How do SAM managers spend their time?

05 February 2014
6 minute read
Best practice

How do SAM managers spend their time?

05 February 2014
6 minute read


The SAM manager is embedded in SAM every day. They know what it entails. Their job can feel like an uphill struggle against numerous forces inside and outside the organization.

As we all know, managing an organization’s licenses is no mean feat. It is a complex balancing act where the SAM manager must divide up their time between different tasks to ensure that the correct licenses are in use and that no money is being wasted on unused licenses. All while trying to prevent end users from inadvertently infringing on licensing terms by bypassing any controls and procedures that SAM may have in place.

I speak with SAM managers all the time, and based on these conversations, I would speculate that most of their time is spent on license reconciliation – wading through garbled license inventory data in an attempt to match it to the software being used. But how accurate is this picture, and what else takes up a SAM manager’s time?

In order to find out where SAM managers are spending most of their time, we, at License Dashboard, conducted a poll of the vibrant SAM community on LinkedIn. While the straw poll is by no means a comprehensive and exhaustive study, it does offer up some insight into the daily life of SAM managers.

The poll was made up of just one question to SAM managers everywhere: When it comes to license management; which activity take up the most of your time?

The results

As predicted, reconciling licenses against usage came out top, and by quite a margin too. 37% of SAM managers spend the bulk of their time balancing this delicate equation. The next most time-consuming task for SAM managers (at 23%) is compiling software install and usage data (i.e. compiling their inventory). So in summary, nearly a quarter of SAM managers spend most of their time on inventory, a task that was automated over a decade ago! While this didn’t surprise me, it doesn’t make it right. With a quarter of SAM managers spending most of their time compiling their inventory, no wonder many people perceive Software Asset Management and inventory as the same thing – but they’re really not.

The wrong priorities

Looking at it another way, these poll results show that 60% of SAM managers spend most of their time on tasks that can be automated today (37% on license reconciliation and 23% on inventory). This not only leaves them with very little time to add extra value to the organisation, but most importantly of all, it means they are always working on the back foot. SAM is always one step behind its users because it spends 60% of its time trying to work out what’s happened.

Basic license reconciliation can be done in minutes using the combination of a good inventory tool feeding into a good license management solution. While it is difficult to automate everything where the complexity of software licenses are concerned, a good number of day-to-day tasks can be automated so that the SAM manager can concentrate on where they add the most value to the organization – i.e. implementing an organisation-wide SAM workflow that manages software procurement on a proactive basis so they no longer need to spend their days producing regular license audits just to keep up with what their users are doing on a retrospective basis.

The need for proactive SAM

As this research has shown, the problem with the current model of SAM is that too much time is spent on tasks that must be repeated again and again on a reactive basis, with most of these tasks taking far longer than they should do. For us at License Dashboard, we believe that an organisation takes three specific steps to achieve SAM maturity: Recognize (understanding what you have), Optimize (reconciling usage against entitlements) and Control (ultimately implementing processes that not only eliminate the need for steps one and two to be repeated so often, but put organizations in a proactive SAM state).

The SAM manager’s job should be less about the continual repetition of building license inventories and reconciliations (the Recognize and Optimize steps) but once steps one and two have been completed, it’s about maintaining control of their software on a proactive and automated basis (the Control step). License reconciliation is only a snapshot in time; the moment it’s been completed and acted upon it is no longer reflective of reality. Instead, procedures should be put in place at the procurement and deployment levels to ensure that the SAM manager always has a live view of software usage.

The challenge is that most software asset managers are too focused on one-off license reconciliations which must be repeated every 3-6 months for the organisation to maintain any form of control over its software spend. This ‘rinse and repeat’ approach is not just time-consuming, but it wrongfully positions license inventory and reconciliation as the end goal of SAM. This simply isn’t the case; proactive SAM (i.e. Control) should always be the end goal.

In fact, even Gartner has begun to recognise this shift with its recent announcement to retire the IT Asset Management Repository MarketScope. The reason? Inventory is a given today, so why write reports on it? The debate has moved on. With proactive SAM in place, no software will be installed without the organisation’s knowledge and consent, resulting in the organisation always knowing their compliance position and never wasting a penny on superfluous software again.

The ultimate goal is to change how SAM managers are perceived within the organisation. This starts by giving them as much time as possible to use their licensing expertise to make a difference, instead of spending this time continually updating databases and fighting end users. This can only be achieved by making SAM as automated and proactive as possible. Inventory and reconciliation are simply the first two steps on the road to proactive SAM. Deploying processes to maintain compliance and cost efficiency for the long-term should always be the end goal of Software Asset Management.

Look out for further articles from me this year providing step-by-step advice and tips for firms that are looking to progress onto proactive Software Asset Management.

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