Most large organizations will have invested in a SAM or ITAM tool. If not, they’ve probably at least contemplated it. At Livingstone we consider these tools vital to best practice asset management as they provide much needed visibility into software deployments, usage levels and entitlement. Not only do they place companies in a far stronger position to defend an audit, they also allow them to optimize their estates, ensuring that their licensing spend matches their needs.
The good news is there are plenty of decent options to choose from, with Snow Software, Flexera, Certero, License Dashboard and ServiceNow (amongst others) all offering robust tools that are worth checking out. However, before investing in any product, there are a number of factors to consider.
Tools not solutions
There’s a common misconception that, by investing in a tool, you’ll have your ITAM strategy sorted. If only it were that simple.
Whichever tool you select, it will require careful configuration and ongoing management if it’s to capture an accurate picture of your estate over time. This is a manual process that requires deep expertise, not just in the way applications are deployed and used, but also in the way each vendor structures and enforces its licensing regime. While an important foundation of any ITAM strategy, a tool is only going to deliver true value if deployed in parallel with the right people and processes.
Don’t fall for the ‘out-of-the-box’ capabilities included in vendor marketing materials; these are written to paint each tool in the best possible light and skirt over some important details.
For each tool to reach its full potential, workarounds will most definitely be required.
Don’t choose the ‘best’ tool; choose the ‘right’ one
Many organizations will refer to analyst reports and well-known benchmarks before deciding which tool to invest in. While these provide candid and valuable advice, bear in mind that the best tool for the industry as a whole might not be the best tool for your particular organization.
Every company will have its own technology stack and its own processes for rolling out and managing software and cloud-based services. Study your infrastructure, software, and metrics, as well as any licensing-related issues you’ve had in the past. A thorough understanding will help you create a detailed plan of what you need from your next SAM tool. Then – and only then – is it time to start comparing your exact requirements against the contrasting features and capabilities of the various tools on the market.
Make sure your plan is as detailed as possible. If your tender asks whether the tool supports Oracle Middleware, the answer you’ll get back is likely to be ‘yes’, yet, in practice, it could well be ‘no’. To avoid disappointment, be as specific as possible by including pointed questions such as ‘does the tool recognize components deployed by Oracle Enterprise Manager?’ This type of laser-focused approach will help you identify each tool’s blind spots and ultimately decide which one best meets your requirements.
It’s inevitable that every tool will have some gaps; the rate at which service providers and software publishers roll out new technology is so fast that it is impossible for tool vendors to keep pace. Find the best possible fit and ensure you have the skills at hand to plug the remaining gaps. Peer reviews and user forums can provide an important source of information about what’s possible here.
A low price doesn’t equal value
Another danger of issuing tenders with generic, rather than specific, requirements is that vendors will start to compete for your business on price.
Don’t get sucked in. Cheaper rarely means better and you could end up paying in other ways. Afterall, if your chosen tool fails to provide you with the visibility you need across your entire portfolio, you could end up facing fines for non-compliance. Equally, it could mean you’re overspending on licenses.
To stay focused on value rather than price, it’s vital that ITAM teams work in close collaboration with their colleagues in procurement. Procurement professionals have a broad remit so will never be software or cloud experts, let alone licensing experts. The tenders they issue must meticulously reflect your specific requirements and not the generalized terminology that’s commonly used when they are negotiating deals for more straightforward goods and services. Catch-all terms like ‘ability to manage Microsoft licenses’ won’t cut the mustard, so make sure they stick to your script.
Budget for more than the tool
As previously indicated, a tool is just part of an ITAM strategy; it needs to be deployed in conjunction with the correct processes and people. With this in mind, it should only constitute part of the budget. If you buy the tool but there’s no money for the wrap-around, it’ll be a waste.
When calculating your budget, include costs associated with deploying, configuring and managing the tool on an ongoing basis. That involves any infrastructure changes, security considerations, as well as any changes to the way your service providers issue their licenses.
Predicting these costs can be a shot in the dark. To avoid any nasty surprises, organizations are increasingly turning to managed service providers to oversee their ITAM strategies and tools on an ongoing, predictably-priced basis.
Ensure the tool provides the full picture
SAM tools can be challenging to deploy, integrate and configure correctly, especially if they need to provide data against complex licensing terms. This can be frustrating for ITAM teams, who’ll naturally blame the tool for any shortcomings. In reality, it’s more likely to be the way the tool was set up that’s the root of the problem.
Misconfigurations provide organizations with only a partial view of their estates, so it’s important you have the requisite skills to set it up before making an investment. A major sticking point is with virtualized environments, where organizations are prone to overlook the physical servers on which their virtualized applications reside. A simple oversight like this can soon escalate to become a major problem, especially around audit time.
Prepare for change
As your infrastructure changes, the tool must follow. If you deploy a new cluster or sign up to a new cloud service, and there is no automated discovery, you must configure the connectors manually. If you forget, you’ll lose visibility of that part of the infrastructure and, with it, hamper your ability to track compliance and costs.
This is another area where managed service providers can add considerable value.
In summary, without careful preparation, there’s a very real risk that your SAM tool investment won’t deliver what you need, leaving both you and your organization frustrated. On the flipside, if you do your homework properly, and you implement the best tool for you as part of a holistic and ongoing strategy, it most certainly will deliver valuable insights that will help you drive efficiencies, save money and ultimately boost your company’s bottom line.
For more information on how Livingstone Group can help you extract maximum value from your SAM tool, please visit our dedicated webpages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author: Alexander Golev, Service Integration Consultant and Livingstone Group
Alex has over 15 years’ experience in Software Asset Management and has worked with clients around the globe, from small businesses to multinational corporations. He is the author of more than 10 SAM online training and webcasts and has delivered training worldwide along with presenting at a number of industry events. Alex has in-depth vendor experience with Microsoft (including SPLA), Citrix, Adobe, and lead consultant experience in Oracle, SAP, IBM, VMware and Veritas.