Software Inventory—The Foundation of Software Asset Management

We frequently discuss on this blog how to increase your level of software asset management (SAM) maturity. Beginning at Level 1 (see figure below), you begin to collect software inventory across your enterprise environment. Typically you also collect hardware inventory or hardware asset information sufficient to determine license consumption for licenses based on hardware characteristics. 

Often, at Level 1, you are using a data source which was implemented to meet a different business need than SAM activities.  The amount of detail in these sources of IT asset inventory information is sufficient to meet the business need for which they were originally intended. For example, a configuration management database (CMDB) will contain hardware configuration information and may contain high-level information about software, such as the OS and primary application of servers.   But a CMDB will not generally contain true software inventory information.  This gap means that CMDB data alone cannot provide sufficient detail to achieve true Level 1 SAM maturity; at best, CMDB data can provide an overview of deployed applications. 

SAM-SLO Maturity Model
Software Asset Management and License Optimization Maturity Model

Where this becomes a problem is when a SAM initiative is driven from a procurement or contract management perspective.  In some organizations, the budgeting, purchasing, and vendor management process is relatively mature compared to the software inventory process, particularly where servers and data centers are concerned. An IT Procurement / Vendor Management team that becomes interested in improving SAM maturity typically has a sophisticated understanding of the
complexities of software license models, maintenance renewals, and governing End User License Agreements (EULAs).  This type of SAM team, however, often lacks visibility or direct control over the
process of gathering software inventory. They have historically relied on manual reporting by the business owners of applications to get software inventory, and then performed a manual reconciliation against their license entitlements. 

In this circumstance, it can be easy to lose sight of the critical importance of collecting an accurate software inventory.  IT management may look at existing CMDBs, software distribution systems, or hardware asset management processes, along with the expertise of the SAM team in managing software budgeting and vendor management processes, and conclude that the focus should be on automating the process of matching inventory to entitlements—Level 3, or even moving up to Level 4, where license consumption is optimized.  But in fact, the lack of accurate software inventory means that the organization’s SAM maturity is built on a shaky foundation. 

A reliable way of collecting application evidence – installation evidence and, where required, registry data and file evidence – and correctly recognizing installed software, is critical to improving your SAM capabilities.  Manual reporting by application owners is typically not scalable and more importantly cannot typically be used as input to any sort of automated software license optimization process.  Moreover, many software vendors, in an audit situation, will have an expectation of automated software inventory collection.

Your SAM maturity is only as good as your software inventory data, and if you are relying on inaccurate and/or incomplete inventory sources, you could, in turn, generate inaccurate or incomplete software license compliance results.  Use of a software inventory solution designed with the business requirements of software asset management and license optimization in mind can pave the way to an optimized, compliant state for your organization. 

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To learn more about establishing a mature Software Asset Management program, please view our on-demand Software License Optimization Webinar Series.

Categories: General, Software license compliance

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