According to reports, the global software asset management (SAM) market is expected to reach US$3.92 billion by 2026. And thanks, at least in part, to the growing adoption of cloud solutions in South Africa, local companies are starting to see the value for SAM as well. Nicole Oliveira, Software Services Business Unit Lead at Altron Karabina, looks into this in more detail.
Even though businesses here are lagging their peers in more developed markets, they are slowly getting to the point where they see SAM as critical to success in a connected environment. Traditionally, many have approached SAM on an ad hoc basis.
There has been little by way of integrating it as an ongoing managed service. However, while doing a point-in-time SAM approach might be a quick fix initially, it can quickly spiral out of control six months down the line when the business is stuck in a similar position if no controls are in place.
Instead, SAM must be viewed as something other than a compliance exercise. It is about delivering value to the organisation in terms of optimisation. Furthermore, SAM enables decision-makers to gain a clearer understanding of the solutions they have at their disposal, and how best to digitise those going forward when it comes time to do budget planning.
The business imperative of SAM
SAM is critically important to help organisations reduce spend on software, operations, and support. Yet, many decision-makers are reluctant to embrace these tools. But if a company is to evolve into a cloud-centric entity that will meet the digital requirements of doing business in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a new approach is required.
Make no mistake, SAM is a significant exercise to undertake especially if the organisation has never had any real control of what was happening in its IT environment.
What makes executives especially nervous is the daunting process doing so from scratch will entail. Implementing SAM takes a concerted effort and resources which many businesses feel they can rather spend on things that deliver more strategic value, at least from a perception level.
The reality is that those who have not yet gone through a SAM exercise will inevitably either get burnt during an audit process or reach a stage where their software does not deliver the value required to enable organisational growth.
One of the biggest problems in not going the SAM route is that eventually software will reach their end of support stage. And while some might argue that all that is required is buying new solutions, it turns into an expensive exercise, especially if the software was not used to its full potential before. This will see the organisation then sitting with a similar kind of solution where it invested heavily and is only leveraging 10% of its capacity.
Furthermore, many software providers often change product names and features on an almost annual basis. Just keeping track of this becomes a full-time job never mind an embattled IT department trying to keep the lights on.
This is where a SAM partner becomes an indispensable ally to help companies understand the solutions they currently have, but more importantly, what will be required for the business to grow.
However, SAM does not operate in isolation of what is happening in the rest of the business. So, by integrating a SAM approach into the broader company strategy, decision-makers will get visibility into how software can empower them to reach their company goals.
Having a trusted partner becomes essential as they would have to understand where the business wants to go and how it needs to evolve from a software perspective to reach that point.
For example, if the company is transitioning to the cloud, the partner will be able to bring an understanding of what software is required and tweak it as the organisational needs change. Additionally, the partner will also ensure that the existing investments the business has made into software will not be wasted but can be applied to enable the solutions to still deliver future value.
The onus is also on partners to approach how they position SAM differently. Companies do not want to have a compliance discussion unless they have fallen foul of the regulator. In this case, they will automatically be turning to a SAM approach.
Instead, businesses must be made to understand how embracing SAM will enable them to deliver on strategy, become more agile, and get visibility on the solutions they have at their disposal.
By its nature, this visibility will result in improved compliance as there will be a better understanding of what is currently installed. In doing so, the business will have better cost optimisation and control over the solutions its employees use and can also more effectively manage risk.
This all points to enabling strategy and delivering value. For this to happen, it is imperative for the organisation to start taking SAM seriously.
Service provider considerations
When selecting a partner to assist the company on the SAM journey, choose one that shows interest in understanding the business. This extends beyond the strategy, but also includes the customer pain points as well as where the organisational strategy is headed.
It is about delivering the most value possible using software as the tools to do so. A partner must be invested in where the business is headed and then plugging SAM into that to facilitate this journey. Working with a partner that understands the nuances of the cloud must be prioritised.
These service providers will have the tools in place to optimise the potential productivity gains to be generated by moving to the cloud and maximise the use of the software that has been purchased. When SAM becomes entrenched in the business, it will enable everything from migration to modernisation, right-sizing to consolidation.
A cloud service provider is about more than just selling products but optimising solutions. It is as much about helping customers make the right purchasing decisions as it is about helping them manage their choices well.
The SAM approach usually entailed running a vendor tool, going through a data validation process, and then cleaning software up where necessary. However, as more companies adopt internal tools a shift is taking place in the market.
The evolution of SAM is seeing the introduction of paid-for solutions and other inventory optimisation tools to make software easier to manage. Automation also makes this considerably quicker to do than previously. Other tools can look at certain areas of the organisational environment depending on the needs of the customer.
But to do a full SAM approach, companies need a holistic tool that tracks all aspects of the IT journey. SAM must therefore be considered a business enabler especially as organisations are looking to digitally transform themselves.
But before they can embrace digitalisation fully, they must first understand what they have currently installed. SAM must therefore be integrated into existing processes. This requires a conscious decision of the organisation to enforce the policy and procedures required to make SAM work.
SAM cannot be done as an afterthought. It is an ongoing exercise that requires a dedicated team to manage it and not just IT personnel. These SAM-specific teams can also account for aspects of procurement as they extend their reach throughout the organisation.
Just imagine the number of user requests to manage when it comes to new software or even renewing existing licenses. It therefore makes sense to have dedicated resources to manage the process.
The arrival of multinational data centres has resulted in an increasing focus around cloud solutions. This means SAM revolves around as much as understanding resource utilisation and associated cost-savings as it does around whether the company is gaining the maximum benefit from its Office 365 licenses by way of example.
SAM in this cloud environment must encompass cost optimisation as it entails an intricate understanding of what resources are used where. The huge growth in cloud-based applications will see the local SAM market changing to be more reflective of the connected environment.
In turn, this will see the introduction of SAM-as-a-service. If a company does not have the right tools in place to manage its solutions, it becomes impossible to keep pace with evolving technology changes. This is where automated solutions become critical to optimisation so businesses can get on with the day-to-day running of the organisation.
Moving from the shadows
One of the biggest obstacles to overcome with SAM is the emergence of shadow IT in organisations. This sees employees downloading and installing software (mostly consumer-centric) when corporate solutions are not in place. Again, the importance of policies and procedures to manage this becomes essential.
This is where the organisation works with its employees to ensure they go to the SAM team and determine if there are no existing solutions available to address their specific requirements. If there are not, then enterprise-grade solutions can be reviewed and acquired accordingly. Going through this process helps ensure the solutions are more effectively maintained, especially when it comes time for renewal or other aspects around licensing.
Given the shift towards the cloud, local companies need to rely on partners that understand this more dynamic environment beyond what is available on-premise. Often, the partners that are borne in the cloud will be better able to assist companies in the digital future. And this is where the likes of being licensed solutions partners and licensed cloud partners become critical to the success of SAM at a business, irrespective of its size or industry sector.