HAM, SAM, Who I AM – A look at Roles, Scope and Choices

By Stephen Becker, CSAM

No, this isn’t a Dr. Seuss book. It’s an inside look at the two main roles for every IT asset manager. There are other roles we take on and run with in our profession, however, the meat of our business is hardware and software asset management. In this article we will touch on just a few specific key factors in both the hardware and software management realms.

Hardware Asset Management

While I cannot say this is true for every software title your company owns, I can hope that almost all software titles in your company are in use on some piece of hardware. This hardware can be a server, storage array, network equipment, desktop, laptop or other mobile device. These all need to be managed at some level and the IT asset management team should be the first stop for all hardware information and decisions.

There are many reasons to manage and track all hardware, however in the interest of time we will focus on only the top three; lifecycle, security, and relationship to software compliance.

Hardware lifecycles vary widely from vendor to vendor therefore companies should centralize this information in a CMDB or CMS for easy access. With the life-cycle information in a centralized database, the business and IT can make better decisions about internal policy on how long to wait before performing a refresh on IT equipment, rating servers as critical or important, forecasting among many other financial functions they may be looking into.

IT security has become a major focus in all sizes of companies over the last 10 years. Hackers and thieves want to know what you have and they have sophisticated tools to discover this information. If you have the tools to properly track and manage your hardware, you minimize this risk considerably. The ITAM team in your company should be tightly coupled with purchasing in order to properly tag assets as they hit a receiving dock for any given company.

Finally, and near the top of the importance ladder, is the need to map hardware with the applications installed on that hardware for software compliance management and reporting. This is where the most financial benefit can occur in any company. Knowing the installed number of CPUs, model of the system, number of users and so on comes into play almost every day in the life of a software asset manager. Without having this information at our fingertips, we cannot do our job in an efficient and effective manner. If you have multiple desktop systems that have not been logged into in over six months and there is software installed on those systems, you should be able to, with the proper policies in place of course, remove that software install and harvest, or recover, that software title for use somewhere else or retirement.

Software Asset Management

Software asset management is something that is so often overlooked and yet one of the main actions a company takes to minimize the costs associated with software licenses and avoid the pitfalls of a compliance audit with has a poor outcome. The SAM discipline is where the real money savings come from with regard to ITAM.

As with hardware, I will not tackle all the aspects of SAM, I will give a brief overview of the top focus areas for software asset management; compliance, harvesting and retirement.

Software compliance is the number one reason to have a SAM program in place. This is the way you avoid potential audit hits and manage licenses in an efficient manner. Maintaining compliance will also leave you in a great spot to negotiate with software publishers on your next contract, especially if they have audited you and you came out clean. On the other hand, if you are out of compliance, you could face hefty fines and reinstatement fees along with back-support fees for the installs that you do not have a license for in the event this is discovered during a publisher compliance audit.

License harvesting is another great way to save money in a well-managed SAM program. Harvesting basically means recovering licenses that can be re-deployed to another user or system when no longer needed on another system. The biggest win-zone for this is in the desktop arena of IT. All companies have people coming and going all the time. The systems that are recovered from employees when they leave should have to go to the ITAM department for harvesting. Licenses for office suites and operating systems are not managed well in most cases and there is a lot of waste when retiring systems or re-imaging and re-deploying these systems to new users.

Software retirement is another hot topic to most software asset managers. From my experience, most companies are weak in this area. Retirement of software titles is a little scary for some and not a fun thing to manage, but a necessity to keep a clean, up to date software catalog. For example, when a publisher retires a version of their software, a good SAM already knows and has a plan of action in place addressing the old version with an upgrade or replacement with another title. Another example of where retirement is a necessity is when you are retiring a title from the company as a whole. You don’t want to have any instances of that software left behind to come back and bite you if the publisher wants to audit you to certify you have all instances of the retired title off your systems company-wide.

Just as with hardware, there are many more aspects of the SAM role, and all are equally important. But, if you had to minimize your scope to get your program rolling and showing value, these three are the best place to start, with compliance being the primary focus first.

Who I Am

Now let’s get down to the reality of what we do as IT asset managers. We must encompass and embrace both the hardware and software side of our jobs. In today’s global economy, most companies are looking to minimize costs and maximize results. While I have seen these roles split in many organizations, most are combining the role of software and hardware asset management along with other roles such as vendor management and configuration management to ensure coverage without incurring the high cost of more workers.

Keep in mind however that our roles in IT asset management can expand way beyond the scope of this article and we must strive to add value to our employers through expansion of our job duties, lest we become another lost profession in the world of IT.