The other day as I was waiting on the train platform, I bumped into an IT operations manager whom I hadn’t seen for a while. Since I normally saw him in the evening ride home I had assumed he was on holiday.
“Quite the opposite, I’m afraid,” he sighed. “We have had our major software vendors reviewing our compliance, so I have been working late and explaining our problems to leadership.”
“Didn’t go that well?” I joked.
“It wasn’t really all that bad, but we are clearly more disorganized than I thought. Well, at least that’s over for another year.”
I got the sense that they didn’t have anything formalized in the way of software asset management and that they may not be starting anything soon. My train arrived and I told him I would catch him later. While on the train I started to think about this a bit more. Here are a few areas to consider as a start.
One of the first challenges is managing what we have on hand from a software license standpoint and installing based on that. Sounds like a no-brainer, but in some cases people are not effectively tracking this. Essentially, we should have the right amount of licenses in stock, and if we don’t we should consider purchasing more or making sure that there is governance on who is actually getting the licenses. Get some insight into who has what.
Another challenge is understanding what the software does and capabilities and limitations of different grades within the software. For example, all people might ask for the professional version of some software when all they need is the standard version. Not getting this right can have some significant costs associated that could be easily avoided. This plays back to the governance piece. In the example above, standard version requires manager sign-off while pro needs a director approval.
Don’t forget that while we typically think of this as a desk-side issue with individual installations, there are also risks with installing on a server. In these cases many people may be able to access the software in question, so we should understand what implications that may have on the licensing for that particular application.
To be truly proficient at managing the software, we should not only manage the software itself through the lifecycle, but we should also have a good understanding where all the associated documents like contracts and license agreements are stored and who manages them. Asset management needs to be managed just like any other process and is not a side effect of something else.
People Can Be Challenging
Operational challenges aside, people add another degree of complexity to our ability to manage software assets.
First, think about the ability to install locally for the business. By this I am speaking directly to the ability for people to be a local admin on their workstations. When they have this ability, we run a serious risk of people with all types of software that they might believe to be free but have not fully considered any terms or conditions that could be a challenge down the road. I won’t even touch on the security aspects.
Having a good dialog with IT will ensure that, when we don’t have an available software title, we can review the requirements properly to see if we have something else that will satisfy the business needs, or if we need to consider purchasing something new altogether.
Start with the End in Mind
While the first inclination for most is to use a tool (which has its own software implications), we really need to understand the end-to-end process of what is happening within the lifecycle of our software in the first place. You can start by understanding what you do today and what activities you will need to undertake to start your own asset management journey. Ensure that you set yourself up for success by making agile improvements that can be reviewed, measured, communicated, and repeated. There are many experts in this field, so don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. Enlist the help of one to ensure continued success.
For more brilliant insights, check out Ryan’s blog: Service Management Journey