In many respects IT Asset Management (ITAM), and Software Asset Management (SAM) in particular, have come a long way in the 14 years that I have been in the industry. To keep pace with the advancements in hardware and software assets, their associated licensing metrics, and the technical environments in which they operate, there have been technological advances in the tools available to the SAM industry – greater automation, increased integration capabilities, advances in software recognition and normalization to name but a few.

Similarly, we have seen greater understanding for the need to have strong processes behind and supporting the SAM program – to optimize the use of the tools and to gain greater benefits across the organization by fostering closer relationships and data integrations with IT Service Management (ITSM) and IT Security in particular.

However, one thing that has not changed as much is how SAM or ITAM are perceived - we still meet people at conferences etc. that do not have a SAM program or say it is not needed, quoting reasons such as:

  1. Not essential to their business
  2. An overhead for IT
  3. Cheaper to just pay audit findings
  4. At best, a necessary evil or nice-to-have

So why does this view of SAM still persist?

Sometimes there is a lack of understanding of what ITAM/SAM really is or involves – some still think of simply counting hardware devices and software installations and wonder how hard can it really be? That may have been true, to some degree, 20 years ago but in this modern age of complex license models, extensive product portfolios, multi-device usage rights, multi-core processors, virtualization and dynamic software allocations that is certainly no longer the case.

In some cases it is a lack of understanding of the potential value from a strong SAM/ITAM program. Sometimes there is a focus on the cost of resources and SAM tools, the “overhead”, and not the cost savings and cost avoidance that is potentially achievable – reduced software spend, audit minimization, right-sized asset usage and optimized resource efficiency to name but a few. According to Gartner and others in the industry, this could be as much as 30% of the software spend in the first year alone. Often the view that just paying fines/charges is cheaper and easier does not take into account some of the more intangible benefits, or the fact that the company reputation will become associated with failing audits (and become a bigger target for more publishers in that regard). The cost of a strong ITAM program can usually be justified by comprehensive ROI estimates in a thorough business plan.

Another reason, related to the above, is communication - or lack thereof. Sometimes the lack of understanding of what ITAM is and the potential value to the business comes down to how information is shared internally, and how often. For a SAM program to be effective, there needs to be clear communication about the processes, successes and challenges so that the organization as a whole is aware of what ITAM is, the impact it can have and their part in it. This is especially true with regard to the Executive Management team – their understanding and support is vital to the success of an ITAM program.

We have met several SAM clients who had some of the reservations discussed above about starting their own SAM program, only to have faced unbudgeted multi-million dollar fees for unlicensed software after an exhaustive vendor-initiated audit, and who now fear additional audits from other vendors. Usually these new clients reconsider their position on updating their SAM programs, once they see the balance of cost and value has changed.

So how is ITAM viewed in your organization? Do you still have a perception challenge or has the organization come to recognize the value of ITAM now?