Microsoft: Microsoft SAM programs are voluntary and not the equivalent of an audit

In a blog post from May 22nd 2017, Patama Chantaruck, Microsoft’s new General Manager of Worldwide Software Asset Management and Compliance tries to myth-bust the connection between Microsoft’s SAM engagements and Compliance Audits.

In her blog post, Patama Chantaruck states that:

“The core difference is that Microsoft SAM programs are voluntary services designed around industry standards that help customers gain data insights, optimize licensing, minimize risks, and be more productive with their IT investments.

A compliance audit is a mandatory review of a company’s use of Microsoft’s products and services designed to help customers achieve and maintain license compliance and to protect Microsoft intellectual property rights. These compliance verifications are initiated across less than 5% of Microsoft’s licensing customers worldwide. “

She also refers readers to the “Frequently asked questions about Microsoft license compliance verification”, where this is described in detail. In this FAQs page, you will find Microsoft’s official definitions of a compliance verification (audit) and a SAM engagement as follows:

“Microsoft license compliance verification (commonly known as “audit”) is a formal, mandatory compliance review of a company’s use of Microsoft products and services, and it is part of the Microsoft license and contract compliance program. Microsoft conducts industry-standard compliance reviews with its business customers through an independent auditor pursuant to the terms of their agreement. This review is an effort to help customers achieve and maintain license compliance, and to protect Microsoft intellectual property rights. Therefore, be assured that unless Microsoft invokes its contractual right to verify compliance via a third-party accounting firm (as fully documented in your Volume Licensing Agreement), you are not involved in a license compliance verification.

“The Microsoft SAM program is a trusted IT advisory service based on industry SAM standards that help customers gain data insights, optimize licensing, minimize risks, and be more productive with their IT investments. SAM engagements provide a 360-degree view of the customer’s IT infrastructure and a set of recommendations on ways to improve their overall asset management, license management, and SAM policies and procedures. With this comprehensive view, customers get valuable recommendations on areas that are most challenging for their business. SAM engagements are performed by Microsoft SAM Certified Partners and are voluntary. We believe that SAM can be a strategic advantage for all our customers.”

Even more so, there’s a question raised by many:

“Some sources claim that Microsoft Software Asset Management (SAM) and license compliance verification (commonly known as “audit”) are the same. Is this correct?”

Again, Microsoft firmly segregates the two with a very explicative answer:

“No, Microsoft SAM and license compliance verification are not the same. The table below shows the differentiation between SAM and license compliance verification.”

Although Microsoft draws a clear line between the two types of engagements, there is a lot of skepticism in the market. In theory, since this is publicized as a voluntary exercise by Microsoft, a company being “invited” to participate in a SAM engagement may decline without having to provide any further explanation.

So, is this advisable in practice? Some sources claim that once you refused participation in Microsoft’s SAM program, there’s a big chance for you to receive another invitation, where your participation is mandatory.

We do not plan to bust any myths or take any sides. Instead we would like to invite you to share your story with us.