SAM reporting – what do you report from your SAM universe?

By Christian Björkly-Nordström

You are capital C Compliant, managing users licensing needs, control your vast software estate proactively? Sounds fab, but if no-one in management know you are doing great, or share your fears due to license rule changes, where will you get your support or encouragement from?

Or said this way: What reports and data do you furnish your leaders with so they can make excellent business decisions and bump profits? When & how often? How do you get their requirements? (In fact do you, at all? Do they even know you exist? Insert appropriate smiley…)

This is a humble attempt to prompt some thinking and possibly action in this area, and it starts with a working SAM tool with enough cover & confidence in the data to say: we really do asset identification across the estate! If you do not yet do this, abandon this article, go back to the drawing board and formulate a new plan. Your ‘death star’ of software asset management is not really ready for a demonstration of its full potential….. On the other hand, if you somewhat confidently state you know what your estate contains of, then by all means please do carry on!

Data you will have and insights you can provide:

1) Granting access to a SAM system (covering asset detection/identification coupled with repository and fiscal information) should be done with care. The opposite should be said about your SAM reporting. Shout from the rooftops: ‘Data, fresh accurate data, readily available!’ Use your tool’s inherent reporting capability to create, distribute and get feedback to enhance or alter according to the business’s requirements. If you want to change things up, data needs to be accurate so take time to verify, then make sure the appropriate teams get their slice of the data pie. Think about the big projects that are running, do they need reports on what software they have in development, test and production? Of course they do, but they might have that covered, you need to add the licensing knowledge. Are they compliant, if not help them to become. Are they using multiple versions, tools that cover same area, what is the combined cost, is there any software present you are dubious to? Do they harvest, in the correct manner? The development areas might have it all under Jedi-like control. Well, awesome! Then tell them what a shining example they are at asset management and let the other departments know too.

2) Appoint, develop, hire or acquire a reporting guru. This investment pays for itself quickly, as you need much more reports to be set up initially, and then your team will learn and keep on top of later. Ensure you build the reports that ‘you always need’ that for example combine application, licensing, computer and user data. If it is not straight out of the tool, then find other ways, build for the future self that will thank you for not making ‘another manual data compare’! Always share the new shiny reports with someone, this build momentum, team skill & spirit. Whenever I see that last step of sharing is missed, either on purpose or by culture, I try to mention that Ken Blanchard was right, about at least one thing: None of us is smarter than ALL of us…..

3) Another easy hit is undesired applications. Not only software that could introduce security risks, by being unsupported, a known malware magnet, information leak, or simply that you use it to move files between work and home? As you are diligently carving out a name for yourself, not realising that the ideas in the file are now residing on foreign soil, where jurisdiction might be mistaken for a hockey player. What about where you have instances of products that are both commercial and open source, do you report on this? Most tools worth their air miles will have an out of the box filter that you can set to produce regular reports from. Ensure the right attention is given to the reports, from security, sure they are big players these days, but don’t forget risk, compliance and R&D, development teams. None of these want to find that any masterplans, designs or inappropriate nasties are popping up where they should not. First time you report undesired applications, limit yourself to only a few if you have plenty, take immediate action and be brave, people need to take notice of that this is not ok by you! Follow up after a while, highlight the positive progress, and release the hounds on the stragglers. Tune the filters, review regularly and share the data with the interested parties, they will help to adjudicate on your behalf.

4) Software metering provides a depth on application information, which at times scare me, not as bad as clowns, but still. Imagine that your SAM tool’s sampling cycle allows for a review on application usage time in minutes. So if application Z is used for a minute or less, it is logged and can be crunched as such. So imagine this is an expensive creating tool of sorts, but here only operated for reviewing files, not utilising those clever functions that took thousands of dollars and man hours to build and price the product thereafter. Now imagine that this file review can be performed to the same level of quality, but much cheaper, and in some cases even for free. Again, no tool is an information silver bullet, check it, trial it, ask users, involve purchasing. If they too like the info, it can be used to negotiate a better deal once the usage is understood and visible. Can you through behavioural changes help users towards a better reality and the save some money for them you are ready for taking reporting to the next level.

5) Jerry Maguire taught us ‘Show me the money’ so where do you spend the majority of our cash, and do you get a fair return? Examine the big ones first, review the usage over time. Are the users having an install – but keeping it pristine, as in Unused? A user that has 20 pieces of software installed but only use half of it on a regular basis, does that provide a decent return on investment for your corporation? It can, but is not likely for ‘normal’ software, although for specialist items, few installations and infrequent use can actually be good business, and only you in the SAM team will know and are able to prove it. So trimming the number of installs will save you money, possibly not in the short term if you are tied up a longer agreements, BUT it will set you up for an informed negotiation once it expires. You could for instance go for flexibility in combination with reduced numbers, or one of them. Point is, the vendor will not have the same intel on your real need as you do, and that on its own gives you an advantage. So, once you collected, collated and formalised your data, apply your business acumen and talk to your leadership team. Propose a way forward, once they see your data and plan are sound, they will be wanting and needing more where that came from. In a time of information overload, intelligence scarcity can overpower or obfuscate important SAM messages in your organisation. Pick wisely your targets & messages. Deliver proposals succinctly, get buy in, measure results of the change, and communicate results straight to your backers.

You pick (easy) winning horses and intelligently use your SAM system data, the leadership team will be a happy customer of the SAM data and subsequent change. So what do you look for? Software metering – what is used, how often, how much per occasion and what the price of that privilege can, if unused, be transformed into potential savings. Bear in mind that this is low hanging fruit, most SAM worth their salt will already have looked in this direction, only question is how far have you gazed and how accurate? Do not stop at the reports from the system, you must dig deeper, perhaps speak with some users, a team lead or other knowledgeable informant, so that you know that once the savings starts hitting (hurting) they will still support the effort and see the long term gain. Your users will then not have to be won over, they are thinking of you as their agent of change, and that is the ideal position to be in. So for the cheap seats; double check the system data with reality, and if they do not tally up, reverse and check again. Data always needs to be verified. Full stop.

6) Management hates surprises, they may have built interstellar careers on knowing things first, so they are able to act with initiative and purpose. They are therefore your captive audience, this is where your Venn diagrams overlap, and you transcend from an IT boffin in the basement to a valuable source to build intergalactic supremacy from. Where to impress them, except the cash….well in this universe it all leads to that, in one form or another BUT the way there can be vastly different. Allow me to illustrate: Imagine you have 5 software tools that do pretty much the same, with different price tags of course. Review them side by side, potentially (likely) one has the majority tapped in.

  • Check with the users why they prefer this, understand their view, and assemble your arsenal of arguments. Find the opposition to this, understand that, you’ll need that later, and right now to be informed when you pick your pony in this race.
  • Check version history and when a new version is made available, do your homework on the product, vendor, security issues and any other ‘warts’ to be unearthed in order find out if this is a winner.
  • Speak with your purchasing department, get their side of the story, you might be surprised to find out how much they know about assets, and most of it very useful. They will usually tell you straight up if you are barking mad, or onto something good. Listen, understand, and if they too get in behind you on this, document the numbers and get a slot and present to the leadership team for a decision.
  • Phase out the losing tools wisely, some late adopters will protest (not unlike myself regarding VHS) but as you already know why they protest, that has been taken into account, AND was presented to the leadership for approval earlier. Once you set sail on this asset optimisation, do not deviate, ensure the cleansing is deep and as complete as can be. Go back and verify, you can now order medals & cocktails.
  • For extra points, consider the vendors point of view, extract reports from your system that shows the state change, date and save for a potential rainy day…or if they are real allies, notify them about the change and which way you are heading. For this you’ll need senior management or purchasing’s ‘fingerspitzengefühle’ (Fingertip feeling) and support to decide to do or do not. But it can go a long way to solidify a strategic partnership.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the article, maybe because you already know these reporting tricks, or you got some new ideas how to use Software Asset Management reporting? I can only say that once you have the data locked in, don’t hesitate to regularly report & share what you find, topic by topic, showing savings, dangers both hidden and in plain sight. As the Batman one liner should have said: ‘It’s not who I am underneath, but what I report, that defines me’.

About the Author

Christian Björkly-Nordström (CSAM) has worked as an IT project manager for the last 15 years, in a variety of business areas and businesses, with the majority being in the areas of technology-instigated-change. As such he has frequently rolled out new & updated software, in which licensing concerns had to be addressed. This fostered an interest in the licensing particulars, which led to a consulting assignment at Saab, where he happily still works on SAM strategies, audits, software provisioning and improving the asset management practice. As a former naval officer, the choice of working in security and defense industry came natural.