How to Find the best Software Asset Management Software that delivers on your Enterprise IT goals.
1. Get a data (or gut) backed idea of your current hardware and software assets.
What type of IT estate does your company have? What size is it? A Fintech startup with ten employees might use infrastructure from AWS to run their servers. A large manufacturing company with on-premise hardware can require dozens of applications so that all departments operate successfully.
The following questions will help you understand the landscape of your software and hardware assets. You can add and modify questions to suit your requirements:
- Is your infrastructure hosted on-premise or in the cloud? From a SAM perspective, this aspect is important to determine licensing responsibilities.
- Is the cloud provider offering managed services including OS? If you are hosting your own servers, you are responsible for OS licenses.
- Are your applications hosted on-premise or in the cloud? Similarly, different licensing models apply to cloud-based software.
- Do we currently have a hybrid cloud model? Hybrid clouds are hard to manage as they combine the complexity of private and public clouds. Different licensing models for the same software, different configurations for the same applications.
- What size is our organisation? Simply put – the larger the organisation, the harder to manage, the more resources you need to invest in SAM.
- How many different teams do we have? Each department or line of business requires different types of software. The more varied and diverse your teams, the more vendors and applications you have to manage.
- Do you have a central IT team, or does each operation centre handle their own estate Large organisations might prefer decentralised IT departments.
1. Identify all of your available software.
Taking note of all your software takes up a lot of time. But, the time put into this process can have its advantages. IT Asset Managers have two ways of identifying software:
- Using purchase orders and databases: Most companies that adopt ITIL principles have pre-established procedures for managing assets. These can be stored in CMDBs, databases or spreadsheets. Using such a method might require referring to multiple sources of truth. After compiling information, asset managers will have a good understanding of what software is available.
- Using application and software discovery tools: Asset managers can automate the application discovery process using a set of specialised tools. These tools scan through devices connected on the network and retrieve a list of installed applications. Details include operating systems and network applications.
2. Review your current licensing models.
Licensing models come in different flavours. They depend on the type of software and hosted environment. Licensing is a crucial part of commercially available software. It is also the central factor for software asset management tools. The most common types of licensing models are:
- Device (perpetual): License is assigned to an individual machine.
- User (perpetual): License is assigned to a named user. The user must log in using credentials to validate the license usage.
- Networked (WAN & LAN): Applies to all machines that are on the same network infrastructure.
- Subscription-based: License assigned to either a user or machine which requires monthly or annual payments.
- General Public License (GPL) and Freeware: Licenses and software available for free. GPL and Freeware have different legal metrics.
- Client Access License: Allows users to connect to the provider’s server to use applications.
- Capacity Based License: Based on the capacity of the CPU, Hard Drive, or number of cores.
- Node-locked: A license which can only be used by one user at a time, but multiple users can use at subsequent times.
- Floating: A license pool which is available to a large number of users. Upon login, a licensing system assigns the requesting user a license which is claimed back at the end of the session.
3. Do not forget Shelfware, underused and duplicate software.
Shelfware is a piece of software that you have bought, but not yet used. Underused licenses are those which are assigned to and used by employees, but at low frequency. Duplicate software are applications that provide the same services as others, such as two word processing applications.
Fixing those issues is a quick win. Eliminating shelfware is an instantaneous cost reduction. Reducing the number of underused and duplicate software is harder. However, it will lower the workload of asset managers and will indirectly contribute toward the team performance.
4. Review current and historic cloud migrations.
Cloud migrations can be highly disruptive for businesses. Therefore, any ongoing migration project or an upcoming one must be approached carefully. The change from on-premise equipment and operations to off-premise managed services comes with the following changes:
Licensing schemes and models. As infrastructure is no longer hosted on-premise, but is abstracted and provided by cloud providers, licensing now has to reflect that. The most considerable change is going from device-based licenses to capacity-based.
Application migrations and replacements. Some applications are not supported on cloud platforms. These need to be fully replaced by alternative solutions. Other software have a cloud-specific version which will replace the on-premise one. Either way, a transfer of users and data will have to take place.
Hardware and software reconfigurations. New architecture models mean that each component will have to be reconfigured to reflect the changes
Changes in asset lifecycles. New provisioning, assigning and decommissioning process must be put in place
2. Develop a clear short term (3 to 9 months) and long term (24 to 36 months) objectives for your SAM solution.
There are two types of objectives you can create, one for IT and the other for IT and your wider business. We recommend the latter.
Here are four key topics that you can use to develop your short and long term plans:
- Employee Onboarding and Off-boarding: When employees join the company, they will need access to the software. This includes both general software, such as the MS Office Suite, and role-specific applications such as Salesforce. The challenge with onboarding is to ensure that access can be granted as soon as the employee starts. Also, managing the number of available licenses is crucial. Off-boarding entails the revoking of user access when the employee leaves the company for security purposes.
- License assignment: IT asset managers need to have the ability of remotely assigning licenses to users. Likewise, they should be able to revoke access remotely. Two-way communication between users and IT managers is mandatory. The most efficient communication channel is an online IT portal. Users can place new software requests directly to the asset managers. As such, the IT department can push new software or updates to individual users.
- Software usage monitoring: Understating what and how your software is used will help managers make intelligent decisions. Underusing or misusing applications bear unnecessary business costs. Getting visibility of usage is builds a strong foundation for cost optimisation.
- Audit reporting: Vendor audits are, unfortunately, inevitable. Keeping an accurate record of your licenses and usage will help businesses pass audits unscathed.
Knowing the lifecycle of your software assets can also help you to accurately forecast your short and long term objectives. A typical software lifecycle has five stages:
- Procurement: Software asset managers are to provide employees with new software as requested through business cases.
- Deployment: Installing new software on the relevant servers and machines. Afterwards, adequate access to be application should be distributed to the users.
- Support: Providing technical and operational assistance to the software’s users.
- Upgrades and patching: Ensuring the software is compliant from a security perspective.
- Decommissioning: Old software to be disposed and data migrated to new systems.
SAM tools are just one piece of the puzzle for audit management. The IT asset managers will need to strategically use the tools at their disposals to ensure the best ratio between licensing and risk management.
3. Scan SAM tools for features and capabilities but have a clear view of how its capabilities will help you to deliver on your goals.
Below are a few typical capabilities offered by a Software Asset Management solution;
- Software license management: Assigning and revoking licenses to employees.
- Software configuration: Replacing the CMDB, configurations look at the settings established for operating applications. These include machines which host the applications, users, and related IP addresses.
- Software inventory management: This feature clearly displays what applications are available, how many instances, their cost and usage.
- Application Discovery: Performing a scan on the network to see what applications are installed and ran. This is a great tool for preventing shadow IT practices. Shadow IT poses many risks from a security and audit perspective.
- Purchasing and contract management: SAM tools can forecast future software usage and suggest the best licenses for your needs. They can also help offer transparency into your current agreements.
- Compliance and governance: Powerful reporting and control over licenses assignments. IT asset managers can manage risks and enforce policies.
- Software lifecycle management: From provisioning to decommissioning, SAM tools offer visibility over an application’s full lifecycle
Software deployment. Remotely controlling the distribution of applications across a network.
- Usage Reporting: Clearly displaying how much licenses and applications are used. This is a key element for optimising the software estate and drive efficiency.
4. Develop clarity on how you are going to use SAM tool to optimise your enterprise IT.
Effective Software Asset Management can help your business with optimisation by offering visibility, control, application and risk management. Here are five key benefits that an SAM tool can offer:
1. Audit Management and Compliance.
Vendor audits are extremely costly. Those who breach the contract terms can receive fines in the millions. The aggressive behaviours of vendors such as Oracle and Adobe require businesses to be on top of their licensing game.
Software Asset Management tools are the best way of protecting against audits. They offer the capability of:
Storing information about licenses and their usage
Holding an inventory of current contracts to have all clauses at-hand
Providing accurate, up-to-date reports
Notifying asset managers of any risks and compliance issues
If undergoing a vendor software audit, SAM can help you build your case. After all, a black-on-white report containing your usage and license distribution is hard to contest.
2. IT Cost Optimisation.
Some SAM tools have the capability of capturing how much applications are used. This feature will enable you to determine if a piece of software is used frequently, occasionally, or seldom. IT asset managers will also have the opportunity of decommissioning unused software as an easy cost-saving method.
Likewise, asset managers can launch an investigation for software that is used occasionally. If some features from the software are missing or employees are not happy with the tool, the software can be replaced for a better one. This would increase productivity while keeping the costs at a similar level.
3. Reporting and KPIs.
SAM tools can highlight potential savings and overall improvements for employed software. Reporting goes up the ladder to higher management. KPI ambitions get passed down from the senior level to the specialists.
In a wider context, software asset management is crucial for an IT team to hit their financial targets regularly. Both high-level and low-level reporting are mandatory for optimisation. Understanding the number of licenses used versus the number available is a key metric for negotiating better contracts.
Here are some reporting metrics that SAM tools can use:
- Total Licensing Costs.
- Percentage of License Spending Not in Use.
- Number of Vendors out of Compliance.
- Number of Products out of Compliance.
- Potential Savings.
- Top Products by True-up Cost.
- Top Products by Potential Savings.
- Risks Requiring Attention.
- Spend on over-licensing.
- Number of Vendors over-licensed.
- Number of products over-licensed.
4. Improving process efficiency.
Software asset management can help onboarding and off-boarding processes to handle large intakes without any downtime. This ensures a smooth experience for all parties, including IT, HR and the new employees. Likewise, quick and accurate reporting reduces the time spent by the finance and IT teams for assessing quarterly and yearly costs.
Integrating SAM in the wider IT processes is even better. For example, using information from SAM tools to automate product lifecycles can cut down on the time and manpower required to bring in new products and retire old ones.
SAM tools can also automatically manage the provisioning and retiring of applications. This can either be a simple notification to the IT team, or a trigger for purchasing software. With all the information stored, SAM tools can help in circumstances such as:
- Large intake of employees.
- Organisational restructure.
- Expired and renewed contracts.
- Vendor swapping.
- Cloud migrations.
5. Transformation and Migration.
The process of provisioning and decommissioning can require a lot of resources, especially in large organisations with thousands of software products. Non-automated processes can even lead to major blockers.
But SAM tools help IT transformation and migration processes considerably. The end of years-long contracts can leave a business at an impasse. Software asset management can take off the pressure by:
- Automatically revoking access to employees on a specific date.
- Giving mass access to new software before the old one is decommissioned.
- Ensuring teams and employees are given the correct permissions.
- Minimising the overlap of both software being live.
5. A Seven-point Check to choosing your SAM Tool.
To make sure you’re choosing the right software asset management solution for your business, we’ve listed seven-points that an SAM tool should offer:
1. The ability to easily and quickly import data from current systems.
Your chosen SAM tool is going to need some existing data so that you have a starting point in understanding your software assets. The existing data may exist in your accounting software (from where you can import information on licenses bought), SCCM, or your current SAM tool. So we recommend you fully understand how your chosen SAM tool imports data from current sources. The key thing to understand here is not whether a SAM tool imports data, as almost all SAM tools, import data. The key thing is how easy it is to import the data. Some systems require extreme knowledge of excel or need inputs from support and professional service teams. Ideally, you should develop a detailed understanding of data import conditions and scenarios before you consider buying a SAM tool.
2. Auto-discovery using agent and agent-less methods to identify on-premise software tools.
The ability to discover software assets automatically on your network with precision is a fundamental feature of a software and license management system. The speed and precision of discovery are vital to building your software management cadence. There are some well-known agent and agent-less methods to discover software assets on a network.
But, scanning and finding software assets is only part of the discovery feature. Your SAM tool should have an inbuilt library of asset information to precisely understand software assets on your network.
3. Understanding usage and access of cloud-based software apps.
Modern workplaces are now cloud-based. From accounting software to visitor management, almost all aspects of a workplace have cloud-based applications. Defence and classified industries still continue to use on-premise tools, but the trend is changing there too.
Understanding the usage of cloud-based software apps can be difficult. It varies based on how the software vendor has set-up their cloud infrastructure. In some cases, software applications cross over from cloud-based access to on-premise data, which adds to the complexity.
Developing a clear understanding of how cloud-assets are discovered and monitored is vital to your software management goals.
4. Software Usage, Metering and Optimisation.
Interlinked with the above points, we highly recommend understanding how your SAM tool is going to understand software usage and relate it to your budget and projects. This could be users, location or even technology.
You should also know how it is going to help you to optimise your usage, spend and workforce productivity.
Usage, metering and optimisation can help you to understand the parameters of your compliance levels as well as optimise costs on your software spend.
5. Software Patch Management and Updates .
One of the most effective ways to drive cyber safety is to ensure your software is updated and patched. How your SAM tool will enable you to mass update and mass patch your software assets is vital to staying safe in fast-changing cyber environments.
Software collects data, reporting converts into insight, and good IT managers use great insight to take actionable decisions. We highly recommend that you understand the reports you need to drive your software management before you buy a SAM tool. A good SAM tool will have the ability to inform and alert you to:
- Compliance gaps and trends.
- Usage by Users, Location and Projects.
- Planned vs actual spend.
- Status of software updates.
- Discovery of assets on your on-premise and cloud infrastructure.
7. Vendor Compatibility.
Knowing that your SAM vendor can provide the right capabilities and knowledge is essential. It’s also important that they are easily approachable. Getting to know the support team and the professional services team of your supplier before you purchase the tool helps to know if you will be looked after.