Does size matter?

Size matters, right? Or maybe I should be clearer. The size of a Software Asset Management solution vendor’s customers matters when selecting the right platform for your organization’s needs. Or does it?

Size matters, right? Or maybe I should be clearer. The size of a Software Asset Management solution vendor’s customers matters when selecting the right platform for your organization’s needs.

Or does it?

With over 3,900 customers, Snow has the largest user base of any SAM platform (recently confirmed through independent research).  But that doesn’t tell the full story. It’s who those organizations are that is potentially far more interesting.

Nearly 1,000 enterprises using Snow have more than 5,000 licenses of our software deployed. Of these, around 150 businesses and governmental bodies have more than 30,000 licenses deployed. Our largest customer has more than 240,000 Snow licenses deployed. That leaves us with around 1,200 organizations with between 1,000 and 5,000 licenses deployed and a further 1,600 customers with under 1,000 licenses.

But does the size of a Snow customers really matter?

Well yes and no.  Let’s explore the arguments for and against.

Argument #1: Size doesn’t matter

As we’ve seen above, the sheer scale of Snow’s customer base means there’s no arguing that the Snow Software Asset Management platform is an incredibly popular choice. And as we’ve seen in the figures I shared above, it’s pretty universally popular across the board, with our customer demographics being representative of the total volumes of organizations in the world with the different user bases.

It’s hardly surprising.  After all, Software Asset Management is an issue for all organizations these days, regardless of size or industry.The concept of license management and optimization does not change between a 500-seat and 200,000-seat organization.

In some ways, ‘Enterprise SAM’ solutions are not all that different to a software vendor like SAP. We have a perception that SAP is used by the biggest and best organizations around the world (its advertising tells us so, so that must be the case!).

The truth, however, is that something like 80% of SAP’s customers are designated as SMEs. The software used by large enterprise organizations is also becoming the software that drives the same business processes in many smaller organizations, many of whom no doubt have aspirations to be tomorrow’s big players.

Advances in server, software and database technologies have made it easier than ever to deploy ‘enterprise’ software without the need for multiple high-powered servers, complicated configurations and massive administrative overheads. Or at least that’s what we believe at Snow. The implementation times for the core SAM platform components in 100,000+ seat environments are surprisingly similar to organizations with just 500 or so seats. That means it typically takes days, not months.

And with a single instance of Snow License Manager easily able to process inventory results from more than 200,000 clients, scalability is a non-issue.

Argument #2: Size does matter

I know what you’re thinking. The main difference between a 100,000 seat organization and a 500 seat one is likely to be the licensing agreements and technologies (virtualization, VDI, thin client, cloud etc.) they have in place.

Well again, yes and no.

Of course, if you have less than 250 seats on the network, you’re unlikely to have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. And you’re probably not attracted to an Oracle Unlimited License Agreement if you’ve only got 20-or-so instances of Oracle databases running on the network.

So yes, there are license agreement types that will typically apply only to larger organizations (and, of course, the reverse is true with some vendors offering licensing incentives to help penetrate the SME and corporate spaces).

But while the names and costs of these agreements might change, often the licensing metrics don’t. There are (thankfully!) only so many ways in which you can license software today. Whether it’s by device, user, processor or transaction, as a rule there are very few licensing metrics that aren’t used by several vendors in one form or another across different sectors of their customer base.

For the SAM solutions vendor, that means that it doesn’t really matter whether you’re developing a solution aimed at the SME, mid-market or enterprise customer base. To do a good job of license management and optimization, you need to cover every licensing metric anyway.

And I’d argue the same is increasingly true for the technologies used to provision software to users across the organization. Cloud is being adopted by organizations large and small, as is VDI and server virtualization. Yes, the scale is different, but the underlining technology – and thus the coding required to manage the licensing – is common.

One thing that definitely does change with size is the number of people accessing the SAM platform, whether directly or indirectly.  Our own experience tells us that in an organization with 1,000 end users, around seven people will want direct access to the SAM solution (typically not only from the SAM team, but other aligned functions such as procurement, IT security and governance). In some of our larger customers, the teams using Snow License Manager’s management dashboards can total more than 20.

To that end, one area where we definitely see a difference in the requirements of small and large organizations is the need to have tailored management reports and dashboards ready for all different kinds of stakeholder. One of the benefits of the web-based interface is the ability to offer granular role-based access to these stakeholders, with customized ‘snowboards’ specific to their role and location in the organization.

Aligned with organization size is often geographic spread. To that end, members of the SAM team might be located around the world, working in different time zones and languages. That’s a large part of the reason that Snow has invested in no less than seven regional support centers and support for 13 languages in the Snow License Manager interface. But again, that’s not a benefit designed exclusively for our larger customers. Small customers in Brazil or Germany get the benefit of speaking with local support experts and working in their local language just as remote teams for a British company working in Hong Kong would do.

Another area where customer size really does matter is the scale of ROI that even small changes on the software estate can create. In percentage terms, the reharvesting of a license for a single unused application is perhaps fixed, but clearly reclaiming 2,000 licenses produces a far greater total saving than reharvesting 10 or 20 instances of the same application.

Some would say that larger enterprises have more complex and matures Software Asset Management practices than their colleagues in smaller organizations. But again, this just doesn’t ring true. At our annual UK User Forum in London just yesterday I spoke with smaller Snow customers that have incredibly mature SAM processes and are already using the platform to manage their mobile devices and create integrations with other business systems. I also met with large enterprises who are just getting started in SAM.

What’s in a number?

So the answer to the question of whether size matters in regard to a SAM vendor’s customer base is a resounding…. Yes and no.

Ask the right questions and you will find areas where the needs of a larger organization are indeed different to those of an SME. But delve into the underlying technology that supports this requirement and you will more than likely discover that it’s no different to the methodology used to support smaller customers’ requirements.

Scale is, of course, a consideration. There’s no getting away from the fact that the more clients you deploy, the longer it will take or the more processing power you will need to interpret the resulting inventory reports.

More likely, the real challenge to actually starting to use your Software Asset Management platform in anger is the time it takes to populate the solution with entitlement data for your key vendors. There are technologies such as bulk import functions and automatic associations of master agreements and individual entitlements that will speed up this process dramatically, but again the technology is equally useful to organizations large and small.

But the implementation argument is much less clear-cut. Saying it’s okay to take six months or more to get the core solution up and running is just not true today. In this case, more complicated is most definitely not better. The more simple the implementation process, the more likely it will be successful.

That’s why the first question our architects and engineers will ask when a customer wants to integrate or customize the SAM platform is “why?”. It’s not that they don’t want to do it, but the best way to achieve an integration without derailing the rest of the SAM program is often to first understand the purpose and business benefit of the work then decide the best way to achieve it.

Again, simpler is most often better (and less likely to break when you upgrade your system or make other changes!).

Big or small, love all

I hope I’ve managed to help you understand why Snow’s customer base is so diverse. From 250 seats to more than 240,000, the challenges and the core technologies are the same.  But of course it’s comforting to know when selecting a SAM platform that other organizations like yours have made a similar choice and are realizing real business value from it.

If that’s the situation you’re in, why not talk to your local Snow office and ask to speak to a customer?  We’ve got nearly 4,000 organizations of all shapes and sizes we can introduce you to.