How to Choose the Best Software Asset Management Tools for Your Organization

Posted by on May 22, 2019

Software Asset Management Tools

Software asset management (SAM) tools are deployed by IT organizations to establish and maintain inventories of hardware and software assets and to manage the life cycle of software assets from purchase through deployment, maintenance and utilization and all the way to asset disposition. As organizations grow in size, they can increasingly benefit from the adoption of a SAM solution that helps them optimize their IT asset expenses, manage software license compliance and keep track of growing and aging IT inventories. The key business benefits of SAM software be summarized as follows:

  • Increase Asset Efficiency - IT organizations can implement SAM applications to collect data on their software installations and usage. The data can be used to identify cost-savings opportunities in software procurement, whether by purchasing fewer licenses for underused applications or identifying opportunities to renew licenses in bulk at a discounted rate. SAM solutions help IT organizations manage their software assets more efficiently.

  • Manage License Compliance - Software vendors make millions of dollars each year by auditing customers who fail to comply with software license agreements. IT organizations can protect their firm's reputation and avoid financial loss by managing software licence compliance with SAM tools.

  • Maintain Accurate Inventories - As organizations grow, they quickly acquire more hardware, software, and software licenses than can be tracked manually. SAM applications help IT organizations of all sizes maintain visibility and transparency of IT assets throughout the organization. This reduces the number of wasteful purchases and helps IT managers find more efficient ways to allocate their hardware and software resources.

Choosing the Best Software Asset Management Tools

Once you have successfully made the business case for implementing a software asset management tool within your IT organization, the next step is to choose a tool that suits your unique needs and circumstances.

Many IT organizations start the purchasing process by researching a list of leading vendors and comparing prices—but we'd recommend something slightly different. The key to choosing the best software asset management tools is to understand and define which SAM features are most important for your organization and choose a software vendor that delivers exceptionally well on those. To help you get started, we've created a list of the most critical features you should look for when choosing a software asset management tool.

Software Discovery

Software asset management tools enable IT organizations to keep track of their hardware and software inventory and monitor license compliance. In the past, this was largely a manual process where IT operators would maintain spreadsheets with information about IT assets. Each time a configuration item changed, a manual update would have to be performed which made it difficult to determine if your SAM database was truly accurate.

Today's leading SAM tools offer automated software discovery, meaning that they can automatically detect installations and usage of software on the network. This feature means that IT operators spend very little time doing manual data entry to maintain the SAM, and increases confidence that the software inventory database is up-to-date. With automated software discovery, changes on the network such as new software installations are automatically detected and can even trigger alerts when a new installation causes a license compliance issue.

Software and Hardware Inventory and Cataloging

Software and hardware inventory cataloging is one of the main drivers of software asset management. Without sufficient oversight of inventory within the IT organization, waste is inevitable as IT managers order excess licenses, servers, and workstations without any knowledge of viable alternatives that may already be at their disposal.

Leading SAM tools should have the capability to scan the network for hardware and software configuration items and collect information about those items. A hardware inventory should reveal what machines the company has deployed in the IT environment, the names of those machines, what hardware they contain, the operating system, and what applications are installed on each machine. IT managers can consult their hardware inventory to inform their decisions about purchasing new equipment.

Software inventory is another key feature for SAM tools. IT organizations should look for a tool that tracks instances of software installations on the network and that can be used to determine exactly how many used or unused licenses the organization has for each application.

Software Usage Assessment

SAM tools that offer software usage assessment as a core feature can frequently help IT organizations find ways to generate significant cost savings by re-allocating resources.

Consider two IT organizations that are facing an upcoming renewal for an important enterprise application that is used in the accounting department. In the past, both companies have simply renewed with the exact same number of licenses they originally purchased—50 single-user licenses. Company Alpha has the capability to monitor software usage by time on all workstations across the network, while Company Beta is still using excel spreadsheets for software inventory management.

When it's time for the renewal, the IT manager for Company Alpha pulls the software usage data for the application and discovers that only 46 of the licenses were actually used by Company Alpha during the year, and that 6 of those installations were categorized as "rarely used." The IT manager chooses to renew the license agreement, but wisely purchases only 40 licenses for the year, reducing the overall cost by 20 percent. Meanwhile, the IT manager for Company Beta has no data to inform the purchasing process—he simply signs the renewal paperwork for 50 licenses and wastes the money.

License Compliance Monitoring

Software vendors have been making huge money by auditing and litigating customers who abuse or misuse their software and breach software license agreements. License compliance monitoring could be the most important feature for SAM tools, as a failed software audit causes serious business interruption, results in costly true-up payments or legal fees, and can impact the reputation of your organization.

Today's industry-leading SAM tools include features that can help you proactively monitor your inventory of software licenses and detect non-compliance issues before they can ever be discovered in a software vendor audit. IT organizations can receive automated updates and notifications when a change in the system affects license compliance and take steps to correct the non-compliance.

Asset Depreciation

Software purchased for use is considered a fixed asset by general accounting principles, meaning that corporate organizations can depreciate purchased software on their taxes to obtain an income reduction and reduce their tax liability. Your software asset management system should track the total cost of any software your organization purchases and depreciate the software over time according to your accounting rules.

Asset depreciation is just one part of how an effective SAM tool helps you save money and reduce your total cost of ownership for software applications. SAM also helps IT organizations coordinate pricing and enhance their budget forecasting for IT expenses.

Related: IT Asset Management 101


Software asset management tools provide IT organizations with unprecedented oversight into their hardware and software inventory and configuration items. The ability to detect hardware and software on the network, collect attribution data for those configuration items and organize that information into a searchable database that drives better asset management is already revolutionary for most IT organizations.

Still, there are IT organizations that want even more real-time tracking and transparency of their hardware - and that's why we have geo-location. Geo-location goes beyond simple detection and monitoring of hardware on the network: it allows the IT organization to track the physical location of any hardware asset that it owns. If your organization strongly values security, geo-location can help ensure that you recover any lost hardware that might expose your company to a data breach. Physical asset tracking can even provide practical benefits, such as helping you keep tabs on traveling employees in a crisis situation.

Compatibility with Other Enterprise Tools

IT organizations can leverage a variety of enterprise software tools for applications like security management , human resources management, ITSM, and more. When choosing a software asset management system, it makes sense to assess whether the application is compatible or even synergistic with the applications that your organization already uses.

Audit Scheduling

If your IT organization purchases software licenses from a major software vendor, you should anticipate that you will receive at least one software audit request every three years. As your number of vendor partners grow, you may even receive audit requests annually. If you purchased the right software asset management application, you should be conducting your own software compliance audits on a monthly basis to truly verify your compliance with software license agreements.

Software vendor audits are a distraction and an interruption, but it's easy to understand why they happen on a regular basis when 44 percent of them result in costly true-up payments, sometimes in excess of $1 million. So how can you get those pesky software vendors to go away? Put simply, you can prevent audits by ensuring that vendors who audit your organization for software compliance are wasting their time and money. In other words, if you can effectively manage compliance on your own, the vendors will learn to leave you alone.

Some SAM tools offer auditing functions that can be automated and scheduled to occur on a routine basis. The application will compare your on-network software installations to the software license agreements and present you with information on any non-compliance issues throughout your organization.

User-Friendly, Automated Reporting

SAM tools with automated reporting features make it easy for IT managers and executive decision-makers to quickly access the high-impact information needed to make important decisions. Most software vendors have developed SAM tools that can collect software usage data or manage license compliance, but IT managers should also look at SAM tools with automated reporting features that promote ease-of-use and seamlessly deliver the information that users need from the system in a digestible and actionable format.

Free Trial Options

Every software vendor should offer a short-term trial of their SAM product or at least an in-depth demo that can help you verify whether the product meets your needs. Ask vendors to demonstrate their SAM tool using the same hardware and software as you will be using in your organization to better gauge the performance of the tool in realistic conditions.

Alerts and Notifications

SAM tools help IT organizations monitor their license compliance status, and standard practice is to schedule a full compliance audit at least every month. Still, there is little value in a monitoring system for license compliance issues that does not offer real-time notifications and alerts when a problem is detected. Organizations who wish to leverage their SAM tool as a warning system against non-compliance issues need to ensure that the system can be configured to deliver notifications or alerts to IT operators when an issue is detected.


As your IT organization grows in size, it's important to choose a SAM tool that can grow with you and which remains practical and effective as your organization increases in scope and size. When determining how growth-friendly a particular application is, it is important to look at all of the manual processes involved in administering the application and ask "Would this process be efficient if my organization was five times larger?" If the answer is no, look for a software tool with more automation features whose benefits will multiply as your organization gets bigger.

IT Purchasing System

Software asset management tools that incorporate an IT purchasing system can help IT organizations consolidate procurement and licensing information and make it easier for IT managers to correlate purchasing data with inventoried assets. When purchasing data and inventory don't match up, opportunities for tax write-offs may present themselves.

An effective IT purchasing system supports your procurement process, enabling you to manage lifecycle status of software products, allocate budget towards software purchases, and configure contract expiration notifications so you know when to renew.

The Cherwell Advantage: SAM Software You Can Trust

Cherwell's software asset management (SAM) solution was purpose-built to assist IT organizations that wish to reduce excess spending on software licenses and minimize their IT overhead while reducing software compliance risk. Cherwell's simplified deployment process takes just hours, and thanks to intuitive design and ease-of-use features, you won't need any programming skills to customize the tool to your exact specifications.

Along with a robust inventory system that tracks dozens of attributes for hardware and software configuration items, Cherwell's SAM solution delivers beautiful dashboards and reporting features and a cost-saving IT purchasing system, along with industry-leading compliance management tools to help you proactively deal with software license compliance.

Best of all, the solution integrates seamlessly with the Cherwell Service Management platform that leading IT organizations are already using to implement ITIL best practices.

Get in touch with us today and book a free demo to see for yourself how Cherwell can help you optimize the management of your software assets.

Book a Free Demo Today