It’s just a fact of life in our world today: Business executives must be proactive in managing software assets — not only so that their organizations can respond rapidly to demands and changes, but also so that they can manage software costs in near real time.

As a business discipline, SAM aims to help businesses manage and optimize the purchase, deployment, maintenance, utilization and disposal of software. But are organizations anywhere near reaching a state where their managers have complete control and knowledge of what’s happening with their software assets? I’m afraid not (and I can say this because, as a SAM specialist, I spend my days helping businesses wrangle their applications and software repositories).

Even though the management of software assets has been a topic of discussion in IT circles for years, many organizations have not been proactive enough to move into a dynamic state where they can manage the changes brought on by virtualization, cloud computing, mobile device use and an ever-changing cyberthreat environment. Most have not achieved even a marginal state, I’m sorry to say.

So how can companies change this situation and reach SAM nirvana?

  • First, take a proactive approach instead of waiting to react when a software publisher or vendor arrives for an audit.

Too often managers deal with the audit and then, once it’s completed, move on — not recognizing that they need a process in place to manage apps as part of their day-to-day activities. That’s understandable. Dealing with an audit takes so much time that once it’s over, most folks just want to wash their hands of dealing with software management.

But they need to make it a priority, and work to get senior management buy-in by demonstrating the potential cost savings that active software management and the right tools can achieve. In fact, the focus should not be on how much it costs to implement SAM, but rather how much smart SAM tactics will save the company. (Remember that Gartner stat.)

It helps to have a manager and team dedicated to SAM. Many organizations task the procurement department, IT department or someone in IT who manages desktops with SAM. But without a specific person or team responsible for regularly managing software assets, consider what happens when an audit arises: Workers are pulled from their regular roles to handle this time-consuming effort. Other projects and programs grind to a halt — and so does productivity.

  • Next, put processes in place to gain control of your software purchases.

What’s your approach? Is it centralized, so managers control what is going on in the environment, making sure that end users actually use the software and providing real value to the business while having a system in place to reharvest software not being used.

If not, set up a structure to ensure that the IT team approves all purchases or downloads. That’s the only way a business can effectively get a handle on software licenses, given the widespread adoption of virtualization, cloud computing and mobile devices.

  • Finally, bring in an enterprise SAM tool.

An enterprise solution will incorporate inventory, license, contract and full lifecycle management for all software assets.

There are several tools on the market, but you’ll want to investigate them carefully. Some are repository tools that simply spit out spreadsheet reports detailing what software you have without providing deeper information to help you figure out how to reduce costs and better manage your applications. Instead, look for enterprise tools that gather comprehensive details and offer pointers to help you make strategic decisions.

And, as a last thought, I’ll share what I often tell my clients: Don’t let audits result in you giving ownership of your software management to software publishers or vendors; instead, take responsibility for your organization’s software.

With a good plan and enterprise approach, you can control the situation better than you realize.

Is your business big on Software as a Service? Learn what’s unique about SAM and the cloud in this CDW trend article.

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