Among the challenges facing today’s SAM professional is keeping tabs on the many changes that occur in the life cycle of your publishers’ software products. With so much in flux, so much of the time, what are some strategies to help keep track, and what are some key areas to concentrate on?

We’re all familiar with the need to stay on top of new version releases, name changes, new metrics, and retirement of old versions. Each of these updates requires a vigilant eye to catch them as they’re occurring, and to stay ahead of the curve so that you’re not caught by surprise.

So be sure to monitor your publishers’ websites, emails and announcements for mention of any programs that may be in use at your firm. Not only that – scour user groups, forums, and articles looking for discussions of changes that affect your estate. Why not just the publishers’ announcements? Because these announcements can sometimes fall short:

  • They may not be released in a timely fashion.
  • They may be densely (and inscrutably) written about several software products, leaving you struggling to find details relevant to the specific product(s) you care about.
  • They may be emailed to everyone in the universe except you, the one person who needs to know!

By whatever means, once you do find information about products in your environment, your teams will need to be alerted to any need to upgrade their systems. 

Importantly, you and your teams will need clarification from publishers to understand how support will be handled – does the existing entitlement automatically transfer maintenance to the new product? If so, are there any limitations to the type and amount of service to which you’re entitled?

There might also be questions about whether your license entitlements to prior versions will be honored under the new version. If you are in fact licensed for the new version, does that entitle you to the full functionality of the new version, or is it limited to only specific functions?

Some publishers support only the current version of a product plus maybe the prior two versions too, so when a new version of a product is announced, this might trigger an end-of-life deadline on a prior version, which might be the one you are using.

If the publisher does not provide specifics in its communications, or omits communications entirely, be sure to request formal documentation from them as soon as possible and keep it on file.

It Doesn’t End With Migrations!

As described above, the task of keeping up with product migrations and End of Support evolutions is challenging enough. But we can’t forget another reality in the realm of software publishing: divestitures and acquisitions! That’s right, publishers are always at it, buying up products from other publishers and selling off unwanted titles of their own. This brings special challenges to the SAM professional. 

In the case of publisher product divestitures, migration and entitlement ambiguities are much like those for run-of-the-mill migrations discussed above. However, there are additional elements of confusion that must now be addressed. 

Now you are working between possibly two publishers to validate and document your entitlements. It will be critical to understand who is providing your entitlements and maintenance – is it the original publisher, or the new one? If it’s the new one, what is required to ensure you have a relationship that preserves your entitlements? Is a formal agreement required, and what are the contractual stipulations for the publisher and your firm? If you don’t desire to establish a formal relationship with the new vendor, how long – if at all – can you continue to run the software that’s in your environment? And how much lead time has the old and/or new vendor given during which to work out these intricacies? Is it sufficient? What remedies are available to you for any disruptions experienced?

You and your team may decide that the new publisher is not the right option for your firm. In that case, you may need to work with your team to determine if there’s a competitor’s product that could be substituted, or whether the product can be decommissioned altogether from your environment.

What about a publisher product acquisition, wherein a publisher with whom you already have a relationship buys a product from another publisher? Often there will be a period of time where the product will persist under a legacy metric. For example, a product that’s measured by “website” might stay that way for a while under a new publisher. Eventually, however, the metric may change to something in keeping with the new publisher’s conventions – “processor”, let’s say. It may also get renamed, repriced, and some of the functionality and entitlements may change as well. It will be important to know from your publisher when and how these changes will take place, and what preparations you will need to make.

Staying Ahead and Informed Is the Surest Cure

Avoiding nasty surprises is best accomplished by carefully scanning all available sources of information, and when spotting a pertinent notification relating to a product in your estate, knowing what questions to ask of your publisher(s). Like so much of the SAM routine, this is an ongoing process with constantly shifting facts and practicalities. 

If you have a SAM plan at all you are already farther ahead of the curve than many. Organizations that attempt to manage dozens to hundreds of software product entitlements without a SAM plan of some kind are inclined to exceed entitlements and suffer in audits.

I hope this article provided some insights and reminders, even if it only scratched the surface. You doubtless have pointers and experiences to add, so please share in the comments!