With IT asset management (ITAM) now one of ITIL 4’s 34 management practices, hopefully it will raise awareness of the importance of ITAM and of software asset management (SAM), including software license management. Why is SAM so important? Well, not only is software a big IT expense for organizations – and hence its effective management will make a big difference to IT spend. But software license management isn’t just about saving money, it's also about compliance. This is the ability to ensure that all the software used within your organization is both licensed and used in an optimized way.
To help your organization to consider the whys and hows of software license management, this article offers three practical tips on how to get a better handle on your software licensing obligations.
- Agree and Communicate Your Software License Management Capabilities
This is very much a statement of “This is what we will be doing” – both now and in the future. Ensure that this scope is documented, approved, and agreed on such that there’s no confusion or potential for error. But, in order to do this, you’ll need to set that software license management scope…
When setting the scope of your organization’s software license management capabilities, or wider SAM processes, please bear in mind this quote from productivity and time management guru David Allen:
“You can do anything, but not everything.”
In other words, focus on what’s important rather than trying to fix everything all in one go. Hence, there’s a need to focus your software license management efforts on what matters most to your organization. This might be one or more of: addressing your biggest compliance risk areas, getting into the detail of your organization’s top five software vendors (by spend), or focusing on the software titles that your organization spends the most on.
- Invest Time and Effort in Your SAM Policies, Processes, and Documentation
In my experience, the success of software license management and SAM lives and dies based on the quality of your organization’s policies and process documentation.
Your policies need to set out the rules for the whole of the software license management lifecycle. The things to cover include:
- When and how software can be requested
- How PCs and laptops are locked down to prevent unauthorized software installation and use
- What happens when unapproved software if found on devices – from removal, through personnel implications, to the future prevention
- The software licensing implications for mobile devices and cloud-based service/software usage
- What happens when unused software is discovered
- How long software needs to be unused before it’s reclaimed
- Rules for the charging of software costs (if appropriate).
Once your policy is in place, create your organization’s SAM processes. In doing so, ensure that the following processes and tasks are covered:
- Requesting new software
- Checking existing license availability
- Approval for new software purchases
- Software ordering
- Goods in, i.e. the receipt of the software post purchase
- Installation of the software
- Support for software-related issues
- Software usage monitoring and re-harvesting when appropriate
- Unapproved software identification and remediation
- Software vendor audit management
When mapping out your SAM processes, don’t forget to include other IT service management (ITSM) practices that will be used for provisioning, changes, and dealing with software-related issues.
- Support Your People and Processes with Fit-For-Purpose ITAM Technology
ITAM and software license management can be done with personal productivity tools such as Microsoft Excel. But once your organization, and its software use, gets to a certain size you’ll likely need an ITAM tool to underpin your SAM process and procedures. Such tools normally have a quick payback period thanks to the potential financial savings from optimized SAM and ITAM capabilities.
Your organization should start with what it already has in place. If your IT service desk has an ITSM tool, does it include a configuration management database (CMDB) or configuration management system (CMS)? If it does and it’s being used by a configuration manager (or equivalent role), then they will likely be able to support your SAM processes and provide key information from the CMDB/CMS.
In terms of investing in fit-for-purpose ITAM technology, the capabilities to consider include:
- Discovery – to understand the software within your environment
- Reconciliation – matching software installs to the purchased licenses
- Metering – how software is used and how often, which helps with software optimization
- Contract management – to store, manage, and reference your software contracts
- Maintenance and automated software deployment – the ability to deploy maintenance patches plus automated software deployment
- Workflow management – the ability to automate your SAM process to minimize the manual effort
- Reporting – the ability to provide licensing information as needed.
Ultimately, this is about leveraging ITAM technology to optimize your organization’s SAM activities.
What do you think of my three software license management tips? What would you add for people starting out with SAM? Please let me know in the comments.