The Engineering Software Asset Manager – an Unlikely Superhero


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One of our community members, David Foxen, recently wrote a lighthearted piece about “The IT asset manager skills you may need that they don’t tell you about”. While David labels the skills required as “tongue-in-cheek”, his comments ring true, especially when one is tasked with managing specialized engineering and scientific software assets. David threw down the gauntlet on this one and we took up the challenge, firstly to add to the list, and then to discuss the challenges in more depth, in the hope that all those making demands of our beleaguered asset managers and license administrators will read the article and empathise with our licensing heroes!

What skills David identified

Legal skills – for understanding the contracts and licensing terms

Negotiation skills – as you end up leading and negotiating your new software contract!

People Management – because Bob wants the latest iPhone, but Susan says that’s not the standard.

Vendor Management – because you are the ITAM pro, so surely own the service and relationships?

Detective Skills — why aren’t you using that piece of software or where on Earth has that Asset gone?

Technical Skills – again, you use the ITAM tool therefore you own it – of course if it’s broken you fix it

Patience – Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your ITAM function!

We know most of our customers will heartily agree with this list. Here are a few more skills that we know about.


Some More Asset Management Skills


Explorer – Finding all the organization’s software asset contracts in the first place.

Claims Negotiator – Dealing with vendors and insurance companies when dongles are lost or damaged by engineers with too much on their minds

Subject Matter Expertise – it is assumed that you have an in-depth knowledge of every product in the software asset register, even if you are not an engineer or biotechnician.

Traffic Cop – detecting and dealing with asset hogs and idle licenses

Bereavement Counsellor – when you have to take Joe’s named license for software he hardly uses and assign him to the pool.

Stage Presence – you present to management on why more licenses are/are not needed and win your case

The list is endless; we are sure you have many of your own challenges that we have not listed here! Jokes aside, we are the first to recognise that software asset management is not an easy job – the realization of this gave rise to OpenLM when our founders experienced the joys of managing ArcGIS licenses. Here are some thoughts on what it takes to be a resilient software asset manager in an engineering or scientific environment.

Why we Feel the Engineering Software Asset Manager is a Superhero

1. The Asset Manager often has this Role Thrust upon them

In conventional environments, and when dealing with commonly used suites and packages, like Microsoft Office, the role of asset manager sits firmly in the IT space, although with ERP acquisitions, such as SAP, the oversight of the licenses may be the responsibility of the CFO’s office. When it comes to specialized software, things get complicated. Some companies believe that all software should be managed by IT, who understand how the applications fit into the architecture and how to monitor license compliance, but do not understand the software product itself, or how it is used. Many other companies prefer to leave the administration in the hands of someone who understands how the software works and how critical it is to the business and its users, such as a CAD manager. Then again, there are organizations who do not have centralised control of their software assets, preferring to leave the responsibility of managing the assets with the business unit that uses the software. This works well when there are only a few copies of specialized software, such as a CFD analyser or earthmat designer.

2. The Asset Manager Understands and Manages the Software Customer Experience

However the software and its licenses are managed, each manager responsible for the assets under his care has similar challenges. When you have less licenses than you have users; it is critical to know who gets priority, especially at peak demand times. Just because a user has the entitlement to book out a license does not mean that he is first in the queue; there may be other users on a time-critical project or an expert who uses the software most of the day. This is where a “broad-spectrum” license manager like OpenLM comes in handy, because it allows the asset manager to prioritise license usage, and even make the software unavailable to casual users, by specifying a particular group and/or a time period when the licenses are unavailable, and automating the business rules that drive this choice.

We are all guilty of “hogging” software – it is much easier to check out a license and hold on to it all day, whether you are using it or not, at the same time possibly depriving other users access because there are no free licenses. This is where the Asset Manager can intervene, by saving and closing the software hoarder’s work and putting the license back into the pool.  Harvesting licenses this way is very effective and improves productivity. However, license harvesting cannot be implemented as a manual process, which is where license management software comes in, supporting an automated approach to harvesting based on the company’s unique software policy.

3. He Can, and Does, Save His Company Millions

When it comes to earning company revenue the focus is on Sales and Marketing, who bring in the business. Administrative positions are not seen as contributing to company revenue. This is where the asset manager is a real superhero, because he has the ability to save the organization millions, protecting the company’s earnings, by reducing and avoiding spend on superfluous software purchases. Apart from discovering “shelf” (unused) software and finding the equilibrium between the number of users and the pool of licenses, he can achieve additional savings by proving that there is no need to acquire additional licenses for a new project. Comprehensive reporting also is critical at contract renewal time, where, rather than rolling over the previous agreement or purchasing additional licenses “just in case”, the asset manager can identify exactly how many licenses are needed from any particular vendor. He then has the job to convince CFOs, programme managers and other decision-makers to accept his findings. Again, this is where license management software, such as OpenLM, offers crucial assistance through reporting on usage, peak demand and other factors determining how many licenses are actually needed. Many of our customers indicate that OpenLM pays for itself by allowing them to hold back on buying more licenses or discarding any superfluous licenses when renegotiating their contracts.

Let us Appreciate our Unsung Heroes

The vital role that the asset manager plays is generally underestimated and misunderstood by the rest of the organization. It is not an easy job and often calls for the asset manager to assist outside his scope and mandate. Through educating users and managers about the ins and outs of license management, he is the prime architect in building an organization that has a mature approach to software acquisition and license management, which also gives him the recognition he so richly deserves.

Companies can also acknowledge his capabilities by providing him with the correct toolset to accomplish his goals and objectives. Feel free to contact us to discuss how OpenLM can make the asset manager’s life easier, either with on-site assistance or our managed service alternative.

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