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SAM in an age of remote working

Bryant Caldwell, trustee of The ITAM Forum, considers what the shift to remote working means for software asset managers

As COVID-19 continues to transform our personal and professional lives, one very noticeable change has been the rapid shift to remote working. For many organisations, this is a completely new way of working and the success of these enforced pilots suggests that in the future we are likely to see a higher level of remote working than we did before the pandemic.

For a software asset management (SAM) manager, the long-term shift to homeworking provides an opportunity to re-evaluate a SAM programme, tactically and strategically; to assess its overall health and scope; and to work out how SAM can capitalise on the benefits of a remote workforce.

So what effects are changing working practices likely to have on the three elements on which any SAM programme is based – People, Process and Technology?

*People. Where does your team sit today? Were they all co-located in the same office? Have you adopted BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) principles for specific needs? What does your staffing look like under a fully remote worker concept?

In the past, the recruitment of SAM skillsets was typically restricted by geography, with many good candidates based too far away or not willing to re-locate. Today, recruiting quality candidates beyond your local market may be received very differently by management and HR than it would have been pre-COVID.

Imagine if you could design your SAM team with a fractional workforce in areas requiring depth of expertise and full-time employees for the balance of work. For example, you could hire a SAM Tool expert, at 25% demand, through an external provider; hire key resources with depth of knowledge in licensing for Adobe, Oracle, Microsoft, at 50% demand, to help determine ‘optimal’ licensing positions and negotiate better terms/fees in renewals. The remaining 25% of the team could be full-time, spread across the program and overseeing inventory, discovery, reporting and general management.

In this way, a small team could, for a similar outlay, evolve into a medium-to-large team with deep expertise. If outsourcing isn’t your game, reevaluate your program needs against current staff skillsets to suit a more mobile workforce.

*Process. The days of conducting physical inventories to reconcile against SAM tools are rapidly becoming a thing of the past as software moves to the cloud. Have you already formulated a plan to embrace cloud technologies? If not, now is the time to do so.

This will most likely involve a change of approach, as you internally audit software and seek out each install in your discovery tools to reach a position where you know you’re compliant. But what about under-use?

SaaS solutions are wonderful when it comes to maintaining compliance – you cannot be non-compliant. However, they require a different skillset and process to manage spend properly. Having users in those systems on a ‘per seat’ basis feels more economical since it’s ‘turnkey’. But what about users assigned a subscription who move to a new role and no longer use the product or use less of it? Do you have the processes needed to monitor and identify overspend? Once we were overly concerned with just being compliant. With SaaS, there is now the need to monitor consumption levels.

You should also consider whether your software catalogue presents solutions to end users that match their changed working environment? Virtual whiteboards, cloud note taking, talk to text, report sharing, progress/metric tracking and similar productivity tools are all worth considering for remote teams.

*Tools/Technologies. Traditionally, SAM Programs operate using on-premise, installed tools to conduct inventory, discovery and repository for entitlements and offer compliance positions through the SAM tool provider’s proprietary logic. There are benefits in moving these to the cloud, but also much to consider when deciding to do so. You must understand the TCO (total cost of ownership) of your infrastructure – the licences to run your databases, support for the hardware, patching, your internal employees supporting the infrastructure, upgrades, not to mention maintenance and support contracts. A shift to the cloud might provide some peace of mind without any additional cost. Just understand what you’re giving up. For example, how much control will you have over your company’s data?

These are challenging times and external service providers and software publishers are pivoting to protect their revenue streams. Conduct a full SAM Program health check, lay out your roadmap and ask yourself whether it encompasses the coming changes. If it doesn’t, seize this opportunity to move beyond performing daily cycles and status quo work to become a strategic business partner for those who invest in you.

Bryant Caldwell is global asset manager for P&G and a trustee of the newly-formed ITAM Forum. (see page 20) (or online – back two posts)

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