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How SAM will help you navigate through this turbulence

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Speed Stability – Technology creates speed and SAM gives stability

In aviation the term “speed stability” is used when talking about holding the centre of gravity in high speed passenger jet flight so as not to go out of control. Now that’s a scary thought!

In an environment like we have today, with COVID19 and all the associated personal and business turmoil, it may feel like we are already out of control with little hope of regaining it. However this is not totally true and we’d do well to take a leaf out of aviation vernacular and consider how we manage this relationship between speed and stability in our own businesses. This is what will take us through the current turbulance – managing the equilibrium between the speed that is generated by the technology we can deploy and the stability provided by the Software Asset Management controls in the business. It’s why I like SAM so much.

The cloud, artificial intelligence and automation are just a few of the technologies which have been a boon for companies. The solutions are giving way to faster, more agile workforces with leaner operations that drive more revenue.

At the surface, the speed that these ever-growing technology stacks are producing is seemingly limitless. On the back end, organisations are now understanding the risks to business disruption that are beginning to emerge from their relationships with these mega-vendors.

Unnecessary financial obligations, planned obsolescence and forced upgrades, among other elements, combine to threaten companies’ balance. At the centre of it all, Software Asset Management (SAM) has proved more vital than ever in providing stability.

The role of SAM and how it has changed

Technology has gone from simply changing how we communicate with colleagues and customers to completely revolutionising the way in which we do business. Where in the past SAM responsibility might have sat with inventory control, it has since blossomed into a full-scale team – one that has increasingly intrinsic value to the company.

Once accountable for matching software licenses with users, the role of SAM teams have changed to include seven distinct skills. In short, these departments handle everything from negotiating financial terms and contractual stipulations, to taking up the mantle of peacemaker and life-cycle manager. They’re the point people between businesses and their digital estates, as well as the companies behind the solutions they’re purchasing.

“Over the last few years, ITAM has become a more strategic role,” says Martin Thompson, founder of the ITAM Review, when he joined me recently on the Two Irish Guys Discussing Software podcast. “You’re almost whispering in the ear of the CIO or the senior management about helping them with intelligence to make the right decision.”

Part of the reason behind that change is the migration to the cloud. It has unlocked a wide range of products and applications for an even broader community of organisations who are constantly seeking the next best solution.

The cloud and its many applications feature squarely in most – if not all – companies’ roadmaps and that growth isn’t slowing down any time soon.

SAMs impact on business’ stability

While it isn’t fair to say that SAM teams were little more than inventory managers prior to the turn of the century, it’s undeniable that their responsibilities have changed. They carry far greater influence when it comes to the technology stack and their decisions can have a tangible impact on the health of the business.

Take the beginning of this COVID-19 global pandemic as an example. From a functionality standpoint, many businesses found themselves needing to quickly adjust to a fully remote workforce.

“In speaking to SAMs right now, what they’re currently doing is scrambling to help set up these remote working structures,” Thompson says. “For some people, that’s business as usual. For others, that’s a radical change.”

A SAM team’s impact isn’t limited to operational stability – financial security is a factor. Consider the IT spend for the average business. In some sectors like retail, this figure can reach 3 percent of revenue, according to a study by Computer Economics. In other industries like financial services, that figure may range as high as 11.4 percent.

The resulting sum can drive savings or losses that stem throughout the rest of the business and SAMs are essentially the ultimate source of funds for future investments. It’s an important role that Thompson believes will take centre stage throughout 2020.

“I think what we’ll see over the next couple of months is that once everything settles down, we’ll see a radical change to cost reduction,” Thompson says. “There’ll be a real mandate on SAMs to reduce costs.”

Those costs – which can reach into the millions for companies that spend a significant amount on IT – could potentially save jobs and, ultimately, the business itself.

What does the future hold for SAM?

In a world of unknowns, one thing is certain: SAM is here to stay. In fact, it’s only moving up the corporate hierarchy. SAM teams once reported into IT, but they’re now increasingly reporting into the board of directors.