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SAM controls IT infrastructure

01 Sep 2008

It is an irony of modern business that, despite investing huge amounts of financial and human capital into IT, organisations often have less interest in effectively tracking and managing those assets than they do in maintaining the company car.

Although most IT directors would claim to know exactly how many PCs they have on their network, the reality is, according to Gartner, that more than two thirds of organisations have a discrepancy of up to 30% between expected and actual inventories.

This lack of knowledge poses obvious problems for IT directors – how can you accurately budget and plan if you don’t know what you’ve already got? Effective Software Asset Management (SAM) allows organisations to manage IT assets in order to support business goals, enabling companies to control costs, strengthen security and improve corporate governance, all while minimising risk.

Despite these latent benefits, many businesses still view SAM as a hindrance that is confusing and time-consuming.

However, according to Gartner, SAM helps organisations save up to 30% of their IT budget, so it is little wonder that it’s rapidly rising up the CIO’s agenda, despite concerns regarding its complexity.

An effective approach to SAM can not only meet this requirement but also improve productivity and deliver significant cost savings.  Take the example of UK company, Telegraph Media Group.  An effective SAM strategy helped them gain complete control of their IT assets and bring savings from over-expenditure on unnecessary licences.

With 1,000 employees and even more desktops, laptops and servers, the newspaper group faced a constant battle to audit and manage its software assets.  A manual audit was taking a month to complete, meaning as soon as it was finished, it was out of date and so had to be started again.

The Telegraph Group implemented an automated software solution, which allowed the IT department to more accurately determine how much software was on the network and, therefore, what their licensing position was.  In this case, the audit showed that the company was over-licensed to the tune of more than $200,000 on some software, enabling the IT team to take remedial action in the form of cutting back on new license purchases and re-negotiating contracts with suppliers.

The positive results are plain to see, but for some IT directors and CIOs SAM is still viewed as overly complex and costly, in part due to the ISO 19770-1 standard.  However, the truth is that it is far easier to get started than it may appear.

Although CIOs need, initially, to be aware of the whole SAM process (including deployment and patching), there are some aspects, such as discovery and licence management, that are quick and simple to implement.  These can deliver a much more immediate business and financial impact. These initial steps will also set organisations on the road to achieving full ISO 19770-1 compliance when the time is right.

Discovery of the software installed across the network provides the foundation for everything else – you can’t figure out what you need (and don’t need) if you don’t know what you have.  Licence management provides a significant, immediate ROI by reducing both wastage and risk by providing visibility of the licenses held and, therefore, avoiding overbuying and under-licensing.

Taken together, discovery and licence compliance form the basis of successful SAM best practises, providing a rapid return and a less complex implementation than deployment or patch management.  These swift results will appease those anxious board members who have invested in SAM and are keen to see it bearing fruit.

Starting SAM with a focus on discovery and licence management requires four basic steps:

  •     Inventory of installed software assets
  •     Capture of licence records
  •     Identification and validation of records against vendor records
  •     Reconciliation of software installations against licence entitlement
While organisations have traditionally found it difficult to accurately determine the total cost of poor software management, increasingly IT leaders are recognising that better controls, processes and technologies can deliver significant cost savings and productivity gains across the enterprise.

By concentrating first on asset discovery and licence management, any organisation will dramatically improve visibility and control of its IT infrastructure and increase productivity.

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