By Paul Sheehan, Managing Partner at IT Asset Management Solutions (ITAMS) | Published by The ITAM Review | 6 February 2013

Outsourcers are a major part of the IT landscape. Third party service providers and integrators are responsible for managing a large proportion of public and private sector infrastructure and systems.

For outsource contracts to be profitable they usually have to encompass a vast array of IT management tasks over many years if not decades.

SAM as a line item within a huge contract

Software Asset Management (SAM) may be a small line item within a huge all-encompassing contract. The generalization of such a specialized task can lead to misunderstanding over responsibilities and the ball being dropped for SAM.

I’ve spoken to many SAM professionals within outsource engagements who are frustrated by the lack of focus and resources allocated to SAM. Many cycles are wasted trying to establish who is responsible for what tasks and at what level. Outsourcers can be adept at writing proposals that imply they will do everything but allow them wriggle room to back out of thorough enterprise license management.

Whilst SAM might only be a small element of a much larger contract the impact on the outsource relationship as a whole can be significant. After all, if the client does not have faith in the inventory, contracts and license intelligence provided by the outsourcer – how could they trust any other data they provide?

Does your Outsourcer really know SAM?

With this in mind I suggest some topics to discuss with your Outsourcer regarding SAM:

  1. RESPONSIBILITY – Has your outsource partner explained who is responsible for each part of the SAM process and who is liable for the legal and financial risks? Is there a defined RACI model? Know your rights and understand the deliverables and responsibilities from your outsourcer.
  2. RISK – Whilst you can’t outsource the liability for software – will your outsource partner stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder to manage software risks such as vendor audits or major contract renewals?
  3. SAM PLAN – Is your outsource partner SAM savvy? How will they monitor progress and deliver on SAM objectives? How will the awareness of SAM be raised and communicated within the company? What standards will be set internally for management of software? What governance framework will be implemented to monitor progress?
  4. COMMERCIAL INTERESTS – How does your outsource partner make money with regards to SAM? Have they declared their commercial interests? (See my previous article – “Who do you trust?” Which is their biggest motivator – to sell more licenses or help you save money?
  5. EXPERTISE – Does your outsource partner have the team, track record and licensing smarts to deliver?
  6. ATTITUDE – An experienced outsource partner responsible for SAM should be naturally curious about your infrastructure and the quality of your data sources (since the success of their contract depends on it). They should also be curious about your costs, questioning your internal assumptions and actively sniffing out efficiency opportunities based on their experience with previous contracts.
  7. TOOLS. Is the partner using old-fashioned tools which makes the job of reconciliation and reporting effectively manual?
  8. UNDERLYING DATA. Is the partner in possession of the underlying asset data (including virtual relationships and asset status) necessary to perform accurate assessment of licence demand?

Your outsourcer needs to step-up to the plate and take responsibility for SAM in partnership with your organization. In my opinion SAM is too important and too specialist a task to be swept up amongst day-to-day IT operations.

It has the potential to be an enabler for business transformation for the company and drive efficiencies and cost transparency, or the potential to cost an organisation a great deal of unnecessary money if badly delivered.

Your Experience?

What is your experience of SAM within outsource contracts?

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About Paul Sheehan

Paul is co-founder of IT Asset Management Solutions (ITAMS) and heads up the consulting team and delivery operation. With over 25 years of industry experience, he takes an active role as Managing Consultant and strategic advisor to the company’s medium to large clients.

In recent years he has been instrumental in developing and delivering tailored managed services for licence management in collaboration with enterprise clients.