From Reactive to Proactive: 7 Global Best Practices for Software Asset Management

Getting aligned on your KPIs with the management is a critical first step to streamlining software asset management. Read on for a comprehensive understanding of the SAM best practices used by businesses around the world.


Did you know businesses, on average, have up to 50% of their software apps unused? That leaves less money for investing in innovative new technologies that could drive growth. Though IT budgets have been growing steadily, there is a clear case for better asset management to improve ROI. 

However, the truth is that operational imperatives often trump IT policies in most organizations. Case in point: as companies struggled to adapt to remote work in the early days of the pandemic, individual business units often bypass official channels to procure software. 

Ad-hoc procurement can be justified on business continuity grounds. However, it also legitimized the use of unauthorized apps for millions of employees. It is now more than a year since the lockdown was lifted. However, the shadow IT phenomenon shows no signs of abating. 

To be sure, the use of third-party apps was fairly common pre-pandemic; now, the pandemic has opened the floodgates.

With business units procuring 56% of enterprise apps directly, it has only grown into a more significant data security threat than ever before. Here’s why:

  • Once connected to an enterprise network, third-party apps have access to company data even if they are not used very often.

  • The risk of a potential data breach exists even if an employee provides a third-party app delegated or OAuth access with their company log-in credentials.

  • If an app vendor reports a security flaw, you may not be able to take preventive measures without a proper software asset management strategy.  

Risk and compliance is another critical reason for improving IT governance. In 2021, the number of companies penalized for GDPR violations reached 709, a rise of 113.5%. 

For these reasons and more, IT leaders need to push for greater transparency and accountability in terms of asset utilization and management. A key part of any IT asset management strategy is software asset management (SAM). 

A robust SAM process is critical to increasing software adoption, optimizing costs, and boosting compliance as companies scale.  

With the growth of cloud and mobile apps, companies today need a way to control spiraling compliance risks and SaaS costs. SAM caters to precisely this problem. It is a set of controls designed to optimize the complete lifecycle of software used across an organization. 

In other words, it aims to monitor the procurement, usage, and renewal of software licenses while reducing overlap across departments and managing redundancy. Software asset management is thus the last line of defense for an organization against the twin threats of cybercrime and excessive IT spending. 

According to Deloitte, SAM tools can save an average of $2.5 million in license and support costs for enterprise businesses. However, for this to happen, they need an effective and integrated SAM strategy.

Best Practices to Plan and Execute an Effective Software Asset Management Strategy

Software Asset Management processes must be designed to support people to do the right thing, including IT and those beyond. In other words, they should enable IT teams to build and leverage the right relationships, thereby creating buy-in among all stakeholders. This requires a forward-looking approach. 

With that said, let’s take a look at some SAM best practices.

1. Choosing the right SAM tool

Many companies are still using legacy on-premise software to manage software assets. However, these tools cannot generate real-time reports, and neither do they have the analytics features to generate meaningful insights. For analyzing data, you are required to export the data to some analytical tool like Power BI. 

When selecting the right SAM tool, IT leaders must start with visualizing business needs. Here are some of the key features you should look at while choosing a SAM tool:

Software Discovery: The SAM tool should be capable of automatically detecting any new software connecting to the network environment. As the use of cloud-based apps is growing, being able to identify SaaS apps is a must. 

In addition, it should be able to track details such as license cost, billing, and renewal dates, etc. The automatic discovery feature is essential to avoid gaps in your SAM database.

License Management: Next, check if the tool you are considering can automatically track software purchases, upgrades, and renewals across the lifecycle. This feature can be invaluable in helping SAM teams monitor changes to license terms and conditions over a period of time.

Reporting and Analytics: Real-time reporting is a key enabler for providing relevant and timely SAM insights to senior management. As an organization scales, consistent reporting can help SAM teams validate the IT spending of individual business units based on hard data. 

Moreover, built-in analytics help decision-makers understand whether existing SAM processes are working as they are meant to.

Scalability: When choosing SAM software, businesses must think two to three years ahead in terms of their requirements. In the days to come, the majority of the software used in organizations will be SaaS. The selected tool should have robust SaaS management capabilities as well. 

This is why SaaS-based SAM tools are a far better alternative to traditional on-premise tools used by most companies today. They are scalable and can be easily adapted to changing business needs over a period of time.

Flexibility: Many companies would rather stick to existing SAM tools despite their limitations rather than buy a better one. The reason: they want to avoid customization and integration hassles. Ensure that the SAM tools you are considering are easy to integrate into your existing systems and workflows.

2. Push the SAM Agenda Proactively

SAM teams need to be in regular contact with key stakeholders to generate awareness about their cause. Sharing reports and insights regularly is a great way to build relationships with them. Unfortunately, such opportunities don’t present themselves. 

It requires you to take a certain amount of initiative and be persuasive in your communication. You can also run focus groups with key executives to engage them further. Getting senior leadership to advocate the importance of SAM is another great strategy to drive active participation and engagement. 

This should be easy for most IT teams that directly report to C-level executives. 

3. Establish Clear Goals and Standardize Software Procurement

Large enterprise companies have complex reporting hierarchies. Moreover, the software procurement process followed is unique to the individual requirements of individual business units. This makes it difficult for SAM teams to keep track of the people responsible for buying and deploying apps. 

Setting up standardized guidelines for license management is essential for avoiding overlap and keeping costs under control. For example, IT must review every new software request for features similar to what you may already have. This is easier said than done.

Most of the traditional SAM tools don't allow this as it requires collaboration between different departments. And IT is therefore seen as a roadblock. Zluri, a SaaS management tool, solves this problem by enabling common visibility with other departments and thus making IT act fast.

Secondly, SAM managers need to communicate the KPIs regularly with the rest of the team. Examples include software utilization rate or percentage of unused licenses versus total licenses. This will help ensure that everyone is working in the right direction.

4. Categorize all Software Assets

Next, make a list of all software currently installed, including apps that have not been used in a while. Open-source operating systems like Linux often come with paid apps that need a license. So, they should also be taken into consideration. 

Experts recommend categorizing the list into three distinct groups based on cost, compliance, and business impact. 

For example, the most expensive apps with the highest business impact and risk exposure should be placed in Category 1. Apps with known security flaws can be placed in a separate category, say Category 2 for termination, while free-to-use apps can be put into a category of their own.

5. Update your License and Software Inventories Often

Once you have categorized all your software assets, check whether the licenses cover all the possible ways employees across departments use them. Also, check the utilization levels to determine whether all the licenses you have are worth the cost. 

Keeping your inventory data current and up to date will serve as the single source of truth for your software licenses. 

The volume of SaaS applications today is growing exponentially. Companies need to ensure that the Sam tool they procure has a large library of SaaS applications. But traditional SAM tools fail here. At Zluri, the application library is around 250k applications, and the list keeps increasing by a few thousand applications on a daily basis.

Moreover, the Zluri discovery engine is based on five discovery methods making it the most comprehensive discovery engine in the market capable of discovering all the apps with 100% accuracy. The five discovery methods are SSO (single sign-on) and IDP (identity providers) such as Okta, OneLogin, Google Workspace, Microsoft AD, etc.; expense and finance management system such Quickbooks, Xero, etc.; direct integrations with over 400 apps (again largest in the market); browser extension and desktop agent.

Some of the key things that need to be updated on an ongoing basis include

  • Names of apps being downloaded or upgraded by specific users.

  • Who are the owners?

  • How often is a given software being used on average?

  • Subscription status, including trials, renewals, and upgrades.

6. Optimize your License Inventory

Here, you will be able to assess whether you are overspending on new licenses and, if so, by how much. If you notice a large number of unused programs, you can reassign those licenses to other users. Many licenses include annual maintenance contracts, which are billed automatically. 

In case you notice any redundant apps, you can immediately flag them for termination. If an app has multiple users across departments, you may even be able to get a better deal with the vendor on renewal.  

Furthermore, companies need to ensure that they pick a SAM tool that can provide them real-time optimization insights on the licenses based on usage and utilization.

Now, optimizing software licenses can be done along the three dimensions of price, latent value, and future roadmap. You can read this post for details on this, but here is the summary.

'Price' dimension helps you

  • Understand SaaS wastage in terms of unused subscriptions, duplicate apps, abandoned apps, etc.

  • Ensure subscription renewals are thought through ahead of time.

  • Get visibility of hidden costs to help you negotiate better SaaS agreements.

  • Leverage discounts for loyalty, bulk subscriptions, referrals, etc.

'Latent value' dimension helps you

  • Understand cross-application integration and data movement capabilities

  • Know apps automation capabilities.

  • Be aware of training requirements for employees.

'Future roadmap' dimension helps you

  • Predict improvements in products to do more using machine learning.

  • Transparency in data privacy and security.

  • If the product roadmap aligns with your needs.

7. Prepare for compliance audits

When it comes to compliance audits, it is always better to be proactive rather than reactive. After all, even a minor deficiency can go against you. Experts recommend doing a comprehensive gap analysis to find expired licenses or even proprietary software without licenses. 

An internal audit will help you plug any loopholes in your current IT policies and align them with the latest SAM quality assurance standards.

Zluri helps organizations be audit-ready. There are always too many rules and regulations to follow when you need to do a compliance audit. Zluri offers a comprehensive platform to keep all your compliance-related data in an easy-to-read dashboard. 

Zluri brings all the necessary vendor data—renewals to invoices into a single dashboard. So you can constantly keep track of the vendor practices and make sure all your applications meet the industry standards.

Zluri is a SaaS management platform that helps you know every SaaS application that exists in your organization. This way, you can easily monitor the application, its users, and the vendors and get real-time data on who did what.

How Zluri Can Help You Achieve your Software Asset Management Goals

In the post-pandemic scenario, many businesses are overhauling their SAM processes to rationalize IT spending. On their part, SAM teams are also putting in their best efforts to create greater transparency and accountability across the software lifecycle. 

However, they are stymied by the non-availability of effective tools for the job more often than not. 

For example, the use of legacy software with its inherent limitations in terms of discovery and inventory tracking creates a lopsided view of the overall SaaS demand versus supply. In turn, this may lead to incorrect spend estimates. 

Depending on the inter-departmental dynamics, SAM specialists may thus find it harder to present a coherent picture of SaaS ROI and build a future roadmap acceptable to all stakeholders. Secondly, there may also be fears about time to value when implementing a new SAM platform.  

However, the latest generation of SaaS-focused tools is designed to address these very issues. Zluri, for example, comes with a dashboard interface that provides real-time reports across the software lifecycle, from procurement to termination. 

Its smart discovery feature allows seamless discovery and cataloging, compliance and vendor management, etc. Zluri also comes with integration support for 320+ apps right out of the box. This means users can plug into an extensive ecosystem of 400+ apps. In addition, the onboarding experience is highly intuitive, thanks to comprehensive automation. In other words, Zluri helps businesses across industries get the most out of their IT spending while eliminating compliance risks.

Learn more about how Zluri can help you take control of your software stack. Sign up for a demo today.