Software Asset Management Best Practices

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With companies and organizations within nearly every sector tracking more IT fixed assets than ever before – and cloud technology playing an ever-more prominent role -- Software Asset Management, otherwise known by its acronym, SAM, has become an indispensable part of operations, along with software asset management best practices.

Why Software Asset Management (SAM)?

Software Asset Management is “a business practice that takes ownership of software usage by monitoring spend, deployment, software licenses, and license compliance for all end-users involved in the application.” More specifically, Software Asset Management best practices help administrators manage and organize their IT fixed assets by automating tasks related to their software management – for example, patch and license management; inventory tracking, which includes identifying inefficient use of licensed software; establishing policy; and lifecycle management.

According to an analysis conducted by MarketsandMarkets, the software asset management market is expected to grow from $1.16 billion in 2017 to $2.32 billion by 2022 due to the increased need for managing the lifecycle of IT fixed assets. In its predictions for 2021, Forrester stated that cloud computing would help companies around the global accelerate their respective pandemic recoveries: “The pandemic turbocharged the market by mid-2020, and Forrester now predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35 percent to $120 billion in 2021.”

The three primary types of cloud services are Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), each offering its own strengths and potential challenges. The hybrid cloud, a fourth option, blends SaaS and on-premise services.

SAM best practices

Companies and organizations need an effective and efficient way to harness all of this technology, stay up to date with required software updates, ensure compliance, reduce their exposure to potential security risks – for example, some shadow IT systems -- and protect their technology investment. They also need an effective way to monitor asset usage. IT assets that are sitting idle, aren’t being used properly, or are lost or stolen affect the bottom line. A report released by Deloitte states that “companies can end up spending twice as much as they need to on their software assets because they don’t have an accurate picture of their software landscape.”

To drive this point home, imagine the picture painted by Erwin Yuen, managing director in Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory’s Software Asset Management practice: “If a company does not have a good picture of their software landscape,” he says, “they could end up renewing $50 million dollars of licenses when they are truly only using $20 million worth of licenses.” Clearly, no organization can successfully implement this technology without a set of software asset management best practices.

Mitigating risk

Cybersecurity is top of mind for companies and organizations in 2021. “Given that many businesses migrated to new SaaS platforms this year, there are a number of new alerts and blind spots that an organization’s security team may not have prepared employees to handle. User-based attacks take advantage of those miscues and can make businesses pay dearly,” says writer Rob Scott in a Jan. 7, 2021, article for SecurityMagazine.com (“People, processes, and tech: 2021’s top cybersecurity priorities”).

Shadow IT, a term that describes technology that has been added to an organization’s system outside of official channels and subsequently isn’t managed by its IT team, can offer work-around solutions when time is of the essence. However, “though these solutions may help to optimize employee workflows, shadow IT can also put organizations and their data at greater risk,” says Gabe Honesto, a blogger for SoftwareOne, in a Dec. 5, 2019, article (“SAM and Shadow IT”).

If a company isn’t aware that a department or individual is using a particular application, its IT department can’t properly manage it, and potential risks can become major breaches. Companies also may face such consequences as loss of intellectual property, missed procurement savings, and increased licensing costs. Software asset management promotes the disclosure of all applications used by a company at any given time, which in turn also promotes greater accountability throughout the organization – and mitigates the risk of shadow IT.

How is SAM implemented?

If you’re ready to rein in your technology spend and introduce software asset management best practices within your organization, here are some tips to get started, courtesy of Holly Hunt, content marketing manager for Track Resources (“Software Asset Management Made Easy: How to Avoid Costly Mistakes”; Sept. 16, 2020) and blogger Joe the IT Guy (“The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective Software Asset Managers”; Aug. 30, 2017):

Review internal processes

Survey the landscape by speaking with your service desk, IT managers, etc., to determine if there’s a single point of contact for making software requests or if anyone has local admin rights, which can make it easy for shadow IT to creep into your organization. You’ll also want to speak to stakeholders within your company about their IT needs for the coming year.

Check for loopholes

Audit your current tools to pinpoint where you might have duplicates, idle or underutilized assets or software.

Identify costs and needs

Draw up a budget for your software and IT assets, outlining must-haves as well as nice-to-haves. Research the possibility of any less expensive alternatives.

Streamline workflows

Establish a uniform set of standards for tracking your software license inventory. Determine the most useful metrics for your organization, and train someone to capture and analyze them. Can you include expiration and renewal dates and set up custom alerts to remind you of upcoming expirations? You’ll need to make updates to these records when your software usage changes.

Set clear expectations

Introduce guidelines that each employee must follow when purchasing new software. In doing so, you’ll avoid shadow IT and create an alert when any new software has been purchased, so nothing flies under the radar. You’ll also want to ask software vendors to confirm in writing during your negotiations what kind of proof of license you need – for example, receipts and invoices, software license certificates, release documentation or training material, to name a few possibilities.

Maintain strong relationships with software vendors

Selecting software vendors is a careful process that involves a thorough evaluation of your current and anticipated needs (check out these tips for evaluating software vendors). Once you’ve formed that partnership, you’ll want to keep them in the loop about your business needs and ensure you’ve communicated clearly how you plan to measure success at your organization.

ITSM vs. ITAM

Much like the always-evolving world of technology in which we live, over time companies have to make adjustments to their approach with IT asset management. Some are moving toward a model in which ITSM (IT service management) and ITAM (IT asset management) coexist.

ITSM focuses strictly on the operational phase of an IT asset’s lifecycle and provides insight into asset performance. ITAM focuses on the entire lifecycle of the IT asset, is concerned with minimizing financial, operational, and legal risks, and is intended to lower the expenses normally incurred during that lifecycle, which may include licensing, support, and/or maintenance costs.

ITSM is centered on the challenge of how to maximize the value and delivery of IT services including incident management, effective change management around modifications to the IT environment within an organization, and configuration management – specifically, the relationship between IT assets. “IT Asset Management,” a white paper issued by ServiceNow, elaborates on the potential advantages of managing ITSM and ITAM together in one system of record.

Other tips to consider

Additional smart practices for asset management that companies and organizations should consider implementing for time and cost savings include:

Regular IT audits

Even the largest organizations should at all times know what IT assets they have, what condition those items are in, and where those assets are located. Software vendors likely will conduct software compliance audits from time to time, as well, to make sure that their applications are being used correctly. Compliance failure will almost certainly result in a steep fine, so companies that run regular IT audits on their end can help avoid these types of penalties. Audits also promote software optimization – in other words, organizations are able to avoid paying for software licenses they don’t need.

Categorizing assets

Organizing their assets into categories like division/department, employee, task, value or specific use help companies and organizations track items down much more quickly.

Supporting details

IT asset management becomes more comprehensive when system users add such details as supporting documents, photos, videos, and/or voice notes, as well as customized scheduled reminders about critical software updates, for example.

Comprehensive data

Companies and organizations would be wise to take the time to carefully record supporting detail for their IT fixed assets – for example, number of software licenses, expiration and renewal dates, compatible operating systems, maintenance histories, and more.

User-friendly system

A company’s IT asset management efforts are only effective if employees use the designated system. Overly complicated platforms that require extensive training to understand are less likely to gain widespread employee adoption. An intuitive interface and streamlined approach can go a long way toward encouraging widespread adoption.

Broader IT asset management program

An organization’s SAM efforts should be one part of a larger asset management program that outlines official policies and expectations around lifecycle management, like software requests and procurement, software updates, audit schedules, equipment refresh schedules, license renewal schedules, when IT assets should be discontinued from use, how to manage software that isn’t needed anymore.

Choosing the Right SAM Tool

Asset Panda helps organizations of every size and scope successfully navigate their way through the SAM landscape and establish their own software asset management best practices. To learn more, visit assetpanda.com

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