Who manages the Software Asset Management function?

Software Asset Management (SAM) is as critical to an organization’s operations as some of the traditional support functions performed by HR, IT and Finance.

According to Gartner, IT spending is expected to touch US$3.5 trillion in 2017, of which US$1.3 trillion is expected to be on software and services.[1] The rate of growth of spend on software and services is expected to be higher than that of spend on hardware and devices. An important point to consider here is that procurement of software, is very different from procurement of hardware. When you buy a server or a laptop, you actually own it. However, when you buy a software, you do not own it; you are only granted the access to use the IP of the software vendor.

The various stages of a software asset’s lifecycle — that is procurement, deployment, maintenance, utilization and disposal — fall under the purview of different departments. In any organization, the procurement team is responsible for purchase of assets, including software licenses, when a business requirement is identified by the project/business team. While the IT department is responsible for deployment of software assets, maintenance of the software estate and the disposal of obsolete/expired software assets, the finance team manages the monetary aspects of the transactions involved.

While different functions are involved in managing different aspects of an organization’s life cycle, without a dedicated SAM team, organizations may face challenges in handling software compliance and costs. An organization’s inability to effectively handle software licenses leads to unbudgeted financial outflows and when organizations question the need to have a dedicated SAM team, they overlook the fact that the business, procurement, IT and finance teams work in silos and do not carry the complete responsibility for SAM within the organization. The IT team often ends up holding the default responsibility of handling SAM, without being properly equipped to do so.

On the other hand, when an organization has set up an independent SAM function, dedicated personnel from the SAM team communicate with each on the inter-dependent functions to fulfil the objective of SAM — reducing the company’s overall software spend while effectively managing compliance. It is the SAM team which brings a sound knowledge of licensing for various vendor products and have an understanding of the ISO 19770 framework for managing software and related IT assets. This enables optimization and maintenance of assets across every stage of the lifecycle, which would otherwise not be possible. The SAM team would be equipped to optimize the licensing for a large organization with a multi-location presence across the globe. A SAM manager, who supervises and administers the entire SAM function’s roles and responsibilities, would delegate tasks to regional license coordinators. Effective communication within this team, enables the organization to reap the benefits of global scale and ensure an improved return on investment on software assets. Over a period of time, the SAM function becomes a self-funding organization that helps reduce software spend year on year.

The aim of a smart SAM function is to integrate the entire software estate with the organization’s vision, strategy and goals with respect to technology. Instead of looking at SAM as just a risk-mitigating function, it should also be considered as a contributor toward the organization’s growth.

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