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Has the industry created a SAM merry-go-round?

30 Apr 2018

Has the industry created a SAM merry-go-round? Scream if you want to go faster…

 

It’s generally agreed that effective Software Asset Management requires a combination of technology (in the form of a tool or tools) and process, in the form of services delivered by skilled internal or external resource. The key issue seems to be around identifying and agreeing the ideal balancing point. A generalized view results in complete polarization: on one side we have tools which over promise or under-deliver; on the other we have service providers who make margin by creating mystery. It all adds up to an interesting situation and it’s possible to draw playground analogies about see-saws.

Surely the only thing any SAM provider (whether a tool vendor or services outfit) should be focused on is delivering value for money and 100% satisfaction. Sadly, the general view of various industry commentators seems to be that this isn’t the case and it’s the customer who keeps losing out. Clearly this is completely unacceptable. Rather than a see-saw, it appears the SAM industry has created a merry-go-round and it’s time we all worked together to help customers get off.

So let’s try to get to the bottom of the problem. Let’s first consider services.

There are numerous examples of service providers delivering a SAM managed service underpinned by a particular tool, that they don’t come close to fully utilizing. While their service may include providing the customer with access to the tool, its purpose is often just superficial. When it comes to the key service deliverables – such as ELPs, optimization etc. – the provider’s preference is to use their own time-consuming, manually intensive, processes: analyzing data off-line in spreadsheets, producing cost-savings reports etc. The situation is even more extreme when it comes to the delivery of point-in-time projects, where specialist providers rely even more heavily on manual processes and complex activity: running scripts etc.

Why is this happening? A cynical view might be that it’s because service provider revenues are largely dependent on the amount of skilled resource (in the form of consultancy days) required to deliver their solutions. The more resource, the higher the cost, which is passed on to the customer. Why would a service provider be willing to take the time to understand and utilize the high levels of automation available from an advanced SAM tool (or for that matter, help properly educate their customer in how to use the technology), when the ‘reward’ is effectively a reduced need for their services and lower revenues?

On the other hand, of course, another generalized view could be that the tools simply aren’t up to the job. Indeed, there are many instances where this view does hold water and particular vendors have to take responsibility for creating some serious customer dissonance. Some claims by ‘leading’ tool vendors are quite simply ‘mis-leading’. It’s also alarming that there are tools out there which profess to be highly automated, yet actually depend on back office teams manually crunching data to populate and hand-crank the system. In addition, there’s also the challenge of implementation. Deploying SAM tools has traditionally been a frustratingly lengthy and complex process, which doesn’t make them ideal for delivering one-off projects. So maybe the service providers do have some valid points after all.

However… Not all vendors are the same. Certain vendors (well one in particular really, but we’ll leave you to work out who) genuinely do have an architectural advantage and offer highly automated solutions that actually deliver on their promises. They can also offer zero-touch, fully in the Cloud deployment: perfect for point-in-time projects. And if you want a SaaS solution, you don’t have to worry about limited functionality. In fact, such strides in development and innovation mean that using the term ‘tool’ to describe these new offerings is doing them a disservice. These are products with rich functionality, able to deliver modern solutions to address today’s challenges and beyond.

Such highly automated, advanced technology has proved to deliver better, faster, more accurate, repeatable and consistent results. Although it will never entirely replace the need for highly-skilled consultants or licensing experts, it does reduce the need for good chunks of resource, as well as improving service levels, quality, value for money and customer satisfaction.

The key challenge is overcoming the FUD that’s overwhelming organizations who’ve had their fingers burnt in the past by hollow vendor promises. Experience shows that the best way to overcome such doubts is with a straightforward POC, that – given the advanced provisioning capabilities offered by the latest technology – literally takes a few days, not weeks or months.

So that’s the technology side sorted; what about the process/services aspect? While the latest technology may overcome any service provider reticence about ‘tools’ that aren’t up to the job, doesn’t it still present a ‘threat’ by automating some of their offerings?

We would suggest such a view – if indeed it were actually held – would be short-sighted. Rather than worrying about lower revenues and/or having costly consultants sitting on the bench, we’re sure service providers would instead embrace the technology, realizing the opportunity to deliver better services with less resource, having a more attractive value proposition, being more competitive and hence able to win and support more customers.

So, rather than channeling investment into sales and marketing hype, let’s see more vendors truly developing and delivering non-legacy, fit-for-purpose, modern solutions. And let’s see more service providers fully embracing that technology to ultimately give customers what they deserve and help them get off the SAM merry-go-round.

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