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Software asset management maturity in the age of SaaS

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For asset tracking, software as a service (SaaS) is no different from any other type of software licensing – but the process of software asset management needs adapting

When software asset management (SAM) started to show up as a singular discipline, the IT industry tried to do what it does to solve any other problem – throw technology at it.

Glacial evolution in the development of SAM has seen it experience growing pains in standing out from service management, hindered by senior management perceptions of what SAM actually is, and the illusion of how easy it is to make IT work.

Where this is more evident than ever is with the advent of technology that is delivered through software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

In this context, there is a difference in perspective in how SAM is viewed. IT spend is not considered a one-time hit to the coffers, and so used to be viewed as capital expenditure (capex), but rather, due to the subscription nature of the billing, IT expenditure now falls into the operational expenditure (opex) bracket.

So what does this mean for SAM as a discipline? Previously, good efforts around SAM might have been considered cost avoidance, but the capital is still viewed as spent because it is pre-allocated for that purpose. Now savings will reflect on operating costs – and, all of a sudden, a good SAM manager has the potential to become the finance director’s new best friend.

A major rewrite of whatever SAM you might have in place is not required to support new forms of contracts and the shift to opex. Rather, a subtle redirection is needed. Typically, results or effective licence positions (ELPs) will have been generated to counter or support a software supplier audit.

Also, a less rigorous accounting procedure might have been used in maintaining an existing contract.