Seven steps to successful software asset management

A recent article published in Search IT Operations provided an excellent overview of software asset management (SAM) and its benefits for helping organisations to avoid overspending on underused software, or incurring large fines from vendors if they are found to be contravening end user licensing agreements.

However, a Vanson Bourne survey of enterprise employees with responsibility for software licensing and IT asset management (ITAM), found that 46% of organisations that had been asked by software vendors to undertake a software licensing audit were found to be non-compliant. This was is in spite of the fact that the polled enterprises had nine employees dedicated to software asset management.

The same report found that the average penalty levied by vendors exceeded USD $750,909 (£611,008). Seven out of ten of those surveyed believed that their software licensing complexity would increase following migration to the cloud.

While the benefits are obvious, SAM and ITAM programmes are hard for enterprises to get right. The Vanson Bourne survey found that enterprises had to expend an average of 129 days dealing with audits alone. Greater adoption of cloud and mobile services, coupled with increasing security and regulatory requirements, are increasing licensing complexity.

From our experience of helping large organisations with their SAM programmes, we’ve identified 7 key steps that enterprises need to follow to see their IT asset management programmes implemented successfully.

Get executive buy-in

Without executive support, an asset management programme is unlikely to be successful.  Having executives on board is essential to align the programme with corporate goals, share information and remove political bottlenecks.

Lack of communication and enforcement of policies can create real problems for organisations.

While an ITAM team can achieve early quick wins without explicit support from upper management, these wins quickly fade when the scope of the programme expands and alignment across teams dilutes unless there are executive sponsors to influence and support behaviour. These executive sponsors will also help in resolving disputes between teams.

Get teams to work together

There will be many teams to engage and align and an ITAM programme depends upon these teams working together. Each team will have specific IT requirements and these need to be met as far as possible to carry the project forward.

Objectives, processes, policies and outcomes will need to be aligned across teams, along with clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the ITAM scope. The needs of your executive sponsor also have to be included.

A good tip here is to create a steering committee formed from the relevant stakeholders and members of the various teams to enhance alignment and get everyone driving towards the successful outcomes.

Take one step at a time

ITAM is complex. Trying to do everything at once is never a good idea. To be successful you will need to take a more measured approach and correct any mistakes and improve as you go along.

The programme should focus on a subset of achievable targets for each stage while maintaining alignment with the requirements of the executive sponsor. For example, if most of your risk and /or cost come from purchasing and maintaining a particular vendor’s software, start there, before moving onto other things. Success breeds success, so the momentum built there can be carried on to other stages.

These small steps should complement long-terms plans, so think carefully about how each small goal plays into the greater scheme of things.

Focus on data quality

It’s important to have data about your organisation for planning purposes, but focus on quality over quantity.

Do you need to collect every single instance of data just because you can? The resource required to collect, store and protect unnecessary data could be put to better use elsewhere.

Get processes in order

Be aware that technology isn’t going to magically make your ITAM programme a success. The processes have to be in place as well. Policies and processes are key to the success of an asset management programme and these need to be articulated, communicated and implemented across the organisation.

Get a baseline and measure

You have to spend time on baselining so you know where you started. Otherwise, you don’t know where you are with the programme or what progress you have made.

Once a baseline has been made, measurement must be done on a constant and consistent basis. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) with clearly defined metrics to drive the teams to achieve the desired outcomes. This will measure performance and help flag any areas for improvement plus opportunities to move to the next stage.

Get the results out

Following on from measuring what you are doing, it is important to share this information with executive management and other key stakeholders that support the programme. This is crucial in the early days of an ITAM project.

Your chances of success improve drastically if you share news of quick ITAM wins early and often. This will alert others in the organisation to what you are doing and help to garner their support.

Finally, remember that implementing an ITAM programme requires an acceptance by the business that it will become business as usual. ITAM is not a one-off project and requires a process of continuous improvement.

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