Published June 10th, 2016 by

Implementing SAM

In my previous article I looked at the benefits an organization will enjoy if they take the time and effort to invest in a Software Asset Management (SAM) program. Here, I want to go a stage further and see how you would typically go about making it happen.

Implementing a SAM program for your organization can be carried out in 5 main stages:

1. Inventory – Discover what software you have deployed, how you are using it and the infrastructure that supports it
2. Entitlement – Understanding the Licenses you are entitled to use
3. Analyze and optimize – Matching your licenses and supporting documentation to the discovered software taking into account downgrade rights and the infrastructure the software has been deployed in
4. Policies and procedures – Establish new standards and guidelines for all phases of the software lifecycle
5. Develop a SAM plan – put in place a SAM plan that will enable you to optimize your license position going forward, saving you money


An asset inventory tool is vital at all stages of this process by enabling automation, but is especially important at this first stage. Basic ITAM tools have been around for years and although many were originally designed for hardware discovery and inventory they are now capable of providing some information on your software assets.

Sadly, for today’s complex and homogenous IT environment, the information they deliver is simply not detailed enough for what you need to properly implement SAM. Furthermore, they cannot provide the level of sophistication you need for software metering (application monitoring) going forward. This information is vital in being able to demonstrate at a software vendor audit who used what and when and so prove compliance.

A modern software inventory tool will automate the collection of your data across your entire IT environment irrespective of the device or software vendor. This will enable you to spend your time optimizing your licensing, rather than just chasing information.


Understanding the licenses you own and what you are entitled to use sounds simple enough. This can be a significant challenge particularly in complex organisations where license procurement may not be centralized. Evidence of a license purchase could be an email in somebody’s inbox, it could be an electronic record held on a website or it could be a license certificate. Internal records are often patchy and are often missing vital information such as Part Number, Description, Quantity Purchased, Agreement information, Maintenance start and end dates etc.

In our experience, you should use several sources of information to reconcile license purchases into a single source of entitlement. Good sources of data include:

• Vendor consumption reports
• Reseller sales order history reports
• Internal procurement data

Once you have an understanding of what licenses you own this needs to be used to find out which versions of a particular product you are entitled to use. This involves applying upgrades, cross grades, understanding product release dates and maintenance information to provide a single source of license entitlement.

Analyse and optimize

Once you have an accurate inventory of your software and calculated your entitlement you now need to match up your licenses to your software. Matching licenses to installed software sounds like a fairly simple process. However, this can be a time consuming and difficult task due to the complex nature of licensing and different models that each software vendor enforces. To do this manually just for one vendor may take several days.

There are some key activities that need to be carried out:

• Normalization of software inventory
• Understanding how the software is used
• Matching the license entitlement to the normalized inventory data

Normalization of software inventory

In this stage you need to rationalize, what could be thousands of different software products, into a list of licensable products and their install counts. This often involves a deep understanding of the vendors’ products and importantly which of these products requires a license. This can take several days for each vendor. Multiply this across multiple vendors and this presents a significant challenge.

Understanding how the software is used

It is not necessarily the number of deployments of a particular software product that needs to be understood but often how it is used. Some key considerations to make are:

• Does it matter whether the software is run on physical or virtual servers?
• Is the software licensed on a device or per install basis, processor, core or user i.e. what do you need to count to understand the number of licenses required?
• How does clustering or dynamic virtualization affect the licensing?
• Is the software being run from a Citrix, Terminal Server or Application Virtualization environment?

This is one of the most challenging areas for an organization and involves understanding the product use rights and terms and conditions about how particular licenses can be used.

Matching the license entitlement to the normalized inventory data

Once you understand what software is deployed, how it is used, and therefore the requirement for the number of licenses you can apply the entitlement to the requirement to provide an effective license position (Also known as an ELP). This can involve applying downgrade and down edition rights, understanding secondary use rights and excluding deployments that do not require a license e.g. Developers computers.

Policies and procedures

Depending on the complexity and time it took to inventory your software and match licenses, you may at this stage want to review and possibly implement a few policies and procedures to make software asset management a little easier going forward. These can include:

Software acquisition process

If different departments or individuals have been acquiring software licenses on their own, you may be missing out on volume discounts. Acquiring software this way also makes it difficult to track exactly what licenses you have. A centralized procurement procedure that prevents this will save you time and money.

Software use policies

As a result of your inventory you may discover software has been installed that you were completely unaware of. This can lead to many problems, from security risks to under-licensing. A Software use policy can prevent this unauthorized software by introducing an approval process for installing new software so that you can keep track of your software and licenses at all times.


To keep your software inventory up-to-date, it is best to introduce a series of documented steps that should be followed when new software arrives in your organization:

• Storing original documentation including the bill of lading
• Storing the original packaging and media

Disaster Recovery Plan

Make sure your company’s disaster recovery plan has a section on recovering software from an unforeseen catastrophe.

Develop a SAM plan

The final, and probably most important stage is to realize that all you have achieved so far is a static, effective license position or ELP. This will have involved creating a baseline that includes:

• Standardizing software titles – so everyone has the same version
• Centralizing software purchasing – to keep it under control and organized
• Retiring obsolete software – to ensure you are not over-licensing and to avoid maintenance costs
• Creating a software license inventory database – from your asset management tool to keep track of software licenses

You will then be in a position to optimize your license position (OLP) so your organization can maximize the benefit from your SAM program, saving money and freeing up IT resources.

Important steps in this process include the following:

  • Analyzing your software needs going forward – It’s important to determine which software titles your company really needs. Work with key people and employees in each department to clarify what software their employees require in order to get their jobs done.
  • Reducing support costs – By standardizing and limiting the number of applications and devices your support staff need to deal with you will be able to reduce your operational IT costs and free staff up to work on more strategic and business improving projects, rather than mundane day-to-day tasks.
  • Keeping software safe – Having collected together all your licensing information and established check-in procedures for new software, it’s important to make sure that the benefit of this is not lost. All licensing documentation and at least one copy of each of software title and version should be protected under lock and key. A limited number of employees should have access to the software to help protect against possible misuse or theft.
  • Creating a Software and Hardware “Map” – Knowing what software is installed on which machines and knowing where they are located throughout your organization is vital, especially for your support team. This information can be included in a software inventory database and shows the location of each machine, the user at that machine, and the software installed on that machine.


Implementing a SAM program in today’s complex and homogenous IT environments is not an easy task – but it is not impossible. Like most projects in IT, it boils down to 3 things – people, process and technology.

There is no ‘silver bullet’ product that can do it all for you, but there are products available that have been developed using modern tools and techniques that address today’s problems and are capable of providing the intelligent and insightful information you need to succeed.

Using one of these as a driver, you can build the people and your processes around it to develop a SAM programme that will initially help gain full visibility of your software and hardware assets, enabling you to save money on licensing and successfully defend yourself against the increasing threats from software vendor audits.

But, obtaining the Effective License Position (ELP) you need to do this is only the first step. To enjoy the full benefits of your SAM program you need to use the information you have to move to an Optimized License Position (OLP).

This requires the utilization of strategic information like software usage and advanced ITAM data used together with strategies like virtualization and the cloud to deliver the most accurate and forward-seeing view of your entire IT estate. All this can be achieved by utilizing a policy-based SAM program.

If you have any questions on implementing a SAM program in your organization, please get in touch.

Russell Fry

Global Head of Marketing at Certero
Russell Fry is Global Head of Marketing at Certero whose IT asset management platform – AssetStudio – helps organizations implement successful SAM programs’.

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