support costs.
Software-Based Network Security – Yes, the SAM program can play a key role in network security initiatives in multiple ways. One area of recent interest is the reporting of known vulnerabilities by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Multiple times a day, NIST updates a list of all known vulnerabilities in software and IT hardware products. Some SAM tool providers like Eracent are now incorporating this data into their discovery software recognition libraries and also IT product data libraries like IT-Pedia™. This allows customers to very quickly see if they have any products and versions with vulnerabilities in their environments, and this enables them to take preventive action such as upgrades or product replacement.
As this list illustrates, effective Software Asset Management requires attention to a broad set of processes that build upon one another.
SAM tools can make these tasks much easier, but they cannot perform “Software Automation Magic” if strong processes are not in place.