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How to start with and establish Software Asset Management

SAM is a process not a tool

Software Asset Management (SAM) consists of everything an organization, that is using software from third parties, has to do for accomplishment of two goals:

  1. Every software that is installed or used is properly licensed according to the licensing terms of respective publisher (License Compliance).
  2. Investments into software licenses are optimized, considering actual needs and saving costs based on valid transparency (Cost Savings).

Obviously, both objectives correlate with each other. It is just the two sides of the same coin. 

The key word above is "Valid Transparency". Control over license compliance and cost savings require that there is a management solution providing complete and accurate information about software in use, purchased licenses and how those records are reconciled with each other. It is simple as that, but in real life, this transparency does not fall from the sky. Actually, SAM requires validation, consolidation and aggregation of data from many sources. This is a challenge and requires quite some efforts. Before starting, however, it is essential to understand how to plan, how to proceed, how to organize and how to work on a daily basis.  

This document provides a best practice recommendation for how to make your SAM program successful. 

Many years of experience have shown that data quality and information content essentially depend on roles being filled and exercised responsibly, so that all relevant processes live sustainably and effectively. In a nutshell: 80% of a SAM program consist of standards, roles and processes while the SAM tool just facilitates your work with resulting information. 

SAM project or SAM program? - Both!

First of all, it is important to understand that you cannot establish SAM as a "project" that ends at a certain point.  Software Asset Management is just like financial accounting. The project "just" provides all the infrastructure and defines the rules for future perpetual operation. Accordingly it is essential to ensure that your SAM project is not only focusing on installing the SAM tool and providing the data interfaces to feed it. There is much more than this.

The different stages of your SAM program can be illustrated like this:



In the implementation phase, all the prerequisites are created to operate Software Asset Management effectively and - that is important - with sustainability. This includes not only the project itself and the deployment of the SAM tool, but also the essential SAM foundation regarding standards, policies, roles, responsibilities and processes. 

Implementation contains at least following major tasks:

  1. Setup the project, defining goals, milestones, budgets, procedures and the core team
  2. Define SAM standards, policies, roles and responsibilities as well as all required processes
  3. Establish continuous supply with master data about your organization (e.g. legal structure)
  4. Establish continuous supply of inventory data about your technical infrastructure (e.g. clients, mobile devices, servers)

For more information about  SAM roles and responsibilities refer to article Roles and Responsibilities in SAM

Opening accounting

The opening accounting stage is as important as any other stage. But it is frequently underestimated or even skipped though. Make sure that you properly go through this phase with your activities along your SAM program. If you don't you will definitely suffer from inaccurate information, additional efforts, user frustration and possible even difficulties with acceptance from your management.  

It might be hard to tell whether this stage is still part of the implementation project or already part of operations. In some way, it belongs to operation but show characteristics of a project - or better: of a recurring project that is meant to extend the standard accounting (SAM operations) step-by-step. 

Recommended procedure:

  1. According to your priorities, select the scope of software to start accounting. It is recommended to select one product family only (e.g. SQL Server or Office Suite). This enables you to stay focused and make your opening accounting faster, delivering first results earlier.
  2. Clarify your master agreements regarding your software scope if there are any. If you have a larger organization with multiple legal entities or globally distributed units, you should not be surprised to discover previously unknown agreements. If you find multiple agreements, clarify if they possibly apply to the same legal entities and - if yes - take measures to resolve that situation.
  3. Clarify all historic license purchases for the software in scope. Understand that most issues in audits are related to inaccurate license inventory. Therefore, validate them regarding required details (e.g. type of license or metric) and ensure you can provide the purchase evidence.  Also reconcile them with your master agreements and ensure they are properly transferred from one agreement to another.
  4. Clarify all deployments of your software scope. Ensure your computer inventory is complete and up-to-date. Review computer inventory data and check if the applications can be identified properly. If the software is installed on a terminal server, deploy a tool that measures usage of corresponding applications. In server environments, understand the purpose of usage (e.g. development, test, production, failover) or any dependencies that are relevant for licensing (e.g. OEM runtime deployments). 
  5. Configure the SAM tool's automatic reconciliation engine. Do not assume that the default setup complies with your scenarios and licensing terms. Understand that the SAM tool and the data provided by the License Intelligence Service (LIS) provide a general configuration that needs to be verified at least and maybe adjusted to your needs. 
  6. At his point, review the SAM tool setup and the reported numbers about your compliance status. Verify them based on your understanding of the applicable licensing terms performing plausibility checks. Make sure to perform following steps in the SAM tool to start the standard compliance accounting for the software in scope:
    • Set current state as baseline  
    • Set LIS Synchonization Mode to "Manual"
    • Add software to the scope of reporting

Standard accounting (Operations)

In regular operations, the status of conformity approved in the opening balance sheet is frequently reviewed, verified and documented with a new baseline in the SAM tool.

The license inventory is updated, additional license purchases or contractually agreed notifications are planned and carried out. Authorization of additional software deployments are verified according to applicable corporate policies and standards.  

Internal audits are planned and carried out, external requests for information and audits are processed.

Volume License Agreements are monitored over their lifetime. Any terminations, renewals or extensions are planned and prepared. As for execution, see information box below.

Volume License Agreements usually have significant impact on the licensing terms and metrics and thus on the configuration of the automatic SAM tool reconciliation engine.  Any Closing, termination, renewal or amendment of an existing or a completely new Volume License Agreement should be addressed properly. The necessary procedure is very much the same as for the Opening Accounting, although not every step must be performed in the same depth. However, the SAM tool's configuration should be adjusted and produce correct results before you continue to run Standard Accounting for corresponding software in scope.

Special cases

Certain events are not handled in regular SAM operations because they affect the configuration of the automatic calculation function of the SAM Tool License Balance.

This includes:

  • Relevant changes in the corporate structure (e.g. changes in affiliated companies).
  • Changes in the Volume License Agreement that affect metrics or parameters that have been anchored in the automatic calculation (see chapter above).
  • Significant changes in the provision of the software, e.g. initial provision on terminal servers or significant changes in the server data center.

These special cases are treated in the same procedure as the Opening Accounting.

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