Saturday, August 6, 2011

SAM - more than a guy in Arkansas

Now that I'm out of product management, I can take amore leisurely look at things that affect products - and I have more time to look at them from the customer perspective. One of those things is software licensing. When you're selling software to organizations rather than individuals, you have to pay attention to licensing - it literally affects your bottom line.

Enter software asset management, or SAM. One of the pioneers in this area was Sassafras Software:

Sassafras Software has a long tradition as innovator and market leader in providing tools for Software Asset Management (SAM). The pioneering KeyServer® product from Sassafras has evolved over the more than 20 years since its initial release into K2 : an elegant, award winning, unified tool set for both Hardware and Software Asset Management designed for today's complex physical, virtual, and cross-platform computing environments.

Of course, Sassafras Software isn't the only player in the field. Ever heard of a company called Microsoft?

Software Asset Management (SAM) is an industry best practice that helps you control costs and optimize software investments across your organization and throughout all stages of their life cycles. Administered through an ongoing plan, SAM makes it easier to identify what you have, where it's running, and whether redundancy may exist. A fully implemented SAM plan can help you cut costs, improve security and compliance, and also anticipate future software needs. SAM also helps organizations accurately capture the costs and benefits associated with IT projects that enable a competitive advantage.

Of course, for SAM to provide benefits to an organization, it needs to be deployed and enforced across the entire organization. If one division resists the organizational imperative, for whatever reason, then savings from SAM will be reduced.

CTOEdge has suggested some questions to ask during a SAM analysis:

•Is there a written software asset management policy?
•Do we have a senior executive sponsor with the organization?
•Is there a policy for authorized software?
•Do we purchase software centrally?
•Is there a central license repository?
•Do we collect an accurate inventory of hardware and software assets?
•Are unused licenses re-harvested?
•Are staff allowed to install their own software onto PCs?
•Do we have a tool for managing and optimizing software licenses?
•Do we have an authorized vendor/supplier list?
•When a computer is retired, are the associated licenses re-harvested?

In the title to this post, I made a reference to Wal-Mart. While a web search for "wal-mart asset management" yields results with an entirely different meaning, Wal-Mart obviously pays attention to cost control in its IT area. Even as early as the early 1990s, my then-employer was talking to Wal-Mart about Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), a then-novel computerized method for exchange purchase orders with vendors. This 1992 case study discusses this, as well as other Wal-Mart techniques such as the use of bar codes. I'd be willing to bet that Wal-Mart imposes similar controls on its internal software use.

Or, knowing Wal-Mart, they probably negotiated site licenses at extremely low rates.
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