Assets Pays Big Dividends
Awhile back, we brought you the story of Ted , a CIO at a midsized company who was struggling to get a handle on his software licenses and IT costs. If you haven't taken a systematic approach to managing your company's software assets, you might be facing many of the same issues that bedeviled Ted: multiple desktops to support, a variety of licensing agreements to manage, and IT support costs that gobble up too much of your budget.
If those problems sound familiar, you need to meet Ted's best friend: SAM. That's capital S - capital A - capital M, as in Software Asset Management. SAM is a vital set of business processes that can help you control costs and risks, optimize resources, and grow your business. With SAM, you save money by using what you have, and you eliminate excess spending by determining your true software needs. What's more, by adopting processes that help secure your IT infrastructure, SAM helps provides peace of mind about viruses and other threats from unauthorized software. It enables you to optimize your infrastructure, drive automation, and empower employees to increase their productivity. In short, SAM positions IT - and you, as CIO - as a strategic asset and an indispensable partner in your company's growth.
So, just what is SAM? It's a set of systematic processes comprised of four basic steps:
1. Take inventory;
find out what you already have.
Let's take a look at each step in a little more detail.
Take Inventory. This is your first step. You need to know what software your company has installed in your environment, and how and by whom it's being used. Armed with this information, you can begin to make decisions about which products you really need and where they should be deployed, and you'll start to see opportunities for saving money. You might even find some unauthorized programs that employees have installed without your knowledge, putting your company at risk of noncompliance and opening the door to a host of nasty malware.
Get Organized. With the inventory completed, you're ready to find, record, and systematize the licensing and documentation for each software title and version. You'll need to track down all the documentation and create a detailed license report. For this step, it's best to get an accurate view of your complete software entitlement by obtaining your current Microsoft License Statement. After you've compiled the report, you can compare it to the inventory you created in step 1, and you can readily see where your company is over- or under-licensed with respect to specific software products and versions. This is also known as a gap analysis. This information will help you make cost-effective decisions about your software deployment.
Create Policies and Procedures. Now that you know what software you have and where it's being used, it's time to create or revise the policies that will ensure the proper management of your software assets on an ongoing basis. You'll want to make sure you have procedures in place for every phase of the software life cycle, from acquisition, to storage and disaster protection, to use (including installation and retirement).
Maintain the Plan. Congratulations, you've got a SAM plan in place. Now you need to keep it going by committing to the ongoing analysis of your software and planning for anticipated needs. You'll want to track your software inventory through regularly scheduled updates and spot checks. In addition, you'll need to institute a regular review of standardized applications and systems, with an eye toward optimizing your assets and educing costs. Finally, you'll want to implement regular training for employees, so they can get the most out of their IT tools at the least cost to the IT staff.
Sound daunting? It needn't be. You can contact your Microsoft Certified Partner for Licensing Solutions to obtain a complimentary SAM engagement. During a SAM engagement, your IT partner will use tools to track your current software usage -and compare it to your present licenses. Your partner will then help you analyze and systematize your licenses and make recommendations so you get the most value from your software products, and will assist you in setting up or enhancing your ongoing SAM program.
With SAM in place, you'll be in a position to rationalize your company's software assets, ensuring that you have the right programs in the right departments, helping employees achieve maximum productivity. You'll know which licenses you need to renew and when, and which can be retired or reduced. You'll have the data necessary to help increase your company's protection from the unauthorized use of software and the viruses and malware such use can bring. You'll even be better prepared to meet government compliance regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley. You'll achieve greater standardization of software across the company, which, in turn, will help reduce those costly helpdesk requests.
Perhaps most importantly, you'll be in a position to use the potential short- and long-term savings from SAM to make strategic technology investments that will help your company evolve in today's economy. This is critical as we move into the post-recession era, with companies once again willing to invest in IT - provided you can show positive ROI. Moreover, SAM can be invaluable if your company is considering a merger, or if its software enterprise agreements are coming up for renewal. Still need convincing? Then take a look at what SAM did for Interline Brands, a Jacksonville, Florida-based company that markets and distributes maintenance, repair and operations products. Having expanded rapidly through natural growth and acquisitions, Interline Brands found itself in an awkward position. Its IT group was maintaining 120 computer servers, and 2,000 of its 3,000 employees were regular computer users, but the company lacked an automated asset management or inventory tool to track its software assets. Moreover, Interline Brands had assumed ownership of incompletely tracked software assets and multiple licensing arrangements as part of recent acquisitions.
As Dan Oakes, Director of IS Infrastructure for Interline Brands, notes ""We didn't always know which licensing agreement was responsible for various assets. In some cases, we weren't sure if certain licenses were available or if they had been deployed and not documented. We knew that trying to reconcile licensing using our manual process was out of the question—it would have taken ages. We needed to find a better way to get things under control and keep them that way."
Interline turned to Soft-Aid, a Microsoft Certified Partner, to conduct a SAM engagement. After deploying a tracking tool to gather data on which software products were used over a 60-day period, Soft-Aid created a software asset inventory and recommended best practices for managing Interline's software assets.
According to Oakes, "The results from the SAM engagement not only were immediate, but also had a ripple effect throughout the year, and we continue to see benefits." For one thing, it made Interline's migration to Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 far easier, since the company now knew exactly which departments and employees had which version of the software. The migration eliminated version incompatibility problems, and freed up IT resources from the drudgery of supporting multiple releases. "Now, our help-desk employees can focus on building their expertise on one Microsoft Office release," notes a pleased Oakes.
Moreover, the SAM engagement helped Interline choose the most appropriate licensing plan "After looking at all of the options and crunching the numbers, we chose the Enterprise Agreement. It was great to be 100 percent confident that we were making the best choice, rather than simply guessing," says Oakes.
If you think Interline Brand's experience is unique, think again. Check out this new report " SAM Helps CIOs Get Ahead," which provides more evidence of SAM's value to midsized and larger companies. For additional information about SAM, including more case studies, visit www.microsoft.com/sam.
Eager to get a
handle on your software assets? Want to earn big dividends for your
company and demonstrate your business savvy as CIO? Then do what Interline
did, and contact your Microsoft Account Manager or your Microsoft
Certified Partner for a SAM engagement.