Digital Transformation and Software Asset Management

Matt Fisher, Chief Marketing Officer, Certero


Software Asset Management and Digital Transformation: Address the Top Challenges to Add Value

Last week at the SAMS Europe event in Berlin I had the pleasure of facilitating a series of round table discussions on the topic of how Software Asset Management should be adding value to Digital Transformation projects, why it might not be happening and how to fix the most important disconnects.

It became clear over the course of five 30-minute work groups that, while there was a lot of discussion and many different points to consider, there were also a couple of common topics that kept bubbling to the top. Specifically, the 25 or so participants (all senior SAM stakeholders in large European enterprises) felt that in order for the Software Asset Management function to provide a valuable contribution to the organization’s Digital Transformation efforts, there needed to be greater focus on:

  1. Building relationships with non-SAM stakeholders
  2. Choosing tool sets fit for tomorrow’s needs, not yesterday’s

Let’s look at these two concerns as they were discussed by the groups last week.

Building Relationships with Key Stakeholders

This was listed as a top-three takeaway by no less than four of the five discussion groups. There was general acceptance that the Software Asset Management team too often acts in isolation, yet is sat on data, insight and expertise that could be really beneficial to many stakeholders across the organization.

Most participants agreed that the SAM team can’t wait to be invited to the party. It needs to proactively engage with stakeholders and demonstrate how the SAM function can add value to Digital Transformation and Governance projects.

This could be achieved in a number of ways: from preparing dashboards of useful insights for stakeholders, securing executive sponsorship for a greater role in Digital Transformation projects (most SAM teams represented reported directly into either the CIO or CFO) or even using coffee and cake to bribe reluctant stakeholders into having meetings with the SAM team!

What was clear from the work groups was that (in these cases) the SAM team was not happy sitting back and only working on their current priorities. They want to help their organizations achieve their transformational goals and they know they can add value.

An interesting side note here is that, when asked how many attendees at the SAMS Europe event had received personal career development training (as opposed to ‘hard skills’ training such as licensing or product training), less than 10% of hands went up. It’s perhaps unrealistic for organizations to expect their SAM teams to suddenly become great at networking when they don’t equip them with the interpersonal skills to do so.


Software Asset Management Tool Sets for Tomorrow’s Needs

The second common theme that came up across the individual discussion groups was that they lacked the tools – and thus the visibility – to play an early role in their organization’s Digital Transformation efforts.

There was consensus that most SAM teams currently don’t have enough visibility of the spend outside IT or the consumption of technology in the cloud and on mobile devices. Most SAM teams today are still focused heavily on on-premises software (and hardware), partly because their tools don’t offer more. There was acknowledgement that SaaS spend is likely costing the organization too much and while in many cases processes were lacking, even where they were established, the tools did not help enforce them.

Some SAM teams are also constrained by the reporting and analytics capabilities of their current SAM tools, feeling they lack either the pre-canned reports necessary to satisfy the needs of a growing group of stakeholders or the ability to deep-dive and analyze data in a way that reflects their evolving needs. Some couldn’t even create dynamic dashboards in their solutions and were resorting to sharing PowerPoint files with senior stakeholders on a monthly basis.

This dissatisfaction with tools also contributed to other areas identified as important if Software Asset Management is to have a seat at the Digital Transformation table, such as better understanding of current baseline, improved visibility of toxic cloud (SaaS and IaaS) cloud consumption and establishing a great control over spend.


Increasing the Value of Software Asset Management

Outlined above are two very different challenges with very different solutions. I’ve advocated for some time now that ‘soft skills’ are incredibly important in Software Asset Management, where relationships with key stakeholders across the organization make the difference between program success and failure, and indeed gaining greater respect (and opportunity) for the function.

In my view soft skills training would be highly beneficial to any senior SAM professional.

What might be less obvious, but help achieve a similar result, is your choice of Software Asset Management services provider. A good SAM services partner knows how to navigate the complicated politics of large organizations as well as they understand the intricacies of data center licensing. A good SAM services partner can be just like having a personal coach on your shoulder.

In terms of the SAM tool limitations highlighted by our work groups, there are potentially two different situations to look at. For organizations that have not yet invested in a SAM tools (admittedly not many of those in our groups, as they represented large mature enterprises) it means taking extra care to make sure the tool selection criteria is not based on a historic view of Software Asset Management, but a forward-looking anticipation of what the core requirements will be in 12-36 months (establishing those requirements could be a great way to meet those new stakeholders you need to build relationships with).

For organizations that have incumbent SAM tools, the decision is whether to stick with what you have (accepting the inherent limitations or trying to work round them), to supplement existing tools with new tools or services that can fill the gaps, or to bite the bullet and swap out the current tools for something more suited to your existing needs.

There’s no doubt the last option is perhaps the most daunting. But not necessarily as daunting as you might think. It’s fair to say that Software Asset Management tools have a reputation for being slow to deploy, difficult to configure and resource-heavy to manage. All of which means that swapping is not a decision to be made lightly.

But – for some SAM tools at least – times have changed and SaaS architectures means that SAM tools can be deployed (and start generating value) in days, not months.

For more information on how a SAM partner can help you develop the relationships you need across the organization, or for advice on when you should or shouldn’t look at swapping out your current SAM tools, why not speak to a Software Asset Management expert from Certero today.

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