Oftentimes, clients will ask us how to manage software. That’s a loaded question, to be sure, but also a very important one. It’s an endeavor that requires a lot of thought, planning and work. Each organization needs to decide what works best for them, though there are some best practices to consider.
What is Software Asset Management?
This is a question that is best answered by what it isn’t: It’s not a tool, it’s not a person and it’s not a process. It’s all of those things working together. When we limit SAM to one aspect of the complete undertaking, things can get lost in the shuffle.
Let’s start with discussing tools.
I generally recommend Snow Software to customers looking for a robust tool. It’s a complete solution that offers a fully-automated tracking and management system. However, that’s not to say other options aren’t available.
LANDESK, Symantec, Microsoft and many others have good options. The key is to find what fits your needs. Many organizations only need a tool to run a scan a few times per year for a “snapshot” view of their environment. Along those lines, something like the free Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is likely sufficient.
It really depends on what you’re looking to do. The only thing I would stay away from is “freeware” that is created by companies who are not in the software development business. Software Asset Management is important, and you need to have confidence that the numbers you see are accurate and free of conflicts of interest.
Now, let’s talk about the process. I recommend a few, simple steps:
- Create a timeline: Take a look at your most important publisher partners, and mark out on the calendar when each contract comes due. Note, when you have multiple contracts with one publisher, understand how they can be made coterminous – if needed. If a contract requires a true-up, start initial discussions six months before it is due. This allows you to take advantage of any imminent pricing and licensing changes. Multiyear renewals should begin roughly 12 months before the renewal date.
- Schedule quarterly updates: Licensing changes often and the only way to take advantage of these changes is to understand the transitions. Though a change may not immediately affect your contract, being aware of these changes as early as possible allows for better planning. Find a large account reseller (LAR) you trust, and create a routine for disseminating this information.
- Quote renewals annually: Even though most contracts last two or more years, getting a renewal quote each time a major purchase is made eliminates the unknown. For example, a customer who has 500 copies of Office, and then purchases another 100 during the first year, drastically changes what that renewal will look like two years later. Because budgets are often created 12-18 months before a purchase is made, what seems like being “too soon” is dangerously close to being “too late.”
- At least once every 24 months, host a technology briefing to discuss any solution overlaps, product synergies or end-of-life replacements: Most customers focus most of their energy on a true-up after discovering they are under-licensed. However, when you think of it, that is likely the less serious side of the coin. When you have a true-up, it’s (hopefully) because you’re using the software, and it has some value to your company. However, the most common situation we run into is the “true-down,” where too much licensing was purchased in the first place. Keep your technologists accountable for the software your purchasing; making sure it is necessary and useful.
As you can see, Software Asset Management is a very big topic, and one we can discuss for hours (if requested). To talk more about this, reach out to your CDW Account Manager to speak about our SAM offerings, Snow Software or simply more best practices.