How does a global pandemic impact the role of a software asset manager?

These are very interesting times in which we live. Over the course of history, there have been many global events that have changed how people look at their everyday job. During World War II, everyone in the US rose to the challenges of the time. People volunteered to join the fight for freedom. Whether they joined the military, the medical institutions or the manufacturing lines, people stepped up for their country. During natural disasters, whether hurricanes or tsunamis, people have stepped up to help those impacted by these terrible events. When the COVID-19 global pandemic hit the world in 2020, first responders (i.e., doctors, nurses and immunologists) have stepped up to the front lines to lead the world through this devastating and unprecedented event. But this event has caused a seismic shift in the way corporate America does business, e.g., the “new norm”. This article isn’t about the “new norm”, but about the critical role of the Software Asset Management (SAM) team. Technology has driven the greatest shift from office to remote workers of all time. This is not to minimize the way global firms have disrupted the way business was done, such as the shift of brick and mortar to internet commerce, but to extenuate the change in how all global and regional organizations have shifted the way they think about business. To meet the new demands, IT organizations shifted to a work from home (or remote) model that required implementation of new software strategies.

The drive to software as a service (SaaS) providers and other remote access technologies has drastically changed the landscape of a company’s software estate. This change has a trickle-down impact on the SAM team and their responsibilities. Many corporations have been forced to procure new laptops and desktops to support their remote employees and many more have been forced to procure new software to support the remote model. This has increased the amount of software assets throughout the enterprise, both traditional licenses and SaaS. Additionally, this has driven an increase in the complexity of the baselining of assets in a work from home environment, and, as a result, the complexity of the tracking of usage and consumption of corporate software assets. These changes have driven new contract or licensing models that the SAM team must now track and measure. The SAM team needs to track usage for software licenses on laptops, mobile (phones/tables) and cloud access tools. The challenge is that many of these licenses were not utilized prior to the “new norm”, which is causing SAM teams to ramp-up their knowledge of new license usage models after deployment – a completely reactive model. Rather than the traditional proactive approach through active monitoring of the license consumption to the licensing terms and conditions (zero-day audit ready), the SAM teams are having to adapt to a changing environment and apply new monitoring and tracking processes. Some SAM teams are fortunate to have SAM tools in place to enable the tracking of SaaS licenses, but many organizations do not have the necessary tools to automate the data collection and tracking. Clearly, the SAM teams that do not have the needed data insights from their tools are impacted differently by the pandemic as they are required to invest significant amount of time into manually acquiring or collecting the necessary information diverting their focus from their broader SAM responsibilities.

Bottom-line is that SAM teams need to prepare to adapt to the “new norm” or whatever challenge we will face in the future. From the context of a SAM team, a pandemic is a disruption to the status quo. Tomorrow, it will be something different that drives the team to adapt. The lesson that we need to take away is that it all starts with process and governance. If the right processes and procedures are in place, and we invest in the right SAM/ITAM operating model, we will be better prepared for whatever disruption we are faced with in the future. As the “new norm” is embraced, the critical action going forward for any SAM team is to ensure that governance and data models are updated to reflect the change in environments and that processes are modified for the new way of licensing software. If you have the right SAM operating model and someone was to ask you, “How has COVID-19 changed your job?”, the simple answer is, “it hasn’t!” The right operating model allows for easy adaption to whatever disruption we are faced with. Thus, if you don’t have a fully integrated SAM operating model and you are not managing the entire asset life cycle, the same question would most likely cause the following answer, “It has caused great angst, as I have no idea where all the assets are or what is being used due to the massive shift in the IT environment to a work from home situation!”

The net of it all is the impact to a SAM team due to a pandemic all comes down to the processes, procedures and workflows in place when it started – governance mitigates risk. How would you answer this question if asked?

About Frank Venezia