Software Asset Management: Optimizing Software Will Be a Top Focus in 2021

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by | December 14, 2020

How can software asset management (SAM) teams navigate an array of challenges while creating efficient digital infrastructure and managing spend? Cyndi Tackett, vice president, product marketing at Flexera, shares top SAM initiatives for 2021, the maturity of your SAM team, and the top metrics for success.

As digital transformation accelerates and evolves, so do the roles of information technology asset management (ITAM) and software asset management (SAM) teams. SAM teams face an array of challenges, such as dealing with SaaS, cloud, and containers; optimizing software use to save money; and understanding the complexity of vendor use rights. And while teams work to create efficient digital infrastructure and shore up wasted spending, they often face confusing messages about investing their efforts.

The recent Flexera 2021 State of ITAM Report explores the current status of SAM initiatives. Drawing responses from 451 global IT professionals at medium and large organizations, this report provides insight into current and future initiatives. SAM teams clearly have opportunities to improve. By moving beyond license compliance initiatives, software asset management groups can help secure financial savings while efficiently handling organizational IT assets.

SAM’s Role and Goals

The tools available to SAM teams, according to Gartner, “automate many tasks required to maintain compliance with software licenses, thereby controlling software spending. They facilitate the in-depth analysis of software assets by decoding software license entitlements, automating the collection of software consumption data, establishing independent software vendor (ISV) effective license position (ELP), and optimizing software value delivery and information sharing.” SAM processes have been in place for more than a decade, most commonly aiding support audit and compliance initiatives.

With the cloud, SaaS, and containers grabbing larger portions of tech spend as they grow in importance, SAM teams must reimagine their responsibilities in order to stay relevant. Focusing on compliance is no longer sufficient. To maximize the value derived from all technology investments, a successful, mature team will be aligned with the strategic IT initiatives across its organization’s complex hybrid IT environment. Success also requires collaboration with many other IT functions, including C-level staff (CIO/CTO), infrastructure management, IT service management, operations, and cloud teams.

Responsibilities and Savings Grow with Maturity

SAM teams, which average just four full-time employees, can grow increasingly successful and find more savings as their maturity grows. Responsibilities of SAM teams may vary but commonly include taking charge of software discovery (84% of teams), audits (83%), and inventory (77%). Teams may be described as being at one of three levels of maturity:

– Beginner: Nearly a quarter (24%) of organizations have SAM teams at the “beginner” stage, initiating SAM and taking an ad hoc approach to discovery and audit. Work focuses on responding to audits, discovering software in use, prepping for contract renewals, and maintaining an inventory of software in use. The top challenge for this group is optimizing software use to save money.

– Intermediate: More (31%) are at the “intermediate” stage, implementing ongoing tracking (for software use and license position). For this group, the top challenge shifts to dealing with SaaS, cloud, and containers.

– Advanced: At this highest level of SAM maturity (only 45% of respondents), teams are proactively optimizing the use of software licenses. Going beyond the responsibilities of less matured teams, these advanced teams may be tracking SaaS, software in containers, public cloud use, and IaaS/PaaS use.

Reaching the advanced level is particularly important for SAM teams because it is correlated with the greatest ability to realize savings. Almost twice as many advanced SAM teams (38%) report realizing savings from reusing software licenses to avoid buying new ones than is the case for beginners (20%). This ratio is even more significant in terms of the effort/hours for audit preparation, where more than three times as many advanced teams (23%) realize savings here than do beginners (7%).


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