SAM 101 and the Secret for Success

By Steffani Lomax

Success means different things to different people. By way of definition, success is achieving the correct or desired result. For a professional athlete, success means winning or performing at his or her very best. For a professional musician, success means performing a piece perfectly or stirring emotion in the audience. For a writer, success is achieved when the reader becomes a fan and continues to purchase subsequent publications. But what is the definition of success for a Software Asset Management (SAM) program?

Success in SAM means delivering value for the business. Business value in SAM comes in many flavors – accurate information on software licenses deployed and utilized, maintaining compliance with software supplier agreements, re-using software licenses and automation, to name a few. One of the greatest achievements in SAM is the ability to uncover significant cost avoidance on software licenses and maintenance. What is the secret to achieve this success?

What is SAM and Why is it Important?

Let’s begin this discussion with a review of the fundamentals of SAM. The following is the ITIL definition:

“Software Asset Management (SAM) is all of the infrastructure and processes necessary for the effective management, control and protection of the software assets within an organization, throughout all stages of their lifecycle.”- IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL v3)

Why is SAM important? There are several reasons from both financial and risk standpoints. From a financial perspective, organizations tend to overspend on software licenses and maintenance in the absence of a reliable SAM program. If a company doesn’t know what software it has deployed or really needs, it is most likely paying maintenance on licenses that are not used. Reliable SAM uncovers opportunities to avoid unnecessary purchases and expenditures. From a risk perspective, when there is a lack of understanding of software entitlements and licensing metrics, an organization may spiral out of compliance with their software publisher agreements. If found to be out of compliance, the company may be hit with penalties and required to purchase software licenses at list price in order to regain compliance. For the past several years, audit activity has been on the rise and there is a high probability that an organization will receive an audit request letter from one or more of its leading software suppliers within a calendar year. Finally, accurate information on IT and software assets owned is required for corporate financial reporting.

The Value of Information

In the 1987 film “Wall Street,” Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, a ruthless corporate raider who builds his business and his wealth based on reliable information. He says, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” With access to accurate information, your organization can make the most informed business decisions about how you are managing and optimizing your software assets. Good business decisions will positively impact the financial bottom line of your company.

When it comes to SAM, what information do you need to know? What software licenses you are entitled to, what is deployed and being used, and what you will need in the future is the basic information you need to derive from your SAM program. Specifically, does your organization know the following?

  • Are you paying maintenance on licenses you are not using?
  • Are you re-using or harvesting licenses from computers that have been retired?
  • Are you prepared to respond to an audit? Do you understand your compliance position with the specific software publisher?
  • Are you ready for your software contract negotiation? Do you understand your compliance position as well as what software licenses your company will require in the next three years? Do you need more software or do you have shelfware?

A reliable SAM program provides real-time access to this type of information so that you have the knowledge necessary to make the most educated business decisions.

People, Process, and Technology

Let’s examine SAM in terms of the people, processes and technology required to build a successful program.

The People Factor

Many organizations pursue tools to automate manual processes and labor-intensive tasks. Tools are very important but are not enough. You need skilled resources to analyze and interpret data that is generated by tools. Tools generate business intelligence while people provide business analytics. The output of tools combined with the analysis and interpretation of the data by people will provide your organization with the most complete and accurate information. The bottom line is that people are a very important aspect of your SAM program, which should consist of 80% people and process and 20% tools.

SAM touches many departments within a company. While your SAM program may reside in the IT or Finance organization, it interfaces with many other departments such as Procurement, Legal, Contracts and Vendor Management. For example, when your organization undergoes a contract negotiation with a software supplier, this initiative will involve each of these groups.

What are the primary roles in an IT Asset Management (ITAM) or SAM organization? The following are the primary roles recommended by ITIL.

  • Management Sponsor: functions as the champion who believes in the importance of SAM and who will support and secure funding
  • IT Asset Manager: responsible for tracking all of the IT assets of an organization. The ITAM and SAM Managers are sometimes the same person, depending on the size of the organization and available resources. They are responsible for tracking and managing the IT and/or software assets of the firm.
  • Process Owner: designs, documents and communicates processes
  • License Analyst: understands publisher license models, metrics and nuances, and interprets data
  • Contract Analyst: understands contract terms and conditions and often has legal background
  • Tools Analyst: configures, runs and fixes tools

Many organizations do not have the funding for multiple staff dedicated to SAM, so sometimes a single resource performs more than one of these functions.


Processes are a critical part of a SAM program. To begin, let’s review the difference between a policy, process and procedure. A policy is a statement of intent, a process is a series of actions and a procedure involves step-by-step instructions. In other words, a process is a subset of a policy, and a procedure is a subset of a process, so the hierarchy is Policy, Process, Procedure. The following examples differentiate the three terms.

  • Policy (statement of intent): Our corporation has a formal “Response to an External Audit Request.”
  • Process (series of actions): Describes the workflow of actions to respond to the external audit request
  • Procedure (instructions): Describes the step-by-step instructions to respond to the external audit request

When building a SAM program, there are a number of processes that should be established. First, an organization must be able to track and manage a software license through its lifecycle, from the time it is requested to the time that it is decommissioned. The major stages of the lifecycle of an asset are Request, Procure, Receive, Deploy, Move Add Change, Retire and Dispose. It is important to have a documented process on what occurs in each stage of the software asset lifecycle.

Another example of a process is harvesting or re-using software licenses. Once a computer is retired, many of the software assets on the machine should be permitted to go into a pool of available licenses for re-use. With this process, organizations can avoid a lot of unnecessary expense because additional software licenses will not need to be purchased for new or re-used machines.

There should also be processes in place for determining compliance, preparing for an audit, true-up or contract negotiation, and for managing contracts and vendors.

Process Design

Everyone talks about process, but how do you actually design one? The following are the recommended steps for designing a process.

  1. Identify or describe the purpose of the process
  2. Identify the owner of the process
  3. Identify systems and sources of information for the process
  4. Identify all activities that must be performed in order for the process to function
  5. Organize these activities in swim lanes or parallel efforts
  6. Identify roles or task owners
  7. Determine logical activity flow and dependencies
  8. Determine data requirements for each activity
  9. Document procedures and workflow diagrams

Once a process is designed and documented, it is important to communicate and train the staff who will be required to participate.


Tools are very important to automate processes that are manual and labor intensive. What are the critical tools necessary for a reliable SAM program?
The first is a discovery tool which finds hardware and installed software and collects relevant attributes about them. Some examples of discovery tools and providers are Microsoft’s SCCM, HPE’s DDMI, Avanti, Scalable, BDNA and iQuate.

Another important tool is metering which measures the active usage of software products. An example of a metering solution is OpenIT’s LicenseAnalyzer.

A Software License Management system tracks each type of software license based on appropriate usage criteria, links license requirements to entitlements to deployments, and performs reconciliations to determine the compliance position with selected software publishers. Flexera Software, Concorde Solutions, Snow Software, Scalable Software and Eracent are examples of leading software license management solution providers.

An Asset Management Repository is a database to manage, track and report on IT assets. It serves as the system of record for IT assets for the enterprise. IBM, HP, and the software license management solutions cited provide Asset Management Repositories.

How to Get Started

What is the recommended approach to roll out a SAM program? The following are the high-level steps to get started.

  1. Identify roles and responsibilities of the team
  2. Identify data and information requirements
  3. Design and document processes
  4. Evaluate and select tools
  5. Train on and implement processes
  6. Train on and implement tools
  7. Communicate and kick-off SAM program
  8. Measure program effectiveness and results
  9. Make SAM program adjustments as required
The Secret for Success

What is the secret for success? When it comes to SAM, the secret is the License and Contract Analysts. These roles are critical for demonstrating the business value of your SAM program. The activities performed by the License and Contract Analysts will uncover unnecessary spending and lead to significant cost avoidance for your firm. Working together, the License and Contract Analysts determine your organization’s compliance position with your high-value publishers, ensure that a contract is right-sized leading into a negotiation, identify license harvesting opportunities, maximize product use rights, ensure that the company purchases the software licenses that are truly needed and pays maintenance only on licenses that are being used. Each of these activities can lead to exponential savings which impact the financial bottom line of your company.

In SAM, success is the ability to achieve business value, which is exactly what the License and Contract Analysts produce.

About the Author

Steffani Lomax is the Vice President of Alliances for Siwel Consulting, Inc.