Update 08/08/17: Since writing this blog in mid-2016, there is some good news to share on the Software Asset Management (SAM) Magic Quadrant front. I have added an update to the bottom of this post to provide more information.
“What do the reviews say?”. It’s often the first question we ask ourselves when considering parting with our hard-earned cash.
The review has become an almost ubiquitous tool in our everyday lives. From selecting a hotel or restaurant, to looking at options for a next car, to books and film releases. What someone else thinks is important to us. We place a huge amount of trust in reviews.
In some cases, we want peer reviews. In other words, what people like us think about things. In other circumstances, we want to know what the so-called experts think, so that we can be guided by their thoughts.
The demand for reviews and opinion is at an all-time high, and is not limited to our consumer needs.
It’s no different in B2B enterprise software.
As business professionals and buyers, we want to know that the products and services we are looking at are going to be right for our organization and its needs. The cost of getting it wrong is at best wasted money and at worst career-limiting.
The classic example is perhaps the Gartner Magic Quadrant. From Enterprise Mobility Management to Enterprise Backup Software and Integrated Appliances, the Magic Quadrant has become the go-to reference point for an increasing number of organizations in the buying cycle for a given solution to validate their purchasing decision.
The appeal is obvious. A single document that reviews the acknowledged leaders in a given solution area, nicely broken down into Leaders, Visionaries, Niche Players and Challengers. One place to quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses of each solution your organization is considering (and maybe a few it wasn’t before).
Gartner isn’t alone in offering this kind of review. Forrester has its Wave, and Ovum its Decision Matrix for example. Given the popularity of Magic Quadrants,Waves and Decision Matrices, it’s no surprise that they are one of the most-requested documents from prospects, partners and our own sales people. In the buying cycle, stage one has become: check the Magic Quadrant!
And therein lies the problem. Not only for Snow, but all other players in the Software Asset Management world. And what is that problem? There is no Magic Quadrant for Software Asset Management solutions! Nor a Wave. Nor any other kind of credible group review by an internationally-recognized analyst firm that you’d care to mention.
Believe me, no-one is pushing the analyst community harder for a comprehensive group review than us at Snow.
By our own estimation (we have to use our own, since there are no analyst figures to rely on!), the Software Asset Management industry will be worth billions of dollars globally by 2019. Okay, that might seem small compared to Gartner’s claim that the enterprise software market is worth around US $326 billion in 2016.
But consider this. In 2013, Gartner announced that it was retiring the Marketscope for IT Asset Management (basically a Magic Quadrant by another name), citing a lack of innovation and market growth as the reason for there being no point in continuing the exercise. Another reason given was that the ITAM market was actually in decline, slipping from $452 million in 2010 to $445 million in 2011. The SAM market is looking far more buoyant.
Indeed since the retirement of the ITAM Repository Marketscope, Gartner analysts have repeatedly highlighted that SAM solutions are eating into the traditional ITAM space as the value proposition grows and technology matures to the point where the real innovation and value-add in ITAM is actually coming from the Software Asset Management vendors.
In fact, in 2014 at the Gartner ITFPAM events in London and Orlando, Gartner’s analysts predicted a 400% growth in the adoption of Software Asset Management between then and 2017. It’s a prediction that has turned-out to be pretty accurate (so far) if Snow’s 90% revenue growth in 2015 alone is anything to go by.
So why no Magic Quadrant or Wave for Software Asset Management?
I don’t envy the person (or persons) eventually tasked (and they will be) with creating it. Why? Because Software Asset Management is both so broad a topic and so detailed in whether the technology actually achieves the given aim or not.
We use the term Software Asset Management as something of a catch-all term for what is in effect a multitude of individual requirements (many aligned, many not):
Software compliance & audit management
Vendor management & negotiation
Problem resolution (it’s an ITSM requirement, but try doing it without accurate software and license information!)
On top of these topics, you need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each solution in specific circumstances. How does it handle different types of virtualization? Can it automatically assign SAP license types as effectively as it manages eligible devices for Microsoft Enterprise Agreements? Can it automatically calculate core values or effectively manage IBM PVUs?
A document that doesn’t address all the questions above is arguably only doing half the job. A document that does address all the questions above is likely to be more akin to a Master’s Thesis than an accessible at-a-glance document!
So is there really a need for a Gartner Magic Quadrant, Forrester Wave or Ovum Decision Matrix on Software Asset Management?
Without a doubt there is a huge demand for such documents and where there is a demand, it must be met. And some of the ‘smaller’ players are seeing the advantage. We know, for example, that the team behind the ITAM Review are working on their own version of a SAM solutions group review. That has to be a good thing, even if they don’t have quite the cache of Gartner.
Personally, I’ve not yet given up on Gartner. What’s clear is that they are showing a renewed interest in the Software Asset Management market, having grown its number of analysts covering the technology, and with more of them taking briefings and a greater output of papers addressing the SAM space (if not the actual solutions vendors).
What’s the name of the game?
It’s also worth remembering that institutions like Gartner, Forrester, Ovum and others are commercial organizations and how they make money is understandably very important to them. Yes, they hold mega-expensive events and they will sell you a research paper for an exorbitant price. But I don’t think that’s their real money-maker.
Where they really thrive is charging organizations like yours (and ours) to talk to their expert analysts; to get some one-on-one time where we can structure a conversation to our specific needs and interests rather than having to read a ready-made paper. You can’t do that level of personalization in a research paper, and why would you want to when you can better demonstrate the value of what you’re selling in an inquiry call?
In the short term, as a prospective SAM solution or service customer, that has to be your best bet. Speak to the analysts in-the-know and get personal advice on the solution or service that best meets your individual needs.
When can we expect a Magic Quadrant for SAM?
We’re into the realms of guesswork here. But an educated guess. If you consider some of the recent papers published by Gartner (e.g. “Software Asset Management Is Now a C-Level Imperative”, March 3, 2016, “Cut Software Spending Safely with SAM”, March 16, 2016”, and “The Gartner Top 10 Recommended IT Cost Optimization Ideas, 2016” which lists ‘Optimize Software Licensing Management and ITAM Capabilities in the Top 10), it is clear that they are acknowledging that SAM is no longer a niche area only concerning small teams in big organizations. There is an acceptance that SAM is both here to stay (mobile and cloud simply change the need for SAM, not eradicate it) and a key pivot point for other areas of IT operations.
As such, a Gartner Magic Quadrant for SAM has to be inevitable. Will we see it in 2016? I highly doubt it, but I can’t see us reaching the end of 2017 without at least a first attempt at it. And if Gartner doesn’t do it, Forrester will. And either way, we’ve been told to expect the ITAM Review version in the next few months, which might force both Gartner’s and Forrester’s hands.
For now, given the harsh reality that there is no Magic Quadrant for Software Asset Management, this is the best advice I can offer:
Don’t ask for what doesn’t exist and don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole – accept there is no Magic Quadrant or Wave for SAM and don’t be fooled into thinking an ITSM or ITAM one will do.
Speak to the Software Asset Management analysts directly – it’s the best way to get tailored advice on which solutions and services are likely to be the best-fit for your organization. If you don’t know who the analysts are, contact me, I’m happy to suggest names you can talk to.
Seek out peer reviews online. They do exist and will give you a tactical user’s view of what it’s like to live with different solutions post-sale.
Speak to existing customers of SAM solutions – whether at one of the increasing-number of industry events, or privately, speak to customers to see what they think of the solutions they spent good money on.
Do you own due diligence – check out SAM vendor guides and white papers that explain how their solutions handle different challenges, big and small.
At Snow, we are more than ready to stand up and be counted. We are pushing hard for the analysts to undertake more group reviews and publish their thoughts not only on SAM best practices but how individual solutions meet the different challenges facing SAM professionals.
Hopefully the advice above will help and perhaps you have a better understanding of why sales reps’ faces drop when you ask to see the SAM Magic Quadrant! In the meantime, why not see how we rate on Gartner Peer Insights.
Update 08/08/17: Either somebody at Gartner listened, or the weight of demand became too much to ignore. Either way, the good news from Gartner is that a Magic Quadrant for Software Asset Management (SAM) solutions is on the way. Don’t hold your breath, though. Although we expect the process of data collection and analyst research to start in September 2017, it is unlikely that we will see the results until late Spring in 2018. It’s a big project.
In the meantime, Gartner has recently (August 2017) updated its Peer Insight online review site to make it easier to review and compare solutions in the SAM market. As I said in the original article, we at Snow are more than happy to stand up and be counted. And so we are happy to provide a link to this resource: Gartner Peer Insight reviews for Snow Software.
About the author: Matt Fisher is Vice President Global Marketing at Snow Software and a 12-year veteran of the Software Asset Management industry.
 Gartner: Software Asset Management Is Now a C-Level Imperative. Published: 3 March 2016. Analyst(s): Victoria Barber, Dawn Hubbard, Hank Marquis, Stephen White
 Gartner: Cut Software Spending Safely With SAM. Published: 16 March 2016. Analyst(s): Hank Marquis, Gary Spivak, Victoria Barber
 Gartner: The Gartner Top 10 Recommended IT Cost Optimization Ideas, 2016. Published: 29 February 2016. Analyst(s): Jim McGittigan, Sanil Solanki