The status of SAM: this is how Uline 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 2019, over the next few months professionals from the field will take turns discussing this topic. In this article: Adam Glen, Senior IT Asset Manager at Uline.
Adam, what can you tell us about Uline and your role in the organization?
‘Uline is an American supplier of shipping supplies, such as shipping boxes and packaging materials. Our headquarters is in Wisconsin and we have over 6,000 employees, of whom 300 are in the IT department. I started here twelve years ago with the goal of setting up an IT and software asset management strategy and structure. Back then, ITAM and SAM were not really a focus area within the organization and everything was managed in spreadsheets. I can now say that we have a very mature structure. In terms of hardware, our administration is 99% accurate and we are also doing well with software administration.’
How did you develop this SAM structure in the past twelve years?
‘As I mentioned before, initially there was not much more than a simple spreadsheet administration, which contained some brief information about our hardware and software contracts. The first step was therefore to identify which products we had and keep track of the licenses’ termination period to know when we had to purchase new ones. Once we had properly set up this license management system, it was time for step two: managing where products are used and who makes use of them. The third step, which we took about seven years ago, really made our SAM approach mature: we then started doing internal audits to see if our use is still in line with the contractual agreements. We now do this for all hardware and software products we have, some even on a weekly basis. For example, we pay our e-mail service per user and also in advance. So we have to estimate how many licenses we need and then keep track of them continuously. ‘
What are the main reasons for Uline to be so involved in IT / SAM?
Being in control is absolutely essential to us. We want to know precisely which hardware and software is used in our organization and whether this is in line with the contracts we have with all our suppliers. It is also smarter to do this proactively, before there has been an audit announcement. On the one hand, it is simply easier if you continuously monitor software compliance instead of having to search for everything in panic. On the other hand, being compliant strengthens our negotiating position towards software suppliers. It is a way to maximize our investments with a supplier: it helps us to get the most value from our relationship with, for example, Adobe or Oracle. In addition: nobody wants to explain to management that the company will be sued because they don’t have everything in order.’
What makes your IT / SAM approach so successful?
‘Employees play a major role in a successful SAM approach, that’s for sure. Without their cooperation it’s difficult to be compliant, but it’s not their first priority. Support from management is therefore crucial: if our CEO says it is important that we do this, then it will also become important for the employees. Clear communication is also indispensable. Many people in our organization can purchase software themselves, but that must be approved by our department first. If you don’t explain this process well in advance, this can cause frustration. In addition, I think it’s important for SAM managers to treat large and small suppliers the same. Of course, large vendors such as Adobe or Oracle take the biggest bite out of your IT budget, but now everyone also has to deal with a huge number of smaller providers. So still need to have the right documents in place and know what is going on in your organization.’
What are the challenges you’re facing?
‘Dealing with completely diverse conditions and policies from dozens of different suppliers is sometimes difficult, but I think we have that well under control. The fact that the employees can act independently remains a challenge. Especially now with SaaS everything is different: everyone can more easily purchase a product with his or her own credit card and access it from his or her work pc, think of Slack or Spotify. That makes it more difficult for us to know exactly which software is used in our organization. That’s why we are now looking at a new monitoring tool that can help us better identify this.’
This article was also published on Computable.