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Microsoft “kills” Software Asset Management?

By David Foxen | April 19, 2016

Software giant Microsoft has announced that they are to retire 12 partner competencies over the next 18 months, including Software Asset Management. The move has caused something of a stir in the SAM world, with some commenting that Microsoft no longer cares about Software Asset Management and that it sees Cloud as the answer to all licensing ills.

The other key competencies that related to SAM or software licensing that are being retired includes:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)
  • Software Asset Management (SAM)
  • Volume Licensing

SAM is dead, long live SAM

As a phrase, Software Asset Management has been used and abused more than many over the years. Ten years ago, ‘doing SAM’ meant having an inventory of the desktop estate. 

Today, we realize that Software Asset Management is about much more than compliance, as more organizations seek to optimize their software spend and availability. In this context, the retirement of a partner competency that is more aimed at compliance than optimization is not the big deal that some would make out. 

In fact, Microsoft even states on its Microsoft Partner Network site that:

Your engagements with the Microsoft SAM teams around the world, as well as the SAM incentives, will continue.”

Software Asset Management will always play a central role in the management of software assets, regardless of the license model or platform within which they are installed. As we will discuss later, moving to the Cloud does not mean that all of your software asset risks disappear, it just adds a new dimension and a new way in which SAM professionals manage their organizations assets. So, really, it’s business as usual. 

You should still expect to be asked to complete license reviews by Microsoft.  Perhaps even more than you did before.

When is SAM not SAM?

Maybe we should even be grateful to Microsoft for retiring its Software Asset Management competency for partners? After all, there is a good case to say that what Microsoft calls ‘SAM’ is a misnomer in the first place.

Other vendors at least have the transparency to call a spade a spade when it comes to Audit and Compliance. And let’s make no mistake, Microsoft as a vendor has done very little to help its customers achieve successful Software Asset Management as we know it today. And why should it? Its priority is to ensure its customers pay for what they use.

Determining how much they should use is really the customers’ job. In fact, despite having an unparalleled breadth of products and solutions, Microsoft does not offer a SAM solution.

No more need for SAM with Cloud?

Many have been quick to point out that the retirement of certain partner competencies indicates Microsoft’s belief that ‘Cloud is the answer’.  In some ways, it is. The Cloud is flexible, it can be cheaper (note I said it ‘can’ be cheaper!), it’s available almost immediately and it removes some traditional tasks such as change management control.

But just because Cloud solves some (not all) of the challenges around software compliance, it is extremely easy for organizations to spend far too much by failing to optimize their Cloud software investments. So while there is a much-reduced need to manage compliance in a Cloud scenario, there is perhaps an even greater need for the optimization that comes as a result of effective Software Asset Management.  It’s the same coin, viewed from the other side.

The emergence of ‘Shadow IT’

Part of the reason we believe Software Asset Management is vital is because we are entering a time where every computer user wants to be their own IT manager; deciding what device(s) they want to use, what apps they want access to and what level of user rights they ‘need’.

The Cloud makes it easier than ever for computer users across the organization to cost the business money, paying for monthly software subscriptions on company credit cards, or creating local or department-specific agreements with software and services vendors. This again proves the business case for continued investment in Software Asset Management. 

Without effective SAM, the move to Cloud will end up costing organizations far more, as the lack of central control and visibility leads Shadow IT spending to outstrip conventional means.

Taking Software Asset Management back

As I said earlier, I believe there is an argument that says we should be grateful that Microsoft has retired the SAM competency from its partner program.  

Software Asset Management was arguably never something a software vendor would lead the way on. And to expect them to do so was probably folly. We should also remember that this news further epitomizes the fact that Software Asset Management is not vendor specific. SAM relates to all software vendors – not just Microsoft.

Having a vendor specific methodology of SAM may not be fit for purpose for other vendors, so making SAM vendor agnostic is the way forward. Now it is clear that Software Asset Management belongs to the end user and the SAM ecosystem that has evolved to support them. 

Specialist vendors like Snow, SAM service providers and consultancies who specialize in optimizing specific vendor licensing. Regardless of how much IT moves to the Cloud and how much remains on-premise, this is the ecosystem that drives Software Asset Management and optimization. Maybe the vendors are best off out of it?  

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