Opinion: SAM - The service provider's gold mine

Software Asset Management (SAM) needs an informed reseller supporting the technology to ensure that the customer gets the best out of it, according to Sean Robinson, director of License Dashboard.

Software Asset Management (SAM) needs an informed reseller supporting the technology to ensure that the customer gets the best out of it, according to Sean Robinson, director of License Dashboard.

The benefits of software asset management (SAM) has long been argued, but when it comes to actually deploying SAM software, organisations are often ill-equipped with the skills or specialist knowledge required to really take advantage of it. Sean Robinson.jpg

According to IDC, as many as 91% of organisations "need significantly more work in managing their SAM programmes to realise the benefits and potentially significant cost savings associated with SAM." 

As a result of this, organisations either choose not to deploy SAM tools or risk failing to fully utilise the SAM tools they already have, resulting not just in wasted investment in the tool itself but also increasing the chances of facing costly non-compliance costs or unnecessary software spend.

Neither are good situations to be in, especially when a solution can be obtained so easily through a growing number of Managed Service Providers (MSPs). By combining advanced audit and licensing technologies with expert knowledge of licensing and SAM, some resellers in the UK are bringing to market highly effective and affordable SAM services.  But these are still relatively few and far between, and usually the preserve of Large Account Resellers (LARs) or top-tier resellers for major vendors. Why then are other resellers slow or reluctant to seize the market opportunity around managed SAM services?

SAM: Today's gold rush
Any new venture is traditionally a balance of the relationship between risk and reward, with the size of the reward directly correlated to the size of the risk taken. So what is the greatest factor driving the slow uptake of hosted SAM services by the UK's service providers - risk or reward? Is the risk too high or are the rewards simply too low?

Given that 91% of organisations need help, the rewards are clearly there, so this must be a matter of risk. But how much risk is really involved? Unlike the almost reckless abandon of the 19th century gold diggers who ventured into the Wild West to find their fortunes, service providers are naturally much more risk averse. Unlike the gold diggers they have much more to lose. They want the gold, but without the same risk.

But what are the risks?
Those who have attempted to offer SAM services in the past will have understandable concerns, primarily due to the limitations of the SAM software available at the time. Traditionally, SAM software needed to be deployed onto the customers' site, inevitably making the service more difficult to deliver and manage, and also less attractive to the customer who doesn't want to pay for a consultant to visit their office every week.

At the same time they tended to rely on manual rather than automated data entry, again making SAM solutions relatively time consuming, costly to use, and more prone to error. The amount of manual labour involved also eliminated any worthwhile margins for the MSP delivering the service, thus reducing the reward as well as raising the risk.

However, whereas these concerns would have been true a few years ago, they are simply not the case today. MSPs can now host SAM solutions themselves (or even engage a third party to do it) and deliver a service to their clients at very low cost, thus eliminating the client-hosting issue. SAM software has also become much more automated, especially in terms of data entry for both audit and licensing information.

Importing Microsoft License Statements for example, a process that historically would have taken days or weeks, can now be completed within an hour. Similarly, applying intelligence around different licensing conditions used to rely on an encyclopaedic knowledge on the part of a SAM consultant, much of this can now be automated by the right solution. While many other improvements have been made to SAM solutions over the years, these changes alone significantly reduce the risk and boost the returns available to an MSP looking to deliver SAM as a service.

The SAM pitch - much more than fine prevention
So if you're a service provider looking to offer SAM solutions, what is the best way to sell it to your customers? The point to remember is that SAM should not be viewed as just a tool for ensuring compliance and avoiding hefty fines if an organisation is found to be under-licensed, but as a means of ensuring they get the best value from the licenses they own and to ensure software can be more reactive to business demands.

By proactively managing the organisation's software portfolio you can ensure that the amount spent on it directly relates to the productivity benefits derived from it, by showing clearly how much is spent on each application vs. how much it's used. Having full knowledge of the software versions on the estate also helps with version control as you can see which titles are up-to-date and which need retiring / upgrading in favour of newer versions.

On the compliance front, by having software entitlements logically collated in one central resource, organisations can more easily prove their software entitlements and avoid a software audit costing the earth. 46% of organisations who have been through a software audit found the effort and cost of conducting the audit to be significant , so avoiding this cost, on top of avoiding the fines of being found under-licensed, is yet another worthwhile benefit.

By offering software asset management as a service, the UK's service providers are presented with a real, nascent market opportunity. Now all they need to do is choose the best SAM technology partner to ride with.

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