Software to manage your software: how to choose the right platform?
The benefits of a software asset management approach have been addressed fully in this series before. The insight that this approach brings helps you avoid unexpected back payments, save costs and spend your budget more effectively. To manage your software, you can make use of software. But how do you choose the SAM platform that best suits your organization? It all starts with the right question.
The range of software asset management platforms is large and diverse. Snow to Flexera and Landesk to iQuate - they all have their own characteristics and expertise and can be enormously valuable to your organization. It is not that easy though to determine which tool best suits your situation (and whether you even need one). Each company uses different (combinations of) software from different vendors, each with their own terms and conditions.
Ask yourself the right question
The important thing is to set a clear goal. Ask yourself the right question: what do I need exactly? Make sure that you know your priorities. Going through the five steps from the previous blog will help you. That sounds obvious but we still often see that companies are guided by the sales pitch of the SAM tool vendor.
It's not that all SAM tool vendors say that their tool can do all, customers simply do not ask the right questions. Companies often focus on the price and the technical side of SAM software (agent or agent-less, hosted or on-premises, security questions etc.). That is also very important, don’t get me wrong, but organizations do not know what data they need to collect to meet the agreed conditions.
Agreements and license metrics
Desktop Software often does not deliver such a problem - this is primarily a matter of counting installations. Most of the tools can easily scan your system and see how many Office products are installed, you don’t need more information (although it gets a bit more difficult with tablets). For enterprise software, however, you never pay for the 'presence'.
There is no fixed price for each installation of an Oracle, Microsoft, SAP or IBM database - you pay per processor or per user - and even then, there are variations. Moreover, many custom arrangements are made especially in big deals. It is thus dependent on these agreements and the calculation model - also called the license metrics – what tool suits your organization’s needs best.
Avoid a bad buy
If you only know that IBM, Oracle and SAP form your top three and do not look at the metrics, then it does not make much sense to buy a tool. When setting up the tool you will often find out that it does not meet your needs (and those of the software vendor). Recently we came across a company which had just purchased a new SAM tool. This company made use of custom metrics with 80 percent of its servers.
These were all neatly populated in the tool, but then it turned out that the tool could not collect any data for these metrics. Only the presence of the servers was displayed, not the use (that was always 0). The tool falsely suggested that this company was fully compliant with the well-known financial consequences. A bad buy if you want to avoid these situations.
Just like a phone subscription
Compare it to a telephone subscription where you receive a phone and need to pay for a certain number of text messages and call minutes. It would be peculiar if the provider cannot measure how much you make use of the phone, but just knows you have a phone. That is exactly what would happen if that provider would ask the wrong question, as was done in the above situation.
Telephone subscriptions resemble software licenses anyway, you can always use more text messages or call minutes than initially agreed, but then you must pay extra - as with software.
SAM software never measures everything
Finally, it is worth remembering, especially for large organizations with lots of enterprise software, that a tool can never automate your entire software asset management strategy. Do you have a huge IT infrastructure spanning sixty countries with a hundred thousand employees and you just want to know where everything is? Then a tool can be of great help. Do you want to know what desktop software is installed in your organization? Then again a tool can be of great help.
But in the case of enterprise software, a tool can often only collect a portion of the required data. This is mainly because there are multiple layers with different types of access rights. For a list of your servers, you must have access to the network; for an overview of your software, you should be able to access the servers. Then, if you would also want to look in the database and determine the usage, you should deep dive into the confidential data. It is simply too complex for a tool to do that for all the thousands of products. Often, part of the data collection process can be automated, but the great majority must be obtained manually. A SAM tool can give you much value, but be aware in advance of what you can and cannot automate.
Whatever you choose, make sure you are well prepared. And remember, it all starts with asking the right question.
This article is also published in Dutch on Computable.nl .