Implementing, Updating and Organizing a Software Asset Management Procedure
Software Asset Management enables organizations to gain maximum value from their IT investments. Software, hardware and licenses are all carefully tracked with an integration of people, technology and a set of policies and processes designed to evaluate usage and optimize all IT assets.
Implementation of a SAM process will ultimately benefit an organization through impacting multiple departments. For example:
- IT – standardized software deployments, centralized asset tracking and agile IT systems
- Procurement – standardized policies for software purchase, acquisition management and redeployment, improved negotiation effectiveness
- Management – standardized licensing policies, visibility of costs/savings, insight into governance and liabilities for accurate projection and provides detail to support the organizations IT Strategy
Implementing a SAM process is no small task, and the demand on both time and resource will vary greatly depending on the size of your organization. Whether you’re updating or optimizing an existing SAM process, or you’ve obtained senior management sponsorship to create and implement a SAM process, there are steps you’ll need to take to do so effectively:
Six Steps to a Successful SAM Strategy
- Learn the ins and outs of your software’s agreement terms and the different licensing metrics
- Create a centralised software inventory for all existing software
- Reconcile your license entitlement to your software utilization
- Identify whether or not additional licensing needs to be purchased
- Create/review existing SAM policies
- Maintain your SAM process
- Learning the licensing basics
In a nutshell a license is a term of agreement between you and your software vendor. It dictates where and how often the software can be installed and whether or not you can copy, modify or distribute it. This, and the cost of the software and licensing will be outlined in the licensing agreement.
‘Free’ software, in terms of licensing, is not free. It refers to the rights associated with using the software. There tends to be fewer restrictions with ‘free’ software and so it’s often the case that there is no limit on the number of times it can be deployed or copied. Proprietary software is far more restrictive and will likely have stringent limitations around how it can be used.
The End User License Agreement (EULA) will detail how your proprietary software can be legally used – how many copies you can install, what your organization can do with the software, and what (if any) additional software can also be installed. The EULA will also detail whether or not there are secondary user rights on any software installed, and whether there are restrictions on these secondary rights, such as a piece of software not being used at the same time as it is being used on the primary computer.
Perpetual licenses do not have an expiration date in that once you’ve purchased the license you have the rights to use it for as long as you it’s required. A term license will expire after the specified time period (for example, after one year) and so will need to be renewed.
There are often savings to be had with Volume Licensing. This will depend on the type and the size of your organization, the products that need to be licensed, and the way in which those products are used. The terms for bulk purchases will inevitably vary from vendor to vendor, but this purchasing method will usually offer a central ‘hub’ where all licenses for a particular product can be managed. It can also make installation less laborious with a single activation code. Similarly, site licensing will permit an organization to make multiple copies of software for deployment on multiple computers.
Often, IT personnel find the rules and regulations between vendors difficult to interpret and then manage. There are specific licensing courses designed to help attendees get to grips with terminology and the complexities of licensing rules, and refresher courses too to aid in keeping up with updates and changes to software licensing rules.
- Getting your software organized
While you’re getting to grips with your organization’s software licensing terms, you need sight of what is already being used by staff. Reach out and request information in order to inventory and catalogue deployed software. Basic information from all employees is a good start:
- Employee Name/Job Title/Department/ID
- PC Serial No.
- Date of Inventory
- Software Publisher
- Name of Program
- Version No.
- Number of Installations
- Frequency of Use
If you aren’t using a discovery tool, you’ll need to collate this information in a summary spreadsheet to create a form of database. This will provide full visibility of your software inventory and should make matching licenses to software easier. Software Asset Management is about more than just compliance, and so it may be wise to take this opportunity to plan for the future – put yourself in a position in which you can more accurately forecast software use in the future by issuing a software questionnaire to staff:
How often do you use <software title>?
Do you feel <software title> is adequate in enabling you to complete day-to-day tasks?
Do you feel <software title> hinders your day-to-day tasks in any way?
Do you feel an alternate piece of software would make your job easier?
This sort of feedback can be considered when renewing licenses or when negotiating with vendors.
- Matching licenses to your software/users
When the inventory is complete, and you’ve an idea of how the software is being used, this must be matched up with purchasing records. This will reveal whether or not your organization has purchased the correct amount or level of licensing – are you under licensed and out of compliance or over licensed and wasting money?
At the very basic level, you need to record the following:
- Software Title
- Version No.
- Number of Installations
- Number of Licenses
- Purchase Date
- Purchase Order No. / Invoice No.
We’d also recommend recording the licensing prices to easily tally total cost of licensing against actual usage.
- Determining (non-) Compliance
If you’ve found that your organization has purchased licenses for and installed 100 copies of Microsoft Office, but only 80 members of staff are actually using it, first attempt to re-harvest those licenses to any staff likely to use them. Otherwise, you can let the licensing contract lapse for those 20 installations.
On the other hand, if you find 100 copies of Microsoft Office but your organization has licenses for only 80, you are dealing with 20 illegal copies of that software. You’re going to need to purchase 20 additional licenses to be compliant.
Finding any unlicensed software before a vendor audit occurs is essential in avoiding a hefty fine. What’s more, with a 68% chance of receiving an audit request within the next 12 months, it’s something your organization must gain control of very quickly.
- Rolling Out your SAM Policy
After all the time and resource allocated to establishing compliance now’s the time to start as you mean to go on, and roll-out your new SAM policy. The entire organization must understand the process should they need new software, or if a license needs to be renewed.
A document explaining how new software will be sourced, stating that IT will have to purchase and install it in order to keep accurate records, will encourage staff to follow standardised protocol. This should circulate each department, and all department members should sign a statement declaring that they understand that illegal duplication or downloading of software could result in disciplinary action.
- Maintaining your New SAM Policy
As all staff now follow a set of standardized procedures, so should the IT department. When new software arrives, utilise a “check-in check list”. All documentation should be signed, copied and filed for ease of reference should it be necessary in the future, and all details should be stored either within your SAM tool, or on your purpose-built database/spreadsheet:
- Review the invoice accompanying the software to check they match. Contact the vendor if there is anything unexpected/missing
- Sign and date the invoice, then make a copy for safe filing
- Sign and date the proof of license documentation, and make copies for safe filing
- Sign and date any other associated software documentation
- File these with the user manual in an accessible location
- Store all original paperwork with the software’s packaging and securely file (often offsite)
- Update the tool/database/spreadsheet with the new purchases
- Schedule installation with the member of staff/department requesting the software
BONUS: Tips for reducing support costs
- Keeping detailed records of your organization’s hardware and software service history. Should the same software or hardware crop up again and again, they can be assessed for usability/efficiency and then potentially replaced with updated or more effective solutions.
- Enhance staff’s understanding of software by encouraging them to attend training courses. Support contracts are in place to troubleshoot software issues (unless otherwise specified) rather than user support. Be mindful that if demand for this service is high, staff could end up with support being declined, or a vendor demanding an increased support and maintenance spend moving forward. Encourage feedback from all users to form a central knowledge-share system to communicate best practice and internal troubleshooting
- Schedule inventories and regular reviews to maintain compliance and simplify the distribution of any new software.
- Adopt policies for all IT-related requests, software installations/renewals and usage. This should mean only approved software is installed, reducing support calls and the risk of non-compliance.