Why SAM is the unofficial #1 priority for a CIO

The exact order of CIO priorities for 2016 and 2017 may differ slightly, depending on which report you choose to read. So why then am I making a case for SAM being the unofficial #1 priority for CIOs?

The exact order of CIO priorities for 2016 and 2017 may differ slightly, depending on which report you choose to read. 

But there is a general consistency and the Top Ten CIO priorities usually look something like this:

You’ve probably noticed that something is missing. That’s right, no mention of Software Asset Management. Why is that? Is Software Asset Management not important to CIOs? Do CIOs not even know what Software Asset Management is? Is Software Asset Management still viewed as a bunch of licensing geeks hidden away in a broom cupboard and only rolled-out when a vendor audit team comes knocking?

I don’t think any of the statements above are true. Our own experience at Snow, backed-up by recent analyst papers, suggests that the CIO is now very aware of Software Asset Management and the benefits it can bring the organization.

But Software Asset Management isn’t now, nor has it ever been, a strategic business goal in its own right. If that sounds a somewhat controversial statement from the developer of the world’s most popular SAM technology, bear with me.

The purpose of adopting Software Asset Management has never been to tick boxes. SAM is about saving money, reducing administrative overhead, enabling productivity and avoiding unbudgeted costs. Essential, but difficult to describe as ‘sexy’, as I think most people inside SAM would agree.

So why then am I making a case for SAM being the unofficial #1 priority for CIOs?

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Because I believe that Software Asset Management is absolutely critical to the CIO and the wider organization fully realizing the benefits of the ten priorities outlined above. Maybe not each and every one (even I’m struggling to make a strong SAM case for CRM) but as I’m going to try to highlight in the following paragraphs, there is a very close alignment between SAM goals and the business priorities. Let’s pick six of the top ten, to illustrate my point:

Business Intelligence & Analytics

The similarities between Business Intelligence (BI) and Software Asset Management are striking.  Business Intelligence is about providing data and insights designed to help managers and executives make informed decisions about all areas of business operations. BI data might come from sales figures, website activity, billing information, pretty much anything. It might even include information on the software and hardware deployed across the network.

As such, a good Software Asset Management platform can be a valuable information source for BI systems. Better still, a great SAM platform is a BI platform!  Solutions like Snow License Manager not only take information from multiple inventory sources, they add a layer of intelligence that means users are not only presented with raw data but are guided towards making those right decisions.  In some ways, Software Asset Management is a vital input into Business Intelligence, but in other ways it does an even better job of helping organizations make the right decisions about software licensing, procurement and availability.  With Snow License Manager 8, we introduced financial report and trending information capabilities typically only seen in mature BI solutions.

In other words, SAM is Business Intelligence for not only the CIO, but IT management teams, procurement professionals and other stakeholders across the organization.


It is fashionable, especially among the software vendors in whose interest it is to sell cloud licensing, to present it as the universal answer to everything. Some even hail the Cloud as the death knell for Software Asset Management. As we’ve covered in other blogs, it’s certainly true that Cloud should alleviate some compliance woes. But, as many organizations found to their cost when they started adopting virtualization, it is very easy for costs to sprawl out of control. Why buy 1,000 licenses of a cloud-based application when only 700 staff use it?  Can you afford to throw away the cost of 300 unused licenses?

With its unique abilities to monitor both spending and usage in a single console, a good SAM platform is invaluable to ensuring that Cloud spending does not outrun actual adoption across the organization.


Employees in the United States now have an average of 3.5 mobile devices, and many of them use these devices equally for work and pleasure.  It sounds extravagant but is easily done if you own a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet and have a home PC as well.  As mobile devices are increasingly used to deliver business applications, so software vendors are becoming more attuned to the opportunity to monetize this usage.

For organizations, there is a strong case for adopting mobile apps and access early to help drive efficiency gains and competitive advantage.  But with mobile licensing – and more specifically areas such as indirect usage – still in its infancy, many organizations should be expecting to have software vendors scrutinizing their use of enterprise apps on mobile devices, or how those devices might be used to access databases and systems via other third party apps developed for the mobile platform.

One thing is for sure, mobile access to enterprise apps is not going to be free and organizations need to exercise caution before rolling out ambitious mobile access projects.


We’ve discussed the connection between SAM and security in previous blogs, but the synergies are obvious. Arguably no technology has a better handle on what software is installed and in use across the different platforms employed by the organization. What’s more, with solutions like Snow’s SAM platform offering high levels of data cleansing and normalization, it is easier for security teams to highlight versions and editions of software that perhaps have a greater security risk associated with them.

A good SAM platform doesn’t only feed reports to the SAM team, it can be used as both an information source for security teams, providing clear information on blacklisted applications, unauthorized installs and more.

Infrastructure & Datacenter

The rate of change on the network and in the datacenter is staggering. As organizations rush to take advantage of virtualization, clustering, cloud and mobile, so the need to monitor how these technologies are being used becomes more important. Without proper monitoring, at best the adoption of these technologies will run amok and leave the IT and datacenter teams with a spaghetti-like mess of virtual servers, clusters and IT services.

At worst, failure to control the spinning-up of such platforms could create a serious license compliance failure that could cost the organization millions.

Solutions like the Snow SAM platform can be used not only to reactively report on the state of the datacenter, they can be used as part and parcel of the process for automating workflows such as the provisioning of virtual machines (and automatic retirement).

Industry-specific applications

By volume, industry-specific applications (whether they are required for manufacturing, controlling business processes, monitoring transactions etc.) often pale in comparison to the proliferation of office suites. But in value they can be one of the organizations biggest IT spends, often costing thousands or more per license.

These apps are also more likely to have complex licensing schemes associated with them, whether that’s based on the number of concurrent users, geographic licenses, even schemes where the organization is charged by transaction processed in the app. And that’s not to mention the increased likelihood these applications have of creating indirect usage issues with mission-critical systems such as SAP software. Or their reliance on back-end database provided by the likes of Microsoft and Oracle.

As such, keeping a tight handle on industry-specific applications is a much higher priority than you might think. For the CIO, it can be a highly effective way to minimize the unbudgeted cost of software.

Conclusion – the business case for SAM

Rather than being the preserve of a small team hidden away and only called upon when a software vendor audit team arrives, Software Asset Management is at the very heart of IT operations and has an important role to play in helping the CIO achieve their top priorities for 2016 and 2017.

I’ve chosen the six examples above, but there are many other areas that rely on SAM to deliver value to the organization without creating unnecessary costs or unacceptable risks.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about how effective Software Asset Management can even help create the cash necessary to get those top ten priorities off the ground in the first place. I’ll just say that Gartner[i] is now on record as stating that I&O organizations adopting SAM can potentially cut their software expenditure by up to 30% in the first 12 months. 

Imagine how much easier it would be to fund those high priority initiatives off the ground with 30% of the money you currently spend each year on software.

To learn how you could kick-start your CIO priorities with the help of Software Asset Management, speak to a Snow SAM expert today.


[i] Cut Software Spending Safely With SAM Published: 16 March 2016 Analyst(s): Hank Marquis, Gary Spivak, Victoria Barber