Automation: the future of SAM

Posted on Thursday, June 01, 2017
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By Matt Ward
ITAM Business Manager

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The UK is the most mature market for Software Asset Management (SAM) in the world. This means that most companies have thought about SAM and are actively practicing some form of it. The most common practice is compliance or, in other words, working out what you own versus what you have installed.

SAM tools have developed from simple discovery or inventory tools to a license management approach. On top of the ability to discover installed software, they now have the intelligence to ingest your license entitlements and automatically calculate your licensing position (with a bit of input from your friendly SAM practitioner, of course!) More recently, the SAM tool vendors have been adding metering and usage which helps you to not only ensure your compliance but also to proactively manage and optimise your licensing position.

What's next for SAM?

SAM in the UK is about ten years old now and the market has matured. Most savvy customers feel comfortable with compliance or are doing it as needed (in response to a vendor audit, license purchase or renewal, or perhaps as a result of M&A). So where will the market go next?

Most companies are trying to do more with the same (or less!) and SAM is no different. Most SAM teams are under-resourced given the amount of work they need to do. The SAM teams that I visit (and that's a lot) are firefighting or reactive. Think back to the vendor audit; you drop your day job to appease a vendor's demands and that's when you wish you'd got your house in order before they came knocking.

I believe the next natural phase in Software Asset Management will be around automation, or 'software robotics' as a US friend described it recently. SAM is very much following the service desk industry which started automating the most basic tasks in order to get the service desk calls down - think password resets and software requests. This freed up the service desk analyst's time to concentrate on more important tasks. The market-leading SAM tool providers are starting to mirror this with their own task automation platforms.

So, what is automation?

In its simplest form, an automation platform is an intelligent published platform that grabs a series of data and wraps a workflow around it, giving it the ability to follow a process or task. Automated alerts and reporting are made easier as the platform keeps a record of requests and actions over a period for trend analysis.

If you look at SAM from a process diagram then automation tools can take care of a whole host of common SAM processes from requesting and installing software, starters on-boarding and several basic jobs which can be self-serviced by the end user. Does that mean the SAM Team can be made redundant? No, definitely not! But it does mean that as the workload of those tedious chores gets automated, the team can stay small, efficient, and proactive rather than reactive. This allows them to concentrate on the important compliance or cost saving exercises.

Just think, if you load your license management tool with all of your license entitlement, it could look after itself. If you get your SAM automation platform talking to SCCM, you would have the ability to install and uninstall software automatically in the estate and thus proactively ensure it is always optimised to the best position possible.

What's possible is mind blowing and, most importantly, cost effective. We expect that in the future this could be applied to consumption of cloud services or SaaS. You could put checks and balances in place, mitigating the risk of cloud consumption getting out of control and spiralling into a big bill. If you can connect your license management system to your cloud providers' portals you can monitor and optimise cloud consumption through automation.

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Our estimation is that organisations could see a reduction of 60% in calls for software asset management by automating their four or five most common processes. 

If you'd like to learn more or want a demonstration on the art of the possible, our teams are fully trained. Speak to your Softcat account manager for more information or contact us using the button below. 

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