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As IT professionals, we often have a tendency to over engineer business solutions.  I think for many of us this is difficult to accept as this is the way we have been mentored and trained over the years.  The net result is that in many organisations there is significant ‘waste’ in the IT organisation.  Furthermore, IT is often perceived as a cost centre that sucks resource and adds limited business value.

In general we deliver solutions that cater for worst case scenarios, despite the fact that these may never occur.  Pragmatic management goes out of the window and ICT professionals over engineer for fear of future failures.

Are we now making the same mistakes when it comes to software asset management?

We are experiencing tough economic times.  Some of the major software vendors are starting to ramp up their software audit entitlements to software asset managementsqueeze every last penny out of their customers.  This is placing a burden on the CIO to ensure that the right tools are in place to ensure risk and compliance around software licensing.  Managing your software is becoming increasingly important, both in terms of cost and reputational risk.

We recently engaged with a client around their SAM requirements who are going down the road of over engineering a solution that will take months, if not years to deploy.  Ultimately the project will either not deliver or deliver very little business value.

Let’s simplify the solution

The solution that we proposed, namely AppClarity from 1E is simple and intuitive. It ticks the KPI requirements for most organisations, including being ISO compliant, and can be deployed in weeks rather than months.  At a simplistic level all you really need is a license statement that shows entitlement vs deployment, nothing more nothing less.  AppClarity provides this but more importantly it redefines the SAM space by giving the business the ability to reclaim and redeploy unused licenses. This gives value back to the business.   Simple, intuitive and cost effective.

Don’t get bogged down in Utopia

So back to my client.  When faced with this obvious solution to this problem, the road blocks came up.  I paraphrase slightly but this is what they are doing….

“We have initiated a project after many years of trying across our global operations.  This will deliver a fully functional license management function for our world-wide software (bought and bespoke) including hardware.  In theory, anything we licence in the IT arena ought to fall within the scope of this emerging function (software, IP, data subscription services, hardware, models, cloud services, one off or ongoing licenses, etc, etc, etc.)  Where we are at this stage is defining what it is we want the function of license management to do / accomplish.  We have part of the requirement once this is done.  We need to ensure that license management is merely one “vertical” or functional component of a number that collectively constitute the ability to manage all aspects of IT. As such, it paints a part of the overall data picture about what IT is doing.  The requirement is that any license management functions need to be able to integrate with or offload data to a CMDB as this picture is usually contained in a CMDB or CMS. This latter notion is also beginning to be embraced. We are trying to ensure that other emerging functions like service management, etc are also seen as part-painters of the bigger picture and thus contributors to the CMDB / CMS agenda.”

Firstly, this may sound familiar to you and you may be nodding your head saying great strategy and at face value it probably is.  The challenge is that the strategy above is utopian. It will take years to get right, if ever, and in the meantime the business is wasting money, is not compliant and bears a significant corporate risk from a business perspective.  Why do we do this?

Keep it simple

What I maintain, is go back to the key question you are trying to answer with your SAM project.  What is it that you are looking to deliver?  Surely the answer is compliance?  If you can deliver this with a simple tool in the short term with some value add, does it get much better?  To be honest I think not and we really need to get out of this mind-set of over engineering.

I am not for one minute saying that heavyweight SAM tools don’t add value, they do.  But there is a time and place for everything and one must ask the question whether the investment in utopia described above, really adds any value to the business.  The challenge is that your SAM tool may be your next beast, beware!

Posted by Tim James, Director sustainableIT

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