The status of SAM: this is how NS does it


Software is becoming increasingly important to organizations and therefore managing software is as well. How do organizations cope with this? And how is software asset management (SAM) perceived by people with different job roles and responsibilities? To map out where SAM stands in 2018, over the next few months professionals from the field will take turns discussing this topic. In this article: Ebbing Kiestra, Software Asset Manager at NS.

Ebbing, what can you tell us about your career and your role at NS?

I’ve been working in the SAM field for thirteen years now. After graduating, my first job was at Essent, where I soon had to deal with software licenses. At that time, there was generally little attention to and knowledge of software compliance, so I, as a junior, was put forward when Essent had a license issue with a software supplier. In the beginning that was more of a side job, but after a year we picked it up in a more serious manner. In the end, together with a colleague, I set up the entire license management within Essent, from setting up processes to handling audits. Three years ago, I chose a new path at NS. SAM was already a focus within NS and together with three other new colleagues I started working to further professionalize it. Within this team I am responsible, among others, for Oracle contracts.

How would you describe the current state of SAM at NS?

NS was in relatively good shape three years ago, compared with other organizations. There was, however, mainly a reactive approach: putting out fires and responding to audits. The last three years we have made the step towards proactive asset management. We can now much better assess the risks, plan actions and predict what our software suppliers will do. Especially for enterprise software, in our case Oracle, IBM and SAP, I can say that we have reached a professional level. 100% control over your licenses and your costs is a utopia and that is fine: when it comes to the work needed to become 100% compliant, the costs would probably be higher than the savings. But we know what we are doing, and software suppliers see that too – you notice that in communication and negotiations.

What makes NS’s approach successful?

A few years ago, NS chose to hire a number of experienced SAM experts, with both a great deal of knowledge of software suppliers and a network in the SAM field. Sufficient knowledge and experience are a basic condition for doing this work well. But as an organization, you should not strive to have all this knowledge in-house: if necessary, you need to be able to get the right experts, for example to analyze technical data. In addition to attracting good people, the processes within an organization are also crucial. We now have set up everything according to ISO 19770 guidelines, which have been drawn up specifically for SAM. In addition, we review the software contracts in multidisciplinary teams, with experts in the field of SAM, IT architecture, operations and procurement. We fine-tune everything and ensure that we do not face unnecessary surprises.

Does the rise of SaaS change your way of working?

Not really. Pay-for-use seems simpler at first, but software vendors introduce all kinds of metrics and cost structures that make it just as complex as before. The bottom line is that as a SAM team you have to pay attention to cloud subscriptions just as much as to on premises licenses. The danger that you pay too much is particularly lurking. Take Office 365, with all kinds of licenses, from inexpensive licenses with a limited number of products to very comprehensive packages. It is then important to look carefully at who exactly needs which license.

What developments do you see in the SAM area?

I see that the role of software asset managers within organizations is changing. There is a huge amount of relevant data on the IT landscape present within SAM teams, which we can use for more than just managing software license agreements. I therefore expect that we will increasingly offer added value to other departments as a ‘trusted advisor’. When I see, for example, that a lot of old versions of a certain software product are still running, I can alert our security department.

This article was also published on Computable.

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