In my 20+ years in IT, I have found that most IT service relationships follow the same pattern as romantic ones, writes Sean Robinson, Director, License Dashboard. Software Asset Management (SAM) engagements – where an organisation enlists the help of a SAM consultancy, SAM tool, or both, to reconcile and optimise their software spend – is no exception to this.
Both scenarios start with an initial courtship which soon leads to a blissful marriage. But this marriage often doesn’t last, and in many instances, this once blossoming relationship ends in a messy and acrimonious divorce, with both sides blaming each other for the breakdown. As the marriage counsellor in this analogy, I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way!
Let’s start with examining the stages of the relationship. First, there’s the realisation that life would be easier and more manageable if you had a partner to share it with. In SAM terms, this is the realisation that you cannot manage your software licensing by yourself. You are not an expert in licensing and are concerned you might be paying more than you need to. Or what is even more likely; you have just received a letter from one of your major vendors advising you of a pending audit and you don’t want to face it on your own.
Software Asset Management: The Dating Starts…
Then the dating starts; you meet with different suitors and learn what you want and don’t want from a partner. For many people, this process teaches you more about yourself than it does about your choice of partner. Eventually, after a number of dates, you figure out what you want and make that commitment – you get engaged and the marriage begins!
At first there’s the bliss of the honeymoon. You reach new levels of happiness and satisfaction you never knew were possible. In IT terms, your new SAM partner wows you with software savings you never knew were there. Your software bills are slashed by a third and you’ve never felt so organised. You know all of your license entitlements and face that audit head on, confident that there will be no surprise bill at the end of the process. The vendor completes the audit and leaves, satisfied that your house is in order.
Without the imminent threat of an audit, both parties become less focused.
This is when the kinks begin to show in the relationship. Without the imminent threat of an audit, both parties become less focused. You begin to sense your partner isn’t trying as much as they used to, and the benefits of the relationship just aren’t as dramatic as they once were. Perhaps your expectations were unrealistic; after all, you can’t expect them to cut your software bill by a third every single year. Your SAM partner keeps asking you for more data, encouraging you to keep your software inventory up to date. But without the pressure of an audit you begin to hold back. You share less with your partner. You start thinking the grass could be greener elsewhere…
I have sat on all sides of this SAM relationship; as a SAM tools buyer, the creator of License Dashboard (a SAM tool), and as a SAM partner/consultant. In 90 percent of SAM cases where the customer is unsatisfied with the results, they will naturally blame the SAM partner. After all, they are paying good money for a service.
But, just like a marriage, you get out what you put in. In almost all instances the cause of the breakup is often the same – a breakdown in communication between the parties. In SAM terms, this means that data stops being shared between the customer and the SAM partner. This is the nail in the coffin, since your SAM partner or SAM tool will only even be as good as the data you feed into it. How can you reconcile your software licensing with your software usage if the data for either (or both) is out-of-date?
Software Asset Management is a collaboration that all parties must participate equally in. It is important to set roles and expectations, but most importantly of all, to keep the dialogue open! If you, as the customer, are struggling to keep your data up to date, perhaps you should ask your SAM partner for assistance? Can they help you? Can they assist with data collection or help with the configuration of your SAM tool? Would a quarterly health check of your SAM configuration be enough to keep the relationship on the right track?
Just like a marriage, you get out what you put in. In SAM terms, don’t bottle up your data.