In the past, the motivation for adopting a software asset management (SAM) solution was often compliance. This has now largely changed as more organisations are waking up to the idea that SAM intelligence has a much greater commercial value.
This sentiment was evident from the findings of a recent poll in which 36% of my customers said they now placed greater importance on achieving software cost savings through their SAM programme than simply ensuring they were compliant with their licensing obligations. Only 22% of users said their SAM programme was still primarily focused on reacting to a vendor audit.
To support this change in priorities, SAM solutions have in turn been evolving to support better decision-making. They can now provide an asset repository, IT risk register and a source of detailed information to support a variety of functions – from procurement, HR and finance, through to security and facilities management.
But although the awareness exists that there’s more to SAM than simple compliance, behaviours have yet to follow and many users are not fully utilising the broad functionality now available. Returning to the same customer survey to back this up, 91% of respondents said they were still only using their SAM solution for hardware and software asset tracking; and they also admitted that they use less than 60% of the software’s functionality.
As a rich source of information, a SAM solution could and should be used for so much more. This article proposes three additional ways that data within SAM could be used to improve organisational decision-making.
1. Measuring The Success Of Software Change
Consider the example of a head of internal training within an international organisation that has just deployed a brand new HR app, allowing employees to update their own profiles, complete timesheets, set training requirements and career goals. A SAM solution can monitor the uptake of this application, enabling further trend analysis to find out which regions or departments are ‘struggling’ with the use of the app and where to direct additional training resources. No software change programme can really be considered successful without this level of user acceptance analysis.
2. Providing An IT Risk Register
With minor changes it’s possible to extend a SAM solution to provide an IT risk register. The recent economic downturn has meant that banks and other financial institutions now have a greater number of regulatory rules imposed on them. One of these rules requires banks to have the ability to track what software and hardware is in use by their different business units during day-to-day operations. A SAM solution can provide this and will show what is installed and where, plus which users are accessing those applications.
It is also possible to extend the information with some additional fields (for both hardware and software) to record, for instance, ‘end of support’ and ‘end of life’ dates, as well assign a risk category that indicates how critical the relevant asset is to the business.
Once this has been added, reports can be run for example, highlighting all hardware that is reaching the end of support phase in the next 6-12 months, sorting hardware according to how critical it is for maintaining business as usual (BAU), identifying where upgrade or replacement priorities should be and investigating potential extended warranties. It is also possible to model which business units/ departments/ users are likely to be most affected by outages and what the financial impact could be.
3. Tracking Financial Expenditure
A SAM solution is also very useful for the finance function because it can be used for internal cross charging and budgeting of IT services provided by an organization in the same way as it can monitor software spend and match it with licensing entitlements. SAM data forms the essential ingredient in a cross charging policy because it helps to isolate exactly how software and other IT resources are being utilised, based on cost of ownership, number of installs and general usage levels by individual users and departments.
The data from SAM solution can also be used to obtain tax relief or cash rebates from the taxman. In the UK, HMRC offers all companies the opportunity to obtain a generous level of corporation tax relief or a 14.5% tax credit on 125% of qualifying expenditure.
In very simple terms, if your company is involved with innovative ‘R&D’ projects (based on HMRC’s criteria), you could obtain tax credits to cover costs incurred on the hardware, software, energy, property and human resources used by that function during the project. By configuring a SAM solution in the right way, it is possible to quickly identify many of the relevant assets involved and extract the data needed to submit as evidence to support a claim.
A SAM solution is essential for organisations wanting to understand their compliance position and it is a way to avoid overspending on software for all the major vendors ranging from Microsoft to Autodesk, Adobe, Oracle and SAP. But, it is also much more. When used in conjunction with the right people and processes, a SAM solution can become the ‘de facto’ IT intelligence tool. It is a source of constantly updated data that can enable business operations from the boardroom to HR, from business resilience to procurement and contract management to be optimised. And let’s not overlook its value for IT too.