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SAM tools in practice: Experiences from the frontline


Recently on our blog, we discussed the latest Gartner® Report: Infographic, ‘When to use a SAM Managed Service Provider’, which suggests organizations often under-invest in Software Asset Management (SAM), so could be missing out on commercial benefits.

In our experience – gained both at client-side organizations, where we were running SAM programs, and now at Livingstone Group, where we are assisting others with their own programs – this under-investment in SAM stems from an over-estimation of the capabilities of SAM tools.

Companies believe that, by deploying a SAM tool like Snow, Flexera or ServiceNow, they have SAM sorted. When you consider that these tools require a sizeable investment, you can perhaps understand why businesses are drawn to this conclusion.

While these tools are important and certainly do provide value, they should not be mistaken for a ‘strategy.’ Relying on tools alone will leave organizations exposed to avoidable commercial risks.

Here are some common examples of where SAM tool deployments fall short of expectations, requiring complementary services to deliver the desired business outcomes.


Deploy, maintain and use

SAM tools, like any tool that requires access to technology infrastructure both inside and outside of an organization are difficult to deploy.  Whether it be network segmentation and security, privileged user access or access to business-critical fragile assets, the challenge of deploying monitoring agents onto that infrastructure is often massively understated. What is frequently marketed as a three-month project quickly turns into a costly multi-year headache.

Once deployed, the tools themselves need regular maintenance. SAM tools are a complex piece of technology with multiple integrations and a series of interconnected components. These integrations and components stop communicating effectively as they are affected by regular maintenance activities that have been carried out within the organization. Firewall rules will change, passwords will reset, servers will be restarted, and connections will be lost. Without the appropriate resources to identify such issues and remediate them the information collated by the SAM tool will degrade to the point of being unusable.

Once the tool is deployed, the next challenge is getting the software publisher entitlement uploaded into it. For large and medium size organizations this will take a significant amount of time and a sizable amount of resource/man hours, on numerous occasions we have seen this turn into a multi-year activity compounded by all the costs that brings. There also needs to be people and processes in place to ensure all new and amend software contracts are uploaded into the tool appropriately.


Automated Effective License Position

Every SAM tool will claim be able to provide an organization with an automated Effective Licensing Position (ELP) but, in practice, this is near impossible to achieve without a significant amount of manual intervention.

At Livingstone, we refer to data that cannot be discovered or extracted by a tool as ‘non-Instance’, this is information pertaining to a license metric which needs to be manually entered into the tool.  Even if the SAM tool is fully deployed and covering the entire estate, and every license and renewal has been entered into it. There is still going to be a significant amount of manual effort required to collect, collate, process and enter this non-instance data into the tool. 

Another dynamic is change, change is a constant within technology whether it be from physical to virtual, or virtual to cloud. SAM tools are incapable of understanding the context and implications of these changes through the lens of software contracts. Meaning that yet again, manual intervention is required to interpret those changes and translate them into the ELP


Complex reporting with little context

Not all SAM tools were created equal, most were conceived by engineers with SAM professionals in mind, so do not offer the business style reporting that the c-suite will demand.

Furthermore, there is no context to the data generated and no actionable advice on how to right-size consumption or ensure compliance. Even with the best tool in the world, a significant number of professionals – all at various job levels – are required to extract maximum value out of the tool. Yet teams of this size are rare, and are perhaps a pipedream  - is this age of the Great Resignation?


How to maximize the value of your SAM tool investment

At Livingstone Group, we advise two courses of action to extract maximum value from your historical SAM tool investments:

  1. Seek specialist expertise

Recruiting a team of 12 or more SAM experts is an unrealistic objective for most organizations, especially when you consider that you need people who understand the various contractual nuances of every vendor and service provider deployed within your infrastructure. This is where SAM managed service providers such as Livingstone Group can play a pivotal role. Not only can they ensure your SAM tools are correctly configured and delivering up-to-date, accurate information, they can also help you interpret what the data means in the context of your commercial arrangements. In addition, they can provide you with actionable advice on when and where to switch or terminate licenses so you are always operating optimally.

  1. Utilize Livingstone Hub

Livingstone Group’s proprietary platform Livingstone Hub has been designed to ingest data from multiple SAM tools, as well as discovery tools such as BigFix, Tanium, DDMI and SCSM, in real-time, providing an accurate ELP at all times. All data is cleaned, de-duped and normalized to provide a single source of the truth. SAM experts within our team then overlay this data with actionable recommendations in response to reported risk mitigation and optimization opportunities, Reporting language is designed to resonate with business leaders, so they can clearly understand the impact on the organization’s bottom line.


Livingstone are recognized by Gartner® as a Leader in the Magic Quadrant for SAM Managed Services.  For more information on how we can help you derive more value from your SAM tool investment visit our dedicated Enterprise SAM Managed Service page or read our case study of BT.


About the Authors

Ben Dove, Principal Consultant

Ben is an Enterprise Technology Enthusiast and is an ITAM & Licensing Expert with 14 years in the industry.  He has experience working in many large and complex organizations, delivering Software Asset Management.  Ben has also worked on a consultative basis supporting clients in standing up SAM excellence.

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