The core foundation of effective Software Asset Management (SAM) is to keep accurate and up to date software license information. Together with the processes for controlling and maintaining its accuracy. Having a comprehensive licence management system to store this information is essential. Not only does this allow you to archive effectively but it also allows you to clearly balance the equation between what you have installed and what you are entitled to use.

Therefore, license management tools are probably one of the most important aspects of a SAM implementation. A successfully deployment of such a tool will guarantee increased staff productivity, a reduction in software expenditure, mitigation of operational risks, increased business productivity and an improvement in overall corporate governance. In addition, due to the increased frequency of vendor audits, it will also enable you to defend your organisation as and when audits occur.

“So which is the best license management system?” I hear you say.

Well, there are now many solutions available, with most combining software discovery capabilities and license management functionality into one system. Selecting the right one, however, is a minefield so it is advisable that you first assess what you need to measure before you run out and acquire the latest and greatest product – remember the best product on the market, is the one that meets YOUR requirements.

Assessing Requirements is Key
The assessment process is relatively inexpensive and will certainly save you time and money in the long run. It is important that you identify which vendors you intend to manage, review what type of licenses you have purchased and then predict your strategy over the next 24 months (i.e. is the business going to continue with an on-premise strategy or is it looking to migrate to more Cloud based services). For example, traditional inventory/license management tools are more than capable of managing instances deployed on-premise, however, if software is deployed in a virtualised environment (both on-premise or via third party data centres), then the chosen system must be able to demonstrate that it can manage and control more challenging complexities, such as mobility and other business continuity options. If, however, you have already purchased rights that mitigate the need to track these types of challenges, then you can move your focus to other key management areas.

Review What You Already Have
During the assessment, it is important that you review any inventory tools already deployed on the company’s network. Most organisations have an inventory capability, although they are usually unaware of its true potential or disappointed in its ability to manage license user rights and clearly report the organisation’s compliance status. For example, the desktop and server estates are usually managed by a system management tool, such as Microsoft SCCM, where its desired outcome is to deploy and support software in a controlled manner. Most of these types of tools do actually provide a good level of inventory functionality that enable organisations to understand what has been deployed but fail to have the functionality for managing license entitlements and compliance.

Using Your Current Inventory Tool
The good news is, that most of these types of tools can be used but you may need to change your thinking and consider implementing an overlaying license management tool, such as License Dashboard, rather than deploying another inventory solution. Probably, most customers will end up with multiple inventory tools and data sources (i.e. Discovery, System Management, Active Directory, CMDB, Antivirus tools and more) so implementing a license management tool may be a better investment in the long run, as it will interface and consolidate multiple data sources and provide you with a single administrative console for managing and controlling all your licensing needs.

Beware – Ask for a Demonstration
If you do not have an existing solution, there are many vendors that can provide both software discovery and good license management capabilities (i.e. Snow Software, Flexera, 1E, Altiris just to mention a few). All of these tools are able to report your organisation’s effective license position, although be careful, some are better than others when it comes down to managing complex licensing scenarios such as, Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, Oracle, IBM, SAP and Cloud licensing rights. Ensure you get them to fully demonstrate their capabilities, rather than taking their word for it

Other Considerations
Other considerations you may want to include in your assessment, is whether you want to control how software is requested, authorised, verified, deployed and retired. Most discovery and license management tools simply focus on the reconciliation process and do not provide the workflows required to control the software life cycle. Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in subscriptions to tools such as ServiceNow, a cloud based tool that enables you to orchestrate the required workflows whilst managing the upkeep of your hardware and software inventories. These tools are up and coming and will probably be the future leaders in managing IT assets. Currently they have limited license management functionality built in and consequently rely on the company having in-depth licensing knowledge to function effectively.

Avoid Unnecessary Spend
In summary, performing a comprehensive assessment ultimately determines what you need to measure and will confirm whether the existing tools have the necessary functionality to deliver your requirements. The outcome of this assessment could result in your organisation saveing thousands of pounds by removing the need to deploy a complex/expensive solution that could take months to implement and configure and never actually deliver what you require.

Too often have we seen organisations implement the market leader only to find that it delivers no more value than the existing systems and does not cater for specific needs. As a consequence, many organisations end up adding more and more tools to their network only to find that they now have to administrate the SAM program and compliance obligations from multiple systems. Our advice is to follow these simple points – Identify what you need to measure, review your existing tools, consider an overlay license management system, don’t be misled by product salesmen, fully test potential solutions and always consider your future IT strategy – follow this guidance and you will install the BEST product available.