Software Asset Management with the SAM Beast David Foxen

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction of the guest

David Foxen has been in the field of SAM since the age of 18. He is the founder of SAM Beast Consulting Ltd, which focuses on helping customers implement and mature successful IT Asset Management functions. He has successfully implemented IT Asset Management, Software Asset Management, and Hardware Asset Management for many organizations. 

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What To Expect From the Podcast

David speaks about his passion for ITAM and SAM and his interest in the industry. He also talks about the changes ITAM has undergone in the last 12 years of his career. He also highlights how the SaaS landscape has made our lives easier and gives valuable insights into managing SaaS applications.

Listen to the podcast here
  

Breaking of Transcripts

David talks about how he entered ITAM and found his passion for ITAM

Jay(Host):

In today's episode of SaaS whispers, we'll talk about the evolution of SaaS and how companies are catching up with SaaS management. We'll also talk about how SaaS played an essential role in the pandemic and how things will change in the workforce moving forward precisely because of COVID-19. Now, to help us understand these issues, I welcome our special guest, David Foxen. Alright, David, it's an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. Please do me a favor and tell our listeners about yourself. 

David:

Sure, I'm thrilled to be here. Thank you very much for the invite. So I'm David Foxen. I'm an independent software asset management consultant for my company, SAM Beast Consulting. My day-to-day role is helping clients with various IT Asset Management problems, including SaaS optimization, hardware asset management implementation, software asset management maturity, and whatever it may be to do with IT Asset Management. I'm a massive ITAM geek; I love the industry and the subject. So any way that I can help out is where I try and help my clients.

Jay:

So, how did you get into IT? Tell us your background.

David:

My dad has worked in IT all his life for the same company. When I was 18 to19, he brought me into his organization for two days a week, initially, to just put software boxes into a cupboard, to sort them out by vendor, to sort them out by application type, etc., and then log them in a spreadsheet. It evolved from there. I always told him that I didn't want to work in IT. You know you hear all the stories. When he used to come home, I was like, nope, Dad, I'm not working in IT. Yeah, started working for him, got interested in the software licensing piece, you know, what more can I do is this a career option, potentially, you know, what is in there, anytime we to look at, you know, software, asset management, software licensing IT asset management, etc. And I spent my evenings and lunch breaks, you know, googling as much as possible about it. I realized straight away that this was pretty cool. 

It's something that I started to develop a passion and an interest in, and it snowballed from there. Those two days turned into weeks; those weeks turned into months. And have yet to look back since I've never had a job outside of ITAM. You know, I started when I was 18. So it took a lot of reading, googling, networking, and stuff to understand what I needed to do, but 12 years later, I'm still doing it and loving it. So something must be going on, right?

Jay:

Absolutely. Well, I love your passion for it. That makes all the difference.

David:

If you don't enjoy and love what you do, it's just a nine-to-five.

Jay:

Yeah. If you love it still a nine to five, but it goes fast, and it doesn't feel like work, hopefully.

David:

Some days, it feels like work. But, if you enjoy what you're doing, you're motivated by it and have passion for it. So I get excited to do projects and stuff with clients. If it's just something I wasn't interested in, it'd be harder to deliver the best value. I'm grateful to grow and learn in the industry 12 years later.

Focus Points:

✅ David shares how he got inclined toward IT Asset Management

✅ He shares his 12 years of experience working in IT Asset Management

✅ He highlights the importance of being passionate about our work

David shares his views on changes that took place in IT in the past 12 years

Jay:

You have indeed seen a lot of changes in IT in 12 years. Tell us a little about how things have changed from when you first started with asset management and SaaS. How has it changed for you in those years?

David:

When was the last time you put a CD into a laptop, desktop, or whatever? I mean, my laptop doesn't even have a CD drive. The way you manage licenses has evolved a lot. It's not just one CD, or one license that equals one computer. All these different technologies that have come into the ITAM realm and SaaS in particular, when I first started, it wasn't a big thing you had subscription licensing, but it was, you know, few and far. Then something like concurrent licenses, where you had that follow the sun methodology, where you could have ten licenses but have 100 people using it because you had ten people in the US, then ten people in the UK, Europe, and APAC, etc. I was against Adobe and Microsoft when they first released their new licensing models for a subscription model. We will now have to pay yearly instead of just buying them once. I was very kind of, you know, why would I be paying for this? Again, it makes absolutely no sense to me. But obviously, everything else has moved to that model. You can save cash with SaaS. And I'm very kind of motivated by seeing that cash savings as, yeah, is kind of software policing as that sounds, you know, I like saving money on the SaaS environment and streamlining it down as well because it's so easy to get to spend more money than you need to and get into that deep hole of what we're doing here.

Jay:

Yeah. I remember having the same reaction. I'm like, wait; now you want me to pay monthly in perpetuity for this piece of software that before I could purchase for myself, and now I fully expect it. I love it. I love that as they add services and aspects to the software. It's just fully included. I love not having to go to every machine in the workplace to update it. Those days are gone because of SaaS.

David:

Yeah. Their initial pitch gave off the feeling that you're buying the software you already have, but you're paying for it monthly now. So, they initially had a bit of an adverse reaction. So they're like, why would we do that? And if they are, you'll get all these updates in the future. So it's like, Okay, well, show us a roadmap. And at the time, the roadmap was relatively thin on the ground. 

Whereas now it's just like second nature, right? All the SaaS providers provide regular hotfixes almost daily or weekly, with major releases every three or six months. So, you know, it's just natural now.

Focus Points:

✅ David talks about the transformation that occurred in IT in the past decade

✅ He focuses on the challenges faced by SaaS at the beginning

✅ How everyone eventually accepted SaaS as the future of IT

David shares how the advancement of SaaS has increased the accessibility of SaaS applications from anywhere in the world 

Jay:

Yeah, I agree. I have SaaS applications on my tablet when I'm out and about. I pull them up on my laptop when I'm at home. So it's all up to date. I'm amazed at how technology has made my work life easy.

David: 

Yeah, even personal life as well, right? It's just natural that if I create something straight in OneDrive, and I can, as you said, access it from anywhere, you know, back in the day, you used to be emailing it to yourself. I was the last generation who used discs when we ordered software and had to wait for it to be delivered. Nowadays, you can instantly download it from the App store. It's having that instant availability of an application that big organizations drive. SaaS is helping support the expectations and providing speedier customer service to the new generation of IT pros. But I think that's, yeah, that's one that I've seen, you know, since I started ITAM, was that kind of requirement for quicker software delivery and software procurement and stuff, but simply because the next generation is so used to just having things so much quicker.

Jay:

Yeah. It's also changed the hardware requirements, the mainframe requirements, that companies have to have. Talk about that a little bit. How has SaaS impacted what I have as a business to house all of the software or run security measures or those types of things?

David:

From a hardware and software perspective, ensure that all your stuff is patched. It's secure that you've got all that visibility, where it is, who's got access to it, etc. But then when you throw in SaaS where you don't have the same kind of controls he did potentially with upgrades and stuff like that, you know, to be fair, a lot of organizations do go on deferred kind of update schedule where they're like two or three releases behind so that the security guys can have a look at it. People are moving to the cloud, and the Coronavirus had a big impact. Many organizations have managed to take a step back and have a look and go, well, hold on. If we're going to be working from home a lot in the future, do we really need to have a server room, because then that means we'll have to have people in the office to go and maintain it? Because actually, if we implemented like a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), we can have people that can use their laptop at home, there may become in and use a thin client in the office, all of their apps, you know, and are packaged, or they're SaaS-based, there's so much more flexibility. 

Jay:

You're right. From your perspective, how do you individually ensure the security of a product you didn't create? Is it not housed on your servers or on your property? How do you ensure that you can't tell the public because you're still liable if there's a data breach? Well, it was this provider that we used. You can't; you're going to be held accountable for that. So the stakes are really high in that regard.

David:

Yes, tough, isn't it? Because, yeah, you can't outsource the liability; you can't outsource that level of due diligence and care. But it comes back to stakeholder engagement, collaboration, and working together to ensure you've ticked all the boxes you can look internally for your organization. So from an ITAM point of view, when and whenever anything new enters the environment, it goes straight to people like architects, it goes straight to the security teams, going through it checking, it also goes to people like procurement, finance, and need legal to do background checks on the company themselves to check that, you know, they've got the levels of insurance that if there is a data breach, that we as the company will get some remediation back from that, it may be financial, but can you really put a price on people's data? It's doing as much as you can internally as an organization with your security teams.

Focus Points:

✅ How SaaS changed the way of software procurement

✅ Issues related to SaaS security

✅ How to ensure SaaS security from a company’s perspective

David shares his views on security related to SaaS and Shadow IT

Jay:

The consumer doesn't think you're housing this information off-site. We all have this impression, we believe that at a bank, all our money is in that bank waiting for us there, all of our information is right there, and they are housing it. We don't think in terms of, you know, they may have ten different providers, and all of those providers have the same information. And we're relying on their security measures. Consumers don't think about that, and they don't care about that.

David:

If you look at the data breaches over the past two years, it never goes back to the hardware, software vendor, or whoever was responsible for it. The organization is always over the press, with declining stock prices, etc. Even if it wasn’t their fault, they are the face of the organization; I’m still holding you accountable for looking after my data, regardless of whether you’re using a cloud service or a SaaS tool.  

Jay:

Yeah, Right. The other issue is that because SaaS has become so easy and inexpensive on many levels, you may be doing all your due diligence, asset management, and IT security. And then, one of your employees sees a SaaS application they like, purchases it without your knowledge, and subscribes to it. And now your company data is being uploaded to a platform you're unaware of.

David:

Many organizations are unaware of the number of SaaS apps used by them.

The Shadow IT on SaaS is huge. I mean, when we go to clients and tell them about the number of apps being used in their companies, they’re shocked. They are unaware of this fact. Then the questions come, how much is this costing us? Who approved this? How have they got it? Who's got it? Where are they etc.? And you know, what, I've actually seen organizations block company credit cards from purchasing, you know, specific keywords. I mean, if you've got hundreds of SaaS applications, there's absolutely no way unless you have locked your estate down and have got the most mature ITAM function. There's no way you know, what every single one of those does, how it's interacting with your systems, how it's interacting with your data. It's actually quite scary. 

Jay:

Yeah, it's scary in the sense of security, and how many dollars are being spent that you're unaware of? So tell me, David, what are companies doing to manage this? I hear everything from full-fledged systems that monitor everything like you're talking about. I also see companies using spreadsheets and others just not even doing anything about it because they're unaware of how big the problem really is.

David:

Absolutely. Excel is still the king and the most used IT asset management tool globally. There's a lot you can do if you haven't got a fully-fledged tool, speak to procurement, speak to finance, and have a look at the expenses that your employees are submitting. That's a really great way of identifying any SaaS applications that you don't know that you're buying because they have snuck it in via the corporate credit card or via expense claims. You know, I personally am a big fan of dedicated SaaS tools because, you know, they can automate a lot of what I'm doing manually in that respect. You know, they can have integration with HR tools, finance tools, CRM tools, etc., to gather that kind of information and bring it all together so that you, as an ITAM professional, can then actually go through, do the analysis and do the optimization piece, but Excel can still do a job in there. And then again, as you said, there are 1000s of organizations that haven't even started looking at the SaaS stuff.   

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Focus Points:

✅ David shares interesting facts about Shadow IT

✅ He mentions that Excel is the most used IT asset management tool

✅ He shares how dedicated SaaS management tools can help an organization in managing their SaaS stack

David talks about ITAM practices and policies to reduce Shadow IT

Jay:

Yeah, you have zero control over a tonne of money and resources and potential security issues.

David: 

There is a SaaS tool for anything you want to do if there's a plugin to manage your YouTube SEO or manage runways on Autodesk software. A lot of it's provided by a big reputable organization that you would expect to have certain levels of controls around security. And that, you know, you may already have approved Autodesk or whoever is a SaaS organization in your software portfolio. But then you've got every man, you know, one guy who's got a single product that he's developed as part of the university course, that he's then commercialized, he's the only one updating it, but your organization needs it for a specific piece of work, that when it gets very kind of questionable, and I've had a few instances of those where it has been like a man and his dog set up. So you have to go through all the security measures, you know, you have to try and balance that risk.

Jay:

Right, there's an individual SaaS application for everything. I get on Google and type something in, and I will find somebody to solve that equation for me. And I'm not going to my company and saying, Hey, can I expense this? Or can I start using this? I'm like, yeah, this is perfect. And I'm not doing any due diligence or anything because it's solving my need at the moment.

David:

It could be the most minute problem that someone has. They google for a solution and find it for a couple of bucks a month. They don't even think twice. So they're probably looking more at the cost than considering security implications or the need to go through IT Asset Management. I'll put that on my card. And then one person tells another, and you know, it spirals out of control quickly. Then when it comes to doing your budgets, you start running some reports from dedicated SaaS tools. We are aware of only 10 SaaS tools. How did we end up with 250? So this long-tail SaaS stuff will take a long time or resource to find and bring into the ITAM scope.

Jay:

Do you find our companies starting to talk about this stuff in their training manuals and policies? Are they telling people about SaaS applications and saying what you can purchase? And if you do want something, what is the process?

David:

Many ITAM policies and guidelines exist for new starters and existing customers. It is mostly around ensuring you're following the correct processes, how detailed they go in their policies, and documentation about how to get it. Some people consider lockdown to be, let's give everyone the top license, we haven't got time to sort, you know, user profile and sort out, let's just give them all Microsoft Office E5, for example, or the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite or, the full version of Salesforce, etc. without going through and doing that due diligence, but that's when shameless plug consultants like myself can go in and know straightaway, the values there because SaaS applications are like such low hanging fruit at the moment, you literally just go into an organization site, right? Look, give me access to your SaaS portals and your latest HR information; who's here and who's not? Who's on long-term leave, etc.? When you go through that, you can quickly trim the fat and start making some cash savings, which shows the importance of ITAM.

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Focus Points:

✅ There are a lot of tools in the market, and some of them don’t guarantee the safety of the data

✅ Shadow IT can exponentially increase the spending

✅ Need for ITAM policies and practices to reduce Shadow IT

Importance of a SaaS Management Platform for an organization 

Jay:

It's interesting how quickly you can go in and impact the bottom line. Domestically? Yeah. Do you find that companies that use SaaS management software?  Is it a little bit harder? Are they a little bit more on their game with that type of stuff?

David:

They've already hit that if they've got a dedicated management tool in. They know that they haven't got control of the spending, and they're proactive in wanting to do something with it, which is why they invest in a dedicated SaaS tool. I think from a maturity standpoint, they don't feel like they're mature because they're just entering into that journey, or they're just implementing a SaaS tool, but just by getting to that point and realizing they need to manage it, they are actually ahead of potentially some of their competitors in terms of SaaS management.

These tools help you to prevent Shadow IT, and provide you with license usage details, suggestions on new tools or licenses, etc. There are a lot of features offered by SMPs in the market. So as soon as I started seeing SaaS tools, I was right for saving me that amount of time. I'm fully on board. I am fully in. I love them. They're great.

Jay:

Yeah, it makes sense. When SaaS started, we didn't realize we would need a tool to manage it. But it makes sense in today's environment.

David:

Yeah, 100%. Many of your traditional IT asset management tools bring out plugins for various SaaS applications. But I don't consider the SaaS tool providers to be competitors. They're a fantastic add-on to their existing tools. You can still have your traditional ITAM tool and your SaaS tool working in harmony to deliver the value of ITAM, and that's why I always pitch to clients it's not an either-or. Yeah, you can have both, and I highly suggest you do have both.

Jay:

Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me. You had mentioned Coronavirus earlier. Can you imagine Coronavirus and everybody going to work at their homes without SaaS?

David:

Wow, I don't even know how that would work. You'd have to ship off a lot of like discs for people to install stuff. How would you be doing updates? You know, over VPN? I think Coronavirus has been obviously it's been horrendous from a global perspective. But from an ITAM point of view. It shows the reliance and value organizations didn't know they had on ITAM. I think that, like I said, as horrible as the pandemic has been, it has shown the importance of SaaS. But then also, actually how valuable having the agility of SaaS is as well, because you do not have to rely on physical disks in the post and they're, you know, waiting for you know when you're buying it as well waiting for it to be shipped to you, etc. If someone was working, you know, in the office one day and then suddenly working from home the next day and realized something was missing from an application standpoint. They could go online to find it; it could be a SaaS link, get it approved, and have it installed within a day. Right? You were still buying it from your local shop or online and a physical waiting for a physical disk that could have potentially taken weeks. 

Focus Points:

✅ Benefits of a SaaS management tool 

✅ SaaS tool providers are a fantastic add-on to the existing ITAM tools

✅ Major role played by SaaS in running the organizations during covid

The change in the way of working during the pandemic has led to a better work-life balance for the people

Jay:

Yeah, I've been thinking about this a lot lately; just the pandemic ten years ago would have been so different. And that, as you point out, the pandemic has taught companies that they don't have to have in-person meetings every day; they don't have to have somebody there. I don't know that the workforce will ever return to the way that it was in the past because of what they've learned. But none of that would have happened without SaaS.

David:

I completely agree. The way of working has completely changed. Yeah, people have that better work-life balance as well if you're working from home, but yeah, absolutely, there are organizations that were so against working from home was like you cannot work from home, you have to be office based, this role cannot be done from home. Soon as they’re forced to work from home, they realize that we are still delivering projects on time and can be trusted to do the job for which they are being paid and again, how would you be able to do that without SaaS? What would you be shipping them off laserdiscs, getting them to install it themselves, and sending it back? No! SaaS has become, we don't even have to think about it. You know what I mean? It wasn't an issue, right? We need more subscriptions. Let's buy some more. 

Jay:

Yeah, the transition to a worldwide workforce going to homes didn't seem like you can speak more to it than I can because I was an employee in the process. But it didn't seem to be this huge burden that you would have thought that it would have been.

David:

From a hardware perspective, it was a bit of a challenge for more than the software side of things. Yeah. Really, because in the UK, it was literally an overnight thing. One day you’re working from the office, and the other day it’s a lockdown. It brought several challenges, including hardware, logistics, panic among people, etc. I know many organizations also had a big strain on, like, their VPN networks on the audio conferencing software and video conferencing stuff simply because they had so many people suddenly, you know, dialing into video calls.

Jay:

Right? As I kept thinking zoom was going to crash, I thought zoom was going to crash and burn how did they survive through this? I have no idea, just like so many other software applications.

David:

Yeah, in the initial days having video calls with the people from their home office or their bedroom was a weird novelty. You know, a nice bit of humor to get through the day, you take the mic out of their backgrounds, and people doing funky backgrounds, etc., right? But actually, that additional bandwidth, you know, the organizations weren't ready for it. So like, people were like robots, or they sounded like they were underwater. The connectivity wasn't good. They needed to increase the network capabilities. And there were licensing ramifications around it.

Jay:

Yeah, there's no doubt that the pandemic has changed the workplace, but it also changed SaaS. And then the need for SaaS management going forward.

David:

Many people have been bored at home, on their work jobs, just trying to find that little tool just to make something that little bit easier for them, that they've been put on a credit card. I know of people that have done that. I know people in ITAM who have done that and haven't yet claimed it back as an expense. They're only paying like five-pound a month, but they'll claim it back at the end of the year. So they work in ITAM. So obviously, they know about it, but how many other people are doing that? Yeah, from a SaaS management tooling provider, then, you know, you've got an open goal there. 

Jay:

David, thank you so much for joining us today. I love your passion for ITM. And you've really given us some powerful insights into the history and future of SaaS in our daily lives. It is hard to ignore the impact of the pandemic on SaaS and the workplace in general, and you've also helped us better understand the need for good SaaS management tools going forward.

Focus Points:

✅ SaaS has become an integral part of the operation of organizations

✅ Challenges faced by organizations like Zoom to keep up with the increased demand during covid

✅ Increase in the Shadow IT in the pandemic due to the absence of a SaaS management platform

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