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Time for Software Asset Management to Take the Spotlight

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Looking back over recent analyst reports on the software asset management (SAM) market, I came across a joint Forrester/ITAM Review survey from early this year on “The State and Direction of Software Asset Management 2012 to 2013.” The report suggests that while software asset management still has a long way to go before becoming a meaningful priority on the boardroom agenda, it is beginning to gain some traction.IT professionalsforrester logo, whose job it is to avert the risk of audits, fines and non-compliance, have been fully on board with the concept of SAM since the early 2000’s. What’s been missing until recently has been broader executive understanding and acknowledgement of the negative impact of a poorly executed—or non-existent—SAM program on the corporate bottom line.While SAM has been featured on the corporate priority list for well over a decade, it has taken a long time to make it to the top because companies have historically viewed SAM primarily as an audit-avoidance technique that is often costly and difficult to execute. But today, with virtually all organizations focused on across-the-board expense reduction, more senior executives are exploring the financial benefits of software license optimization and taking a closer look at how a first-class software asset management tool can become an invaluable piece of cost containment efforts.A while back, our Director of ITAM Development, Kris Barker, blogged about the relatively few companies that have been successful in implementing genuine and comprehensive SAM programs; and you can bet that every last one of them had also been successful in elevating the priority of SAM and obtaining buy-in from the highest levels of the organization.

According to the Forrester survey, 60% of organizations surveyed at the end of 2012 stated they found SAM to be financially beneficial in terms of managing software costs. These figures appear promising at first glance, but when you consider the fact that the poll was conducted among ITAM/ITSM professionals (who, given their job titles, are likely to work at companies with a dedicated SAM program in place), it’s fairly safe to assume that these numbers overstate the rate of SAM success (or adoption, for that matter) across the broader marketplace.

Another interesting figure cited by the survey is that 35% of respondents claim they are tracking software usage with a “fit-for-purpose” tool. For reasons I mentioned above, I suspect this figure is also optimistic. Based on our own experience with companies working to implement SAM, I believe a more realistic percentage of organizations who have even implemented software usage monitoring technology (never mind whether it’s “fit for purpose”) is probably much lower—more like 10-15%. And even that might be generous.

Irrespective of the exact figures, the overall implication is clear; despite the perceived financial benefits of SAM among ITAM/ITSM professionals, they are generally not equipped with the tools they need to get the job done properly. And the reason for this ties back to the main premise of the research: that SAM generally lacks the executive-level commitment required to deliver on the full range of potential benefits.

Ironically, there is a “chicken and the egg” problem going on: For software asset management initiatives to deliver on its promise of cost-savings and survive more intense C-level scrutiny, IT professionals must use the right tools for the job. But how do you obtain the right tools without executive buy-in? We will address that conundrum in a future blog post, but in the meantime, we can all be encouraged by the report’s conclusion that while SAM has a way to go before reaching complete understanding in the boardroom, IT demand and financial necessity are converging more closely than ever before. And by promoting better executive understanding of SAM’s cost-saving benefits, we can ensure that SAM is poised to occupy a greater share of the corporate spotlight.