Feb 02, 2017

SAM Round Table, Part 3: 8 Best Practices for Optimization

Recently in Berlin, Aspera GmbH was the Platinum sponsor of we.CONECT, an international SAM conference that combines speaker sessions with attendee round tables. It’s a great place of knowledge for companies, service owners and practitioners with mature Software Asset Management practices, and the topics are all relevant for strategic day-to-day SAM.

The following is Part III in a series of insights from a round-table discussion with SAM professionals and experts. Aspera hosted the topic “Cost Savings in the Data Center” and I was the group moderator. Need to catch up? Read Part II here.

Today I will discuss the approach that our 45 round-table participants felt can be taken for successful optimization of Software Asset Management. They considered the entire SAM estate, including usage, licenses and contracts. Sometimes their ideas were almost a mantra: Don’t give up, don’t give up! But often the professional advice was quite detailed. Let’s look at 8 best practices to consider for optimizing your SAM estate. Please note: The list below is not in any particular order.

#1 – Most important: Start now!

SAM optimization is often not started because someone feels the data or processes or legal entities aren’t complete enough. Of course there are real limitations that can occur from such a situation. However, our most important advice is: Just start now.

Don’t wait until the right day has arrived and it’s perfect. Don’t try to do everything at once. Don’t wait until all the technology is deployed and all contracts are in the system. Make sure your approach is ”good enough” to push forward with the first step.

The ideal way forward is to identify your five most important software products and start managing their compliance now. You will learn and understand the potential in your data and SAM process. Even more important: Your stakeholders and team members will learn too. Otherwise SAM will stay in the dark corners that no one wants to support. It’s good advice for life in general.

#2 – Act local, think big

Always keep the big picture of your whole organization in mind. But start your SAM optimization in an area that you understand and can influence or control, such as your business unit or your country. Make things happen in that area and show the potential in these activities. Then set up a process that works. Once you have a blueprint, then document it, streamline it and roll out everywhere.

Don’t get stuck in problems like missing specific data or problematic responsibilities. Be precise about concentrating on the right products and manage the gaps that you have, where you are. You can ignore weaknesses in the smaller picture if you follow the big picture of optimization and understand its impact.

For instance, your team might say “I can’t optimize yet because I don’t have all the data.” The problem is that the servers in Mexico are missing from their inventory. But if you inquire further, it’s only 50 servers out of 1700 total across a global company. Forget them now, go forward, and remember them later. If you find 30% potential savings, those missing services will not burn that down.

#3 – Don’t over-discuss, just do it

Normally I warn about ignoring facts and details. But there are many details that need to be considered, and many options in a SAM project or in running a SAM service that might stop the work. So this is a risk to be balanced and mastered. Always be careful of -stressing over the details. Don’t get stuck in endless procedural or technical discussions like “savings versus avoidance” with sales people, IT team members, workforce guys, contract or general management.

You want the people involved to be trained and knowledgeable but you can’t close every gap, or educate everybody about all of the often confusing SAM details. At some point you need to stop discussing endlessly and take action. (Kind of like the European Union, right?)

#4 – Encourage creativity, add limits later

Don’t begin an optimization project by telling your team what they can’t do. Let your team think only about what they can do. Don’t limit their creative options. And then keep them realistic.

The SAM team should have freedom to prepare their “blue sky” ideas for an optimization project. But of course, the SAM team doesn’t make the final decisions. When it’s time to evaluate if the proposal is too expensive or not possible, management should then get involved to review the relevant information, especially if there is endless discussion about the costs.

For example, within a data center, there could be a strong technical reason for moving from physical servers to the cloud. The IT guys need more storage space but don’t want all of that hardware in-house. As the SAM manager, you want to avoid a hybrid situation — but you don’t put that limitation on the project. Once the team calculates and presents all the costs, you may be surprised to find that cloud is 4xs times the current cost and hybrid is only 3xs the cost. Then management can decide if either investment is reasonable and if the change makes sense for the company.

#5 – Find your internal advocates

You need advocates and supporters of your SAM initiatives in the organization. But you don’t have to convince everybody! Find the influencers who will support your ideas. Think strategically about who can help you, instead of going door-to-door. One success story is more valuable than 20 miles a day.

Concentrate on the clever colleagues who already master their challenges. Convince the rainmakers on each team. Most of the time, the possibility of reducing their budget spend and making their professional life easier will win over people. If you win those stakeholders for your SAM optimization initiative, then you can “friendly force” your guidelines with the rest.

#6 – Value the internal experts

Along with the idea above of finding internal advocates… It’s always beneficial to involve all the internal experts in your project. Yes, some may be reluctant and it’s hard work to “win their hearts.” But there are technical specialists, outside of the SAM team, who you can motivate to share their knowledge for the benefit of SAM optimization. (And their own benefit, as well.) They’ll help to find a solution that is much better than the theoretical approach.

For example, a database admin who has worked with Oracle technology for 15 years will know how to structure Oracle architecture, how to consolidate Oracle installations with options and packs, and may even know details about the Oracle licenses much better than you ever will. But guess what: Together you can deliver best value to your organization. Or a specialist in Windows Server virtualization will know the deepest details of what works, what doesn’t, and what gives the best performance – no SAM tool or SAM manager can compete with that expertise.

#7 – Get involved early in IT design

In 60-70% of companies, SAM is part of IT. But most IT teams don’t think to invite the SAM team into their roadmap or architecture design phase.

Often the SAM team is not involved until after software has been decided, purchased, installed and is already being used. That causes a challenge in controlling the expense and optimizing the license usage. When SAM joins a project late, this may force the project team to redo some of their work. Or – as projects are never on schedule – the team must go on knowing that a better solution is available, but it would put the timing of the deliveries at risk. That does not encourage them to give you future invitations!

It’s essential for you to review the existing IT planning processes, and create a formal but simple process to include SAM services. Communicate, connect and network with team leads, IT architects and business leaders to join the early design phases of a technology project. Maybe give these people some goals on that topic.

It goes the other way too. The SAM people tend to get involved in their charts, graphs and figures, and don’t think about sharing that data outside their team. SAM owners have to be proactive in requesting their involvement. Yes, there is life out there.

#8 – Invest in education of SAM

This is simple but powerful advice. A great way to optimize SAM is to invest in your in-house knowledge. It’s worth your time and money to educate the right employees. You may be able to reach an optimization grade of 60 or 70% without expertise. But to get really good results, you need knowledgeable people who can decide what’s possible or not, and who can support the processes internally.

You can even bring in outside experts, such as Aspera’s Professional Services team, to develop your in-house experts. From a legal or contract perspective, it is beneficial to speak with consultants because your IT team won’t have the experience or scope with many different contracts outside their own vendor arrangements. From a technical perspective, the consultants at Aspera have a track record of knowing how to accurately identify licensable products, get licenses in order, and deploy entitlements correctly.

Topics: Data Center, Industry News + Events, License Optimization, SAM Insights