Software Asset Management (SAM)- The Complete Guide

Sethu Meenakshisundaram

10th January, 2024


Software Asset Management (SAM) is about getting the most from your software tools while minimizing the risks associated with them. 

It's the process of securing your company's data and users by managing the entire lifecycle of software from procurement till you terminate the software applications. 

Software Asset Management is the overall process for software procurement, optimizing the licenses, deployment, usage, and disposal throughout its span in an organization. 

A robust SAM program can streamline the software monitoring process. It offers a positive impact on your company.

Why is Managing Software Assets Important?

Businesses from nearly all industries make huge investments in software, and it's something that is always increasing. 

With the new software delivery model, any user/department can acquire a software app. So, its visibility, consumption, price, and legal implications become difficult to monitor. Because of this risk, it is imperative to have SAM in place.

SaaS wastage has become a common term. Almost every company has SaaS applications that are charged every month but are lying idle. This is more common for enterprises, especially those that have thousands of employees using thousands of applications. 

While IT buys certain applications for the employees, but when the employees are not satisfied with it, they sign up for applications without IT's purview, leading to shadow IT. All these applications that are unused or underutilized are silently burning your budget. 

So how to avoid these? You would need a Software Asset Management platform to manage your SaaS applications. 

Challenges in Managing Software Apps

There are many challenges in managing software apps. Let's see them.

Legal Liabilities: You need to be very careful in procurement and managing licenses. It is very hard to keep track of expired licenses (if you are still using on-prem software) and renew them from time to time. If yours is a big organization with numerous licenses, it's even more difficult. 

The regulatory bodies are vigilant when it comes to licenses, and if you get caught for using an expired license, you would be held for non-compliance. It can cost you hefty fines and lawsuits.

Inaccurate Data: Spreadsheets have become a hub for maintaining SaaS data for companies. But maintaining spreadsheets is not as easy as it sounds. You need to work tirelessly and update it now and then whenever a new software app has entered into your SaaS landscape or when there are pricing or changes in tiers. So, to begin with, you need to have visibility.

An unhealthy relationship with vendors: Maintaining a healthy relationship with your software vendors is very important. Only when your software assets are bringing value to your business would you want to keep them.

For that, you need to know whether the app is used to its fullest or is remaining idle or unused. It is crucial to have software usage data to negotiate with your vendors and ask them for betterment.

Procurement Issues: You should be able to predict your SaaS expenses by tracking their usage. If you don't plan your expenses, it may make you invest in unnecessary applications that are not needed. 

3 Key Components of Software Asset Management (SAM)

1. License-The SAM foundation

A software license is the foundation of SAM. It defines the terms and conditions on who uses software, what device it is used, and when. A license gives access to a specific user on a given device or to several users in a network. 

A software license includes upgrade rights, integration with other applications, audit requirements, and renewal conditions. It is usually agreed between a vendor and the organization.

The terms and conditions tend to vary depending on the number of licenses purchased. A SAM can read through the fine prints of SLAs, and this interpretation is necessary as it helps form the basis of compliance calculations which can lead to cost-saving on SaaS spend and prevent audit fines.

License Optimization: Like we already saw before, it is essential to maintain a compliant license, or you might get caught by the regulatory bodies. 

The licenses have the instructions on their installation and usage. It is your responsibility to stay compliant with those license terms and conditions. 

License management plays a crucial legal role in software asset management.

2. Compliance: Be Audit-Ready

Audit ready

An audit is a way through which vendors ensure that their customers are using software with respect to the terms and conditions they have purchased. 

Audits usually happen corresponding to the renewal dates or any time of the year. Vendors have made it a part of their business activity. Audits can be your strength or weakness, depending on the maturity of your SAM program. 

The customers who are actively managing their software licenses can take audits as an opportunity to renegotiate their existing agreements. With SAM, you can be audit-ready anytime.

ISO compliance: Since companies became aware of the benefits of SAM, they started becoming more proactive by making their own policies for managing software assets

There was no standardized "How To" for managing the software assets. That's when ISO came into play to give a common set of guidelines to all the organizations to manage software assets.

There are three sets of ISO SAM standards that a business needs to be aware of:

  • ISO 19770-1: It is a framework of processes that ensures that an organization performs software asset management to an acceptable standard. This standard offers them a tool to measure that they are doing SAM with respect to governance standards.

  • ISO 19770-2: This is about software identification tags that help identify what software instances are installed. They not only provide identification for installed software but also for other kinds of licensable software. ISO 19770-2 is usually given importance among vendors as it helps in quick, easy, and accurate identification.

  • ISO 19770-3: This relates to software entitlement tagging. It helps in identifying the applications that have software licensing rights. And, also helps in day to day management of SAM projects by automatically identifying the license metrics for certain applications that have entitlement tags attached to them.

3. Optimization

Software asset management lets you clock in the purchase, license, and warranty renewal date in its database. Then, it notifies you when the warranty renewal period is due to expire, so you can apply for renewals immediately. This helps you cut down the fines paid for license breach lawsuits.

Where does SAM fit in IT Business Strategy? (ITAM and ITSM)

In today's business functioning, where there are business units within an organization, it is difficult to keep track of software expenses. This decentralized process can lead to unnecessary IT spend.

IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT service management are the two essential strategies for handling IT assets and services for a business. SAM is the heart of ITAM and ITSM. 

Even if it's a decentralized environment, the central IT department can cut the expenses and monitor them with the right SaaS discovery tools and SAM in place. By doing so, IT can make important decisions on purchasing and license allocations. In addition, SAM tools make SaaS management a breeze without having to sacrifice any essential flexibilities. 

Benefits and Roles of SAM

Vendor Relationship

Your vendors would like to hold a long-term relationship with you, so they want to serve you better every time. However, it isn't possible without your feedback. 

With a SAM attached to your SaaS arena, with the usage metrics, you would know whether the software is serving its purpose and what kind of additional features it would need. 

You can convey these insights to your SaaS vendor and help them come up with the betterment of their product. This will enhance your ties with your SaaS vendors.

Process Improvement

Software Asset Management helps you discover the applications your employees are fond of using; this way, you get an idea of what kind of technology they prefer to get their job done. 

With this information, you can deploy the right kind of software that can improve your employee productivity. Also, you can establish policies and procedures for SaaS acquisition, the documentation, usage, and retirement of the software to identify the long-term benefits of SAM.

Audit Preparedness

It is common for Software vendors to set up audits regularly to ensure whether their software is being used with respect to the license terms and conditions. 

The more you increase your IT asset base, the more often you get audit requests. Ignoring such requests can hinder your workflows. 

You have a SAM; it gives a comprehensive overview of the software used in your organization. You can take relevant data and prepare for pending audits.

Spend Management & Cost Savings

cost savings

Managing the spend on SaaS applications is one of the biggest goals for companies. SAM can help you eliminate unused and underutilized apps

This way, you can save plenty of dollars in clearing unnecessary applications from your SaaS stack. You can also streamline and automate your IT processes, such as tracking your SaaS inventory, SaaS deployment, SaaS usage, and patch management with SAM.

Similarly, cutting down unnecessary software costs should be a priority for businesses. Businesses in the mindset to tackle non-compliance invest in more licenses than they need. Though this cost might not be visible at first, it will hurt your business in the long run. 

A profound and well-grounded Software Asset Management aims to create a balance between low license cost and high compliance status. This can be achieved through installing Software Asset Management tools.

How to Measure SAM Success/KPIs of SAM?

It is not enough to implement SAM if you aren't aware of whether it's truly bringing success and value to your business. In addition, you need to know the metrics and the ways to measure its success after implementation.

1. Input data metrics

If you have a software license optimization tool in place, you need to know that it depends on the input data of the IT tools like software and hardware assets present in your organization. This data is stored in a central asset management database where all the data collected from multiple sources are present. Input data metrics can help you assess the reliability of this asset data. It can eliminate the unclean data and helps identify gaps for remediation.

These are some examples.

  • The percentage of activating devices for which current software and hardware inventory is available

  • The percentage of devices recognized within a network as known assets

  • The percentage of active devices found within a network with duplicate or blank serial number

2. Operational metrics

Metrics are used to measure the performance of software licensing models and the effectiveness of optimization programs.

Its examples are:

  • Number of commercial applications installed without a license

  • The percentage of applications installed that have been to normalized application details.

  • The percentage of applications not used without a license.

3. Financial Metrics

They help measure the outcomes of SAM and license optimization programs in terms of cost it brings back to the organization.

For example

  • Value of unnecessary software that has been removed proactively

  • Value of maintenance not renewed

  • Value of software requests fulfilled from the existing entitlements

How to Get Started?

Document procurement process: If you are about to implement a SAM tool at your organization, it is imperative to know how it is used to buy software licenses initially. Ensure there is a standardized process and set of guidelines for procuring and storing licenses and their certificates.

Clean up license inventory: Create a centralized license repository if you don't have one and move all your license and software agreements to the inventory. Establish a database that lets you access your licensing documents whenever you wish to. Next, you need to know your license metrics to measure the licenses you would need. Appoint a license manager to take care of your software inventory.

Catalog software (system of record): Use SAM's discovery tools to find out the software that is installed in your environment. Normalize software titles to match up a license to them. 

Determine the usage: Now, you can find how much software is utilized. Depending upon the number of shadow IT, this will tell you how underutilized a particular software is.

Keep your system of record updated: Here is where you can find what all software best fits your usage habits and IT environment and make sure to track usage to stay compliant. You need to keep track of new software that is being used, upgraded, or entering the cloud, its usage, and the license inventory to know the upgrades, downgrades, and renewal dates.

Manage licenses effectively: Now, with the SAM tool, you can use all your licenses effectively and efficiently. In addition, with the data transparency, you will be able to see whether you're under-licensed or over licensed. These insights help you save money on new licenses and reduce the audit risks. 

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