SAM tools: linking processes and performance for successful tool management

In the previous articles of this series I addressed many factors that contribute to a successful SAM tool set-up, such as the entitlement data analysis and upload into the SAM tool and the configuration of the license consumption and allocation rules in the tool. None of these are one-time processes, instead they all require continuous management. In the final article of this series, I would like to summarize the SAM tool management processes and the required skills to put them in practice, but I’ll also cover how accurate compliance reporting can continuously drive improvement. 

Ongoing SAM tool management

Like any other application, and regardless of the licensing activities required to manage it, a SAM tool requires administration and someone to be responsible for the quality of any reporting provided by the tool. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to assign this accountability to a dedicated person, a SAM tool manager.The SAM tool manager is then accountable for successful management of the tool and the completeness and accuracy of the reporting it delivers.

Often the SAM tool manager will become the go-to person for all the functional questions related to the SAM tool and should get the most out of the tool’s capabilities and functionalities. Once assigned, his or her focus will be split in 2 categories:

General administration

Entitlement and software compliance administration

The general administration tasks refer to all possible administrative tasks required. Examples are managing the user roles in the tool, sanity checks of the system, performing administrative tasks at UI level and reporting the SAM tool completeness and accuracy. SAM tool general administration is a continuous activity but most of the times it is not a full-time job.

Next to the general administration tasks, we have the entitlement and software compliance administration tasks. To summarize, these are:

Software entitlement analysis

Import or creation of entitlement records in the tool

Configure and maintain the allocation rules

Create and configure compliance position in the tool

These are ongoing processes as both the entitlements and the deployment change over time.

For a successful performance of these tasks, the SAM tool manager will require specific licensing and product knowledge. Mastering all the required licensing rules and conditions for every publisher you plan to manage, and all the potential issues related to the deployment data gathering is, to be optimistic, a hard to get skill. Although many SAM tools contain build-in logic that provides a good base for the simpler products, it is nearly impossible to have all the knowledge for the more complex software products/publishers. For enterprise software publishers such as Oracle, IBM and SAP, it’s complex to ensure correct license registration in the tool, and they often also represent the largest financial risk.

A good practice is to support the SAM tool manager with different software licensing specialists, or at least access to these people when required.

The time required for the entitlement and software compliance administration is highly dependent on the number of publishers and products to manage, but also on the dynamics of the company. SAM in a highly dynamic IT environment is more challenging than in a company with a stable IT infrastructure. It is not uncommon that some of these tasks are outsourced to managed service providers or external licensing specialists.

Do I really need all these details and a management routine in place?

In short, yes! The key to any successful SAM business practice is the delivery of ongoing optimization and control of the software estate. Only through continuous management, one can improve the SAM business practice and move towards a mature SAM practice that enables continuous software risk reductions and cost savings.

As the SAM tool is part of your SAM business practice, it requires continuous management as well. Your end goal is to rely on the tool as much as possible. So, to extract the most added value from, for instance, the compliance reporting as provided by the tool, you need to invest time and knowledge in the tool, by continuously updating and managing it. This means you need to update the tool with every new purchase or change in your license estate and ensure that the deployment is configured and reported in a correct and accurate manner. Continuous management also allows you to spot and control your software products that cannot be fully, or at all, reported by your tool.

But there are other benefits that a complete and accurate compliance reporting can bring to your organization. By closely monitoring what changes occur both on the entitlement side and the deployment side, valuable data is generated that can be used to validate your organizational ability to follow the policies in place. Policies that vary from how and where to purchase from, how to on- or off-board software, portfolio management, to support policies for specific applications. Next to that, they bring a wealth of information to continuously advise your IT organization to improve and financially optimize. But this is taken seriously by the organization only if the feedback is accurate and usable.

To conclude it’s not so much about what tool you choose, but rather about the quality and the trustworthiness of the information it generates. As such it is essential to work with people who can ask the right questions and look for what is unknown to report the accuracy of your tool.

This may sound obvious, but to fully tackle your organization’s SAM vulnerabilities, you need more than a SAM tool in place. The tool offers good support during your SAM cycle, but it does not offer full visibility and control for your SAM business practice. If you aim for partial control, or if you plan to manage mainly desktop publishers, then a SAM tool is the right and only investment for your organization. If you’re looking for full visibility and control, then you may want to consider completing your tool’s limitations, with ‘outside the tool’ SAM practices. In both situations, the profile of your team will be the biggest determinant of your SAM business practice’s success.