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Understanding Software Asset and License Management

Understanding Software Asset and License Management

Software Asset Management– often abbreviated as SAM – is a type of business practice dedicated to managing and making the most of the purchase, upkeep, deployment, use, and disposal of software within an organization.

Software License Management -- likewise shorted to SLM – can be companion to or a sub-discipline of SAM. SLM concerns itself with tracking, monitoring, and managing where and how software products are able to run within an organization.

Together, these disciplines are important because they provide key outward- and inward-facing functions to help avoid or mitigate risk, to ensure compliance with organizational policy regarding use of authorized software (and denial of use to unauthorized software), and to keep the burden on service or helpdesk operations manageable.

Digging into SAM

SAM derives from the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) initiative, and functions as a key aspect for an organization’s technology business strategy. In a nutshell, software asset management seeks to reduce and control overall information technology costs, to limit business or legal risks related to ownership and use of software, and to make sure that IT operations are as responsive to end-users as possible, and that end-users can be as productive as possible. ITIL is a body of knowledge that emphasizes business returns on investment, along with best practices to implement business processes and strategies.

Avoiding the Grand SLM

SAM can be especially important for enterprises and large organizations when it comes to tracking and managing software licenses, and in managing legal risks associated with software ownership. This applies most directly to tracking expiration or validity of software licenses, and ensuring compliance with software license requirements for proper and legal use. The primary objective is to eliminate large potential legal costs, and associated fines or unplanned license purchases, to redress license agreement violations.

In the USA, an industry organization called the Business Software Alliance (BSA) regularly targets businesses and organizations of all sizes, to conduct court-ordered audits to ensure software license compliance across the board. Such operations, from the smallest Mom-and-Pop shops to the largest enterprises, government agencies, and research or academic institutions, must throw open their doors for inspection and assessment. Most audited operations choose to pay the BSA’s assessments (which can range as high as several hundred thousand dollars for medium-sized organizations) rather than fight them in court, thereby assuming substantial legal costs and risking even more substantial fines and penalties. This explains why SLM is becoming a key ingredient for proper management of business risks, and minimizing potential liabilities for software license violations.

In fact, software license management (SLM) may be regarded either as a critical aspect of a broader SAM practice, or as an important standalone management discipline and system in its own right. In any case, it’s proven to be an entirely cost-justifiable investment because proper use of SLM means zero potential liabilities, and the benefit of not having to worry about negative audit results, unexpected payments and penalties, and possible damage to an organization’s reputation or business credibility.

Ed Tittel is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who’s worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.

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(Shutterstock cover image credit: Software Puzzle)