Software Asset Management at Ultima: A New Dog teaching some Old Tricks
A Brief History
I’m not sure whether I feel proud, or just a little older when I consider that I’ve now been in the IT reseller industry for 10 years, 8 of which have been spent specifically in Software Asset Management. Let’s go with proud, and why not – I started dabbling in SAM when it was still a relatively obscure concept for most organisations, a few had done ‘some inventory stuff’ when they feared the millennium bug might spoil their New Year hangovers. Others were diligently keeping an excel spreadsheet of their software licenses because they were good, corporate citizens, but very few organisations understood the value of asset management, and fewer still had anything resembling a ‘SAM function’. Since then SAM has continuously evolved; I’ve seen the technologies improve immensely, awareness increase and even met organisations who genuinely value the benefits SAM can offer. I’ve been along for the ride and being an inquisitive, analytical person, I’ve had the luxury of questioning and challenging (often to the exasperation of my colleagues) every development I’ve seen along the way to work out whether it could go further or be done better. SAM has come an awful long way, and dragged me with it, but as a business function there is still a long way to go too, which is why it’s a great time to be doing what I am.
After 8 years of delivering, designing and selling SAM services, I have joined Ultima as Head of SAM Services. Ultima was an easy choice for me – organisations delivering SAM do so as a professional or managed service, so having gained a lot of valuable experience, I wanted to move to a professional and managed services organisation – Ultima has 25-years’ experience as a trusted IT partner and prizes its extensive team of technical staff and consultants as its strongest asset – for me, box ticked.
As you would expect, Ultima’s consultancy and managed services capability has inevitably led to the delivery of SAM services, and the logical decision to make use of strategic partners who specialise in SAM and therefore offer the level of services expected from an Ultima delivery. So why me, and why now? As I’ve mentioned, SAM has matured enormously and today is a much more integrated and (dare-I-say) capable function than it was just 5 years ago. Those familiar with Gartner’s Hype Cycle will understand when I say that in the UK, in my opinion, SAM really kicked off around 2000, and rose steadily up to the Peak of Inflated Expectations around 2007 when the first wave of SAM technologies hit their limits and vendor activity around license compliance was a genuine risk for most organisations. Unfortunately, as per Gartner’s Cycle, delivery of SAM into 2008 didn’t quite deliver everything it promised – the technology wasn’t quite good enough, there were nowhere near enough SAM specialists to go around and, rather than aiding most organisations SAM tended to represent extra cost rather than savings (after-all, it was the first time that many organisations had a true picture of what software they were buying vs what they were deploying). The good news is that since 2010, SAM has been very much on the rise, the ‘second-wave’ of SAM technologies have emerged with considerably more intelligence and usability, more SAM specialists are available (though still not enough) and at a time when IT is synonymous with change, SAM is coming into its own in terms of what it can deliver and the benefits that brings. All of this is a fairly long-winded way of saying that while Ultima was ready for SAM, until recent years SAM hasn’t really been ready for an organisation like Ultima who wants to be sure that their solutions and services really deliver. Today, SAM is in a good place and recognising that, Ultima also recognised it needed a helmsman within the business – that’s me!
So what have I been up to? First order of the day was understanding all of the offerings our SAM partners can deliver – this has been incredibly interesting for me for two reasons; As per the above, although it is leaps and bounds ahead of where it started, SAM is still evolving; this means that the SAM industry is still working out the best way to deliver it and we’re finding that variety is the name of the game – the partners that Ultima has selected to work with have shown me a variety of approaches to the same challenge, and this is great – no two customers are the same, so more solutions means more chance of a good fit. Second reason – the wealth of options this opens for me as Head of SAM; in such a widely interpreted specialism, I’m not limited to one or two services. The closest analogy for me (and I’m not claiming equivalency!) is a doctor who 10 years ago could only offer a patient one treatment whereas today they can select from a range of choices and properly personalise the care that patient receives. So I’ve built a kit-bag of some truly brilliant solutions.
Second order of business concerns SAM technologies; while the way in which SAM services can be delivered ranges as widely as the way in which organisations will choose to benefit from SAM, the technology question is more straight forward – arguably, all SAM tools do the same thing. Some do it very badly, and some do it brilliantly, but when it comes down to it the functionality aspiration is fundamentally similar. Not unlike a hammer – they all hit things, but some will be strong, yet light and comfortable to use while others will snap at the slightest provocation. Equally, sometimes you need a rock hammer and sometimes you want Mjolnir (yes, I like both Shawshank Redemption and the Marvel films), but most of the time you want a 16-20oz claw hammer. The SAM world has its sledgehammers, and Ultima can help customers swing those when necessary, but I have to be realistic – most of our customers will need the claw hammer of SAM tools, so I needed to choose the strongest, lightest and comfiest of those.
A Flurry of Snow
I chose Snow Software – previous ITAM Review SAM Tool of the Year and InfoTech Research Group ITAM Vendor ‘Champion’. Why do I think Snow is the best of the bunch, well I’ve used Snow (as well as a variety of other SAM tools) since they landed in the UK and the reasoning is pretty long and complex for this blog – essentially they’re really good at what they do and only do what they’re really good at, if you want a longer answer, I’d be happy to discuss at length but probably with a hot beverage. The good news though is that I now get to take Snow’s capabilities and host them in Ultima’s fantastic Technical Service Centre. On top of that, I get to layer a range of great services.
So what’s next? I’m now organising an Ultima SAM event where I can talk directly to our customers and introduce them to some industry heavyweights who have kindly agreed to share their experience of the SAM industry. I’m resolute on my aim for the event, to educate and inform our customers, not to pitch and sell to them; the biggest task I have is making sure our customers understand SAM, what it can do and how it can offer the most value to their businesses, only once customers understand that can we talk about how best to hit the nail on the head.
If you'd like to discuss Software Asset Management as Ultima, please contact Greg Hallam (Greg.Hallam@ultima.com)