The Hallmarks of a Great Software Asset Manager


Subscribe to our blog


The role of the software asset manager (SAM) in most organizations cannot be overemphasized. All organizations and their employees are totally reliant on software tools to do their daily work. This is especially relevant to engineering, scientific and construction companies, where the licenses for specialized software can comprise up to 15% of the annual IT budget. Then there is the added threat of steep fines and penalties for non-compliance with the licensing agreement with each vendor. The SAM can save a company a great deal of money by ensuring license adherence as well as ensuring that the quantity and type of licenses for each product are as close to the ideal number as possible. To do this effectively it is critical that the SAM and the SAM team have the right toolkit to manage software assets proactively and not in retrospect, for the following cases:

  • Identification of every software asset that the company owns
  • Managing the inventory of software assets
  • Understanding the complexities of each vendor relationship and license type, such as named, concurrent and pay-as-you-go licensing, soft and hard (i.e. dongle or USB) keys, maintenance agreements, upgrades and sunset clauses
  • Provide accurate figures on current and future use for each product as renewal time approaches
  • Having oversight on versioning and upgrades
  • Conduct regular audits to ensure that usage of a product falls within the license agreement or agreements with a vendor to ensure that you are always compliant and prepared for a vendor audit.
  • Manage the disposal of surplus software sitting on the shelf or otherwise no longer needed (e..g. software that was used for a project that is now completed).
  • Ensure that no software is purchased and/or downloaded without prior approval
  • Implement a process for the request for software by a user or department, the criteria for approving the purchase and notification by procurement that the software has been delivered for addition to the asset register and/or configuration management database.
  • Draft and implement a software asset policy that describes how software assets are managed within the company.
  • Ensure that all users are aware of the policy and adhere to its restrictions

There are other tasks that a SAM may be required to perform, but these are the key responsibilities. Each of them mitigates risk and most of them assist in cost reduction, either through keeping a minimum viable software portfolio for each product or by avoiding the possibility of a fine by the vendor for non-compliance.

Identifying all software assets

This can be a lot more difficult than it sounds, especially in organizations with many branches spread across countries, regions or remote sites where a project is in progress. Depending on the size of the company and its IT division, there might be local software asset managers who report to the lead asset manager and are responsible for the local software portfolio. In an IT environment which has established asset management practices, the asset register should be an accurate reflection of what software is actually being used in the company, but where software asset management is being implemented for the first time, actually identifying which software is on site requires a detailed investigation into contracts, license agreements, the license servers themselves, and other proof of the existence of a license and how it operates (e.g. perpetual, subscription, and how upgrades and maintenance are managed).

Managing the Inventory

For the fortunate SAM whose company has a comprehensive ITIL framework, the configuration database should be the repository for all software assets. This is not always the case, however, and sometimes a software asset register is also in existence or needs to be created. What happens in many specialized environments, such as engineering and scientific entities is that the general software used throughout the company, such as Microsoft Word, SAP, or Adobe, are well managed and documented. When it comes to specialized software, such as Coulomb, or lightning protection software, where there are only a few copies, they are not recorded. Of course, the management of a large portfolio such as Microsoft Office, is very important in avoiding the risk of non-compliance, very expensive software such as Catia, can be overlooked. Its existence in the company must be recorded and monitored.

 The Vendor Relationship

Each vendor relationship is unique, varying from the simple relationship where a vendor has only one product that has been purchased on subscription, with named licenses, to the situation where many software applications have been bought from the vendor and its partners across the globe, with several license types and forms. The simple relationship involves only an annual renewal, while it is possible to have 3 or more renewals per year, one agreement with the vendor and the others with different partners around the globe. Perpetual concurrent user licenses also will have an annual maintenance agreement. It is important to have an overall view of all the different agreements so that there are no slip-ups when a renewal comes due.

 Getting Ready for Renewals

As mentioned above, there could be several renewals a year for a single vendor or a single product. By producing comprehensive reporting timeously when renewals are about to fall due, the software asset manager assists the CIO and other executives make the correct decisions. Points to be considered are whether there are surplus licenses that can be dropped, multiple contracts that could be consolidated into a single contract, and alternative license forms that could be considered. Sometimes there is no alternative; Autodesk is determined to move all their customers to subscription licenses and discontinue perpetual licenses. The reporting should be detailed enough to support the management decisions, and the SAM needs a robust license management application that can produce this detail.

Managing Upgrades

Upgrades are a form of renewal where a long-term arrangement is in place, such as a perpetual license or a multi-year agreement that was negotiated at a discounted rate. Again, reports that analyse the pros and cons of the upgrade must be generated.

Spot Checks and Audits

 The unannounced arrival of a vendor who has come to conduct an audit can come at any time. In order to sleep peacefully at night, the SAM should also conduct spot audits to check compliance. Any non-compliance can be attended to immediately. This mitigates any risk of being slapped with a large fine for lack of adherence to the licensing conditions. It is recommended that regular reporting, which could either be produced by a SAM or license management software application, is implemented. Such reports may need customization to get the detail required. performing manual audits can be very time-consuming and this could cause audits to fall behind, creating risk of non-compliance.

 Disposing of Surplus Licenses

 Many companies buy more licenses than they need, either to ensure that none of the users experience denials or to provide for a temporary increase of use of the software. The software asset manager must report on the surplus and recommend how to reduce the costs of these licenses, either by discontinuing them or by converting them to another format, such as concurrent licenses.

Eliminating unauthorized downloads and purchases

One of the reasons for license “creep” is the ability of users to purchase or download copies of the software which then fly below the radar of the asset manager. A method of controlling this needs to be implemented. It is also important where the license caters for BYOD (bring your own devices), especially by contractors, that the license is revoked when the resource leaves the company because his contract has completed. The software asset manager needs to collaborate with Security and the license administrators to ensure that access is always controlled and appropriate.

Software Acquisition Process

There should be a clearly defined and mapped process for procuring software that does not allow divisions to buy software without reference to the SAM. It is surprising how many companies have not made sue this cannot happen.

Implementing the Software Asset Policy

The company’s approach to software license management must be documented by the SAM in a policy document. This clarifies how and when software can be acquired and retired, what needs to be done to avoid vendor non-compliance and the responsibilities of the SAM and the users of the software. Processes described in the policy must be mapped and implemented as well.

Communicating the Policy and Good Practice

 It is one thing to write a policy, it is quite another to make sure that every user understands the contents and their own responsibility. An education campaign may be necessary, especially in large organizations.


It is clear from what we have described here that the role of software asset manager is a key and important one in any organization. Where software asset management is not managed well, the threat of a massive non-compliance liability from a vendor always looms like a large cloud. A competent software asset manager is worth his weight in gold and can save millions in companies which have large software investments. He should be given the resources and tools he needs to carry out his job. Some companies cannot afford permanent resources and should consider consulting external specialists who can assist the SAM.

The software asset manager also needs a good software product to assist him. Traditionally SAM software was available, but these products are gradually being replaced by license management software. License management software has all the capabilities of a SAM tool, but also has additional features than enable minute-to-minute license management. OpenLM is a license management product that combines software asset management with license administration. It is specially geared towards engineering software, which is notoriously complex and expensive. Where a single license costs thousands of dollars, close attention to managing it is vital to saving costs and optimizing use of the product. Users of AutoCAD, ArcGIS, Ansys, Catia or the thousands of engineering software products out there can rely on OpenLM to make the software asset manager’s life easier. Please contact us if you are looking for consultation support, and, if you are not already a customer, we recommend that you download OpenLM under free trial to see how it can help you in software asset management.


Skip to content