Although software asset management (SAM) is high on businesses’ priority list, satisfaction with the tools implemented to facilitate SAM processes fails to match user expectations more often than not, according to a January 2013 survey conducted by IT asset-management firm Express Metrix.
The company's 2013 Software Asset Management Survey gathered information from 115 organizations that had evaluated SAM tools over the past two years. The survey defined SAM tool as “a software product designed to collect and analyze software inventory data for the purposes of license compliance and/or overall software inventory tracking and management.”
Organizations provided information about satisfaction levels with their chosen SAM products, regardless of whether they had undergone a software audit in the past couple of years, and about whether they believed software asset management to be a top priority at their organization.
Software Asset Management: Muted Satisfaction Levels
A healthy 60 percent of survey respondents indicated that software asset management is on their IT department’s list of top priorities for 2013. Organizations that have a SAM tool currently in place outnumber those that don’t by about two to one.
When participants were asked about the challenges they are experiencing with their current software asset-management tools, responses varied. Among the challenges they cited were complexity of software, incompatibility with other systems, lack of details and accuracy, inability to “scrub” data effectively and too much manual data entry.
Survey results, however, suggest satisfaction with existing SAM tools is muted at best: although 36 percent of respondents report they are “mostly satisfied” with their SAM tool, nearly 50 percent report they are neutral, somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the technologies they chose. Only 16 percent claim to be “very satisfied” with their current SAM tool. These numbers highlight the very important point that many IT departments are not fully served by the products they choose.
Key Challenges: Complexity, Incompatibility and Cost
When asked to provide specific examples of the challenges they experienced with current SAM tools, respondents offered a varied list. Key reasons for dissatisfaction include complexity of software, incompatibility with other systems, lack of detail, low levels of accuracy in reporting, inability to “scrub” data effectively and the need to enter too much data manually.
Among respondents without a SAM tool in place, the chief barrier to implementation cited by respondents is budget, followed by low prioritization of SAM initiatives, and lack of executive approval. It should be noted that these issues are closely tied to each other. For example, it stands to reason that if software asset management has no executive support, it will not be an IT priority and, therefore, will likely have no budget.
No Clear Audit Pattern
While responses indicated that 41 percent of the organizations participating in the survey have been audited in the past two years, Express Metrix found no clear patterns in the data that would enable companies to predict the circumstances or timing that would trigger an audit. Frequency of vendor audits undoubtedly depends on a variety of interrelated factors, such as company size/growth, purchasing trends within the company and complexity of infrastructure. This survey is very likely weighted toward companies that have already been audited, since these are the organizations that are more likely to evaluate and implement software asset-management tools in the first place.
Why Satisfaction Matters
The less-than-impressive satisfaction levels with existing SAM tools underscore the importance of defining SAM goals and requirements before product selection. Start with a systematic, process-driven evaluation and benchmarking of your organization’s needs. This task should be followed by a comparison of a variety of SAM offerings, looking at the crucial requirements for a tool to deliver time and cost savings and to generate results that are satisfactory to IT departments and executive stakeholders.
Guesswork has no place in the mix—it’s a recipe for disappointment down the road. After defining a clear set of SAM goals and requirements and matching them against the capabilities of your short-listed products, your next step is to try before you buy. Thorough testing is vital, because many packages that purportedly meet your requirements may be surprisingly lacking when it comes to delivery of those capabilities in an actual implementation.
The survey suggests that many users who express a lack of satisfaction with their SAM tool are not only bumping up against unexpected technical complexity, but also time-wasting manual procedures they may have believed were automated. They are also, in all likelihood, not getting the precise data needed to protect themselves from licensing oversights, which, of course, makes them more susceptible to a suboptimal outcome in the event of an audit.
Steps to Swing the Needle
Taking the following steps will help organizations select and obtain funding for the right tool set and, ultimately, protect themselves from unfavorable audit outcomes.
- Conduct a systematic review of specific requirements and program goals. Every organization is different. What’s important to you?
- Create a comprehensive checklist for evaluating whether the capability of the existing or potential SAM tool matches the firm’s requirements and objectives.
- Create a business case for making the right level of investment in SAM—both the purchase of best-of-breed technology and the resources to manage it—balanced against cost savings from better management of licenses, cost avoidance in terms of non-compliance penalties, and efficiencies gained, including IT time and labor no longer spent only cumbersome manual processes.
Express Metrix learned several things from this survey. Although many SAM tool providers have a long way to go toward providing the functions required to get the job done, IT asset managers need to more clearly define their SAM goals and requirements. Software license management is becoming more complex every day, and not all SAM tools address this challenge adequately. If IT managers are armed with greater understanding of what they need, they are more likely to select a technology that's capable of meeting their goals and to be successful in their overall SAM efforts.
Leading article image courtesy of Patrick Hoesly
About the Author
Kris Barker is a cofounder and CEO of Express Metrix, a company dedicated to the development of IT asset management software for over 17 years. Owing to his expertise with technical and business aspects of software license management, Barker frequently speaks at leading industry conferences including the International Association of IT Asset Manager’s (IAITAM) and ECPWeb's annual summits. Barker has held both development and management positions at WRQ (now Attachmate), DEC and Boeing. He also has more than 10 years of experience teaching web development and software programming.