Selecting the Right SAM Tool – Truths and Issues to Consider

By Paul “Doc” Burnham, Agnito Advisors

Today, many companies are on a quest to gain control or get better control of their software assets. Companies realize that in order to achieve this goal, they most likely will be required to implement a Software Asset Management (SAM) tool. And, of course, it is imperative to get this task completed in the shortest time possible so that the benefits, especially the cost savings benefits, can be realized. But which tool is the right tool?

There are over thirty different tools available in the market today that do SAM or some part of SAM, and they are all bidding for your business. The features and functionalities of these various tools range from the very basic to the extraordinarily elaborate. So, again, which tool is the right tool?

Depending on whom you ask that answer will be as varied as the number of SAM tools available. So before jumping into the lengthy process of putting a Request for Proposal (RFP) out on the street; or worse, purchasing one of these SAM tools after falling for a vendor’s hype; take the time to understand what you need in a SAM tool and how you plan to utilize this tool.

There are two important facts to remember when considering which tool is the right tool:

  • First and foremost, there is no silver bullet when it comes to tools, especially for SAM tools. Regardless of what a tool vendor tells you, there is no perfect tool available in the market today that will completely satisfy all the SAM needs for a company. But, some of the tools are definitely better than others.
  • A tool is something that should assist in the automation of various processes, functions or tasks that you are performing, therefore making them more efficient. However, while a tool may provide the ability to implement new processes; it cannot create processes for you or make bad processes better. Although it is safe to say that most tools are quite effective at making bad processes provide bad data faster.

While these two things may seem simple, they are often overlooked or even disregarded. So, keep them in mind when evaluating the various SAM tools during your selection process.

Keeping in mind that a tool should assist with the automation of how things are done, it only makes sense that you should first understand what and how you are currently performing these processes, functions and tasks as well as the objective they are intended to achieve. Without this, how will you be able to effectively evaluate if a tool is right for your environment and will meet your needs? The following list is of various processes, functions and tasks that can directly affect the selection of a SAM tool.

While this list is by no means a complete list of all the processes, function and tasks, it does include the most common ones. It is up to you to determine the key criteria in your selection of a SAM tool.

Taking the time to understand not only how your company performs the key criteria, but also how they will be performed and utilized in the future, will save untold amounts of time and aggravation. It is not uncommon for companies to discover that they have not documented key processes, let alone the functions and tasks. Sometimes they discover that their key processes are not achieving their intended or desired objectives. Once the key criteria are understood, the next step in selecting the right tool is to evaluate potential tools with regard to how well they perform against the key criteria.

Processes
Software Requisition
Software Approval
Software Acquisition and Procurement
Discovery and Inventory (by platform)
Software Recognition (stand-alone, suites, etc.)
License Reconciliation (by license metric)
Disposal
Functions and Tasks
Receiving software
License Entitlement Repository
Contract Management (licenses, maintenance, support, etc.)
Software package builds
Software Tagging (ISO/IEC 19770-2)
Software catalogs
Software deployment/delivery (automated, manual, by platform)
Usage and Metering
Reporting capabilities (drill-downs, dashboards, etc.)
Analytics (Business Intelligence)
Import and export capabilities (csv, xls, pdf, mlx, etc.)
Integration with other systems (procurement, system management, etc.)
Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity
SAM tool support

During your evaluation of SAM tools, more than likely you will discover a few things that may surprise you, like: just how different the tools are in both functionality and operation; no tool matches all your key criteria, especially out-of-the box; and the price of the tool is not an automatic indicator of how effective the tool can perform.

As part of the evaluation process, it is also a very good idea to run a pilot project of the top two or three tools on your short list so that you can really evaluate how the tool performs in your environment. Don’t be surprised if a tool that looked great in a demo seems to perform less that desired in your environment. There are no silver bullets or perfect tools when it comes to SAM, but there are tools that can accomplish what you need. Your job is to find that right tool.

The final thing to remember is that the right tool also needs to fit within your budget constraints. It does not matter how well a tool performs against key criteria if you will never acquire and implement it because it is not within your budget. Outside the budget cannot be the right tool.

Good luck in your quest to find your right tool.