There is no substitute for experience to becoming an expert in anything you do. Like most skills the road to Software Asset Management expertise can be paved with some solid fundamentals that will make the journey more productive. To quote a familiar metaphor, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” SAM must be treated the same. It takes people, process and technology and trying to swallow the whole thing will only slow the journey. Here are six, small steps you can take to begin the journey.
Step one is to set realistic goals, based on your personal and company skills and resources. You must realistically consider available resources, the timing of those resources, what prior history exists around SAM initiatives and what level of executive support you expect to receive. Declaring there is an audit in 90 days and a SAM program needs to be implemented is not a good place to start. Instead you may want to just develop an inventory of your licensable software to triage your situation as a foundation to building your expertise.
Two. Have an overall vision in mind. What do you consider success to look like, what is the timeline and what are the stops along the way to accomplish this? Plan the roadmap and start at the beginning! Treat SAM like a program of works that must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Make sure to leave some time in the plan for new items or challenges. You will undoubtedly encounter these as you discover more about your current state, technically, culturally and process wise.
Next start with a few easy wins that can be high return. This is generally desktop software. Device based licenses might be a good area to start as it is easier to match these up with a number of machines to gain some data. Here you are looking to improve just a few key processes. Begin with steps that act as starters and leavers to the overall process such as software installation or procurement and hardware retirement. These will help stop more non-compliance issues occurring which will undo your work in managing the estate.
Four. Vital to continued success and support is to build on your successes by demonstrating improvements to management. This creates more support and resources to establish the SAM program so it can meet your end goals. Simply put, promote your successes. You must be an evangelist for SAM. This could be as simple as being able to rapidly deliver an accurate inventory report of currently used licenses versus entitlements to show basic savings or potential exposure. This will allow you to move to other, more involved policies and processes. These include more sophisticated categories of SAM such as user based, consumption or VDI license models.
Step five. Surround yourself with a good team be it virtual or physical. Ensure that you have the relevant people with the correct skills to assist. Be especially aware of the skills you don’t have in-house and what risk this introduces to the program. Think how any gaps can be mitigated. We all know what we know, we know what we don’t know. But we really don’t know what we don’t know. So don’t be afraid to get outside to help identify issues and provide assistance.
Finally, step six. Invest in training and certifications. Like a lot of IT, if not more so, SAM is a specialized area and knowledge is required. Publishers are constantly changing their licensing models. New device technology is pushing much of SAM from its traditional home of desktops, laptops and servers.
Thin Clients, VDI, all forms of mobile devices, all things SaaS are mounting extraordinary challenges to traditional SAM.
Now for that bonus step; SAM tooling.
Tooling questions will always come up. Ideally a unified SAM solution with discovery, inventory, normalization and licence reconciliation is what you want. But you can start out with your existing discovery tool whilst you scope your requirements. You may even need to conduct an exercise using your existing tool to prove a gap or a need.
When considering a tool do your research to ensure the tool is totally fit for purpose. Also consider the needs beyond basic SAM, particular integration with other systems and its’ ease of implementation.
Some SAM tools are modular and may have facilities beyond the initial scope of the first phases of your project. More realistically they could be beyond your initial skill set, time frame or company resources. Consider what modules or features could form a later phase. Plan for them early and include clear success criteria for completing one phase before moving to the next.
As you proceed along this journey to building your expertise, it is important to review, inspect and constantly look to improve. Importantly, be ready for the next surprise. Software Asset Management is a process of continuous improvement. Once you have the confidence of your peers and management you might want to suggest a full mock audit of a single vendor. Don’t forget the information you have already collected. You can use it to conduct risk assessments. Not all risks need to be resolved but at least they can be known or at least planned for.
With these six simple steps you can now be on the road to SAM expertise!