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Software Asset Management is no longer a choice

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Microsoft’s Software Asset Management Compliance: Trojan horse or ultimate customer service?

Organizations again spend more money on software this year, according to Gartner’s latest figures, and therewith financial risks rise, making managing software a crucial activity for every company. Major vendors, such as Microsoft, even offer free tools to do this. That sounds good, but how do these tools benefit you, as a user?

Over the past month, there has been a lot of commotion around Microsoft’s software licensing practices. In addition to its existing license-compliance authentication (commonly known as audit), Microsoft recently started to promote its active software asset management (SAM) program. It seems that Microsoft wants more ownership of the SAM process. According to the software vendor, the two programs differ substantially.

In a blog , Patama Chantaruck, General Manager of Worldwide Software Asset Management Compliance, writes the following about Microsoft’s SAM program: It’s “a voluntarily service designed to help companies obtain insight, optimize licenses, and minimize risks”. The audit program, on the other hand, is a “mandatory review of the company’s use of Microsoft products and services, designed to ensure that customers achieve and maintain license compliance and to protect Microsoft’s intellectual property.”

Trojan horse

Chantaruck’s article was received with quite some skepticism. Microsoft’s SAM program is seen by many as a Trojan horse and even as a forerunner of an audit. Many Microsoft users rightly wonder what to do if Microsoft invites them to participate in a SAM program. If you say no, you are immediately suspicious. But what happens if you say yes? It is known that audits have been part of the major software vendor’s earnings model for many years – it is primarily a means of selling more software.

Microsoft is also known as one of the most active auditors. Therefore, it is likely that for Microsoft the SAM program is a method of having an as complete as possible overview of the customer’s status. Insight used to determine whether it is worthwhile to conduct an audit. The software vendor wants to know in advance that an audit, for which an expensive consultancy agency is to be hired, yields more than it costs. And now the SAM program provides exactly that information.

What to do?

Microsoft has now launched promotions of the program. At Microsoft Inspire, the annual partner conference in Washington DC, there was a wide variety of software asset management sessions, with descriptions such as: “The SAM opportunity in enterprise has never been bigger. Learn about Microsoft’s plan for enterprise and industry accounts, and how you can build new revenue streams with SAM.” Microsoft definitely builds on its SAM service and makes no secret out of it.