Tuesday, 20th October 2020

COVID-19 and the Remote Worker, a SAM perspective

By Bryant Caldwell, trustee, The ITAM Forum.

Recently we've seen the rapid expansion of remote workers as COVID-19 continues to transform our daily life and workplace. The benefit of reducing our commute to work for many is a welcomed guest. The tradeoff however means more hours in our home office for the undisciplined remote worker. For a SAM (Software Asset Management) Manager this should come as opportunity to reignite and transform our SAM Program. For me personally this represents a time to re-evaluate the program, tactically, strategically as well as the overall program health and scope. Consider for a moment how you might change your SAM Program during these times; is this a temporary state for the remote workforce or will we see a return to normal levels we once had? Likely not. I've witnessed both local and international companies terminating office space lease renewals either through the downturn in their business or seizing opportunity to shift towards the remote office. For many companies a pilot to prove out the remote worker concept has been forced upon them by COVID-19. Many are finding benefit and will likely maintain some higher level of remote workforce than pre COVID-19. How might we then capitalize on the benefits of a remote workforce from a SAM perspective?

While there is certainly some benefit to be found on the hardware front, here we’ll primarily focus touch on a concept to better manage and optimize our software investments. At the foundation of our SAM Program are our People, Process and Technology. Much like any program right? So how does this play out for the remote SAM team?

People – Where does your team sit today, were they all co-located in the same office? Perhaps you’ve adopted BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) principles for specific needs? What does your staffing look like under a fully remote worker concept? Recruiting for skillsets required in the SAM discipline were

mostly geographically bound, good candidates were not near or may not want to re-locate. Recruiting quality candidates beyond your local market pre COVID-19 may have been received very differently from your management or HR than it might be today with. In fact, imagine for an instance you could design your team with fractional workforce in areas requiring depth of expertise to shore up your weak side and full time for the balance to round out a full SAM team. Fictitiously we could hire at 25% demand for a SAM Tool expert to support your needs through an external provider. Following this logic hire at 50% key resources with depth of knowledge in licensing for areas like Adobe, Oracle, Microsoft to help determine “optimal” licensing positions, negotiate better terms, fees in renewals where opportunities are higher. The balance of the team could be full time, spanned across the program overseeing inventory, discovery, reporting and general management. Conceptually a small team could translate to a medium-to-larger team with deep expertise with similar spend. If outsourcing isn’t your game, then reevaluate your program needs against current staff skillset to fit the more mobile workforce.

Process – Technology has and will continue to move at a fast-changing clip. The days of conducting physical inventories to reconcile against our SAM tools are fast becoming a thing of the past. We see software moving off premise to cloud for SaaS solutions. The shift of global company spend from on-premise perpetual use software to SaaS is fast approaching 50%, if not already surpassing that point. What does your portfolio look like in this area? Have you already adopted and formulated a plan to transition, embracing the cloud technologies? If not, now is the time.

What then, does opportunity look like here? Most likely it will look like a change in your approach, as you internally audit software to ensure you remain compliant, seeking out each install in your discovery tools to a place where you may know you’re compliant. But what about under use? SaaS solutions are a wonderful benefit when it comes to maintaining compliance (since you cannot be non-compliant),

however they require a different skillset and process to manage the spend properly. Having users in those systems on a per seat basis feels more economical since it’s “turn key” and provides for all your needs. But what about users assigned a subscription who move onto to a new role and no longer uses it or uses less of the product? Do you have the needed processes to monitor and identify your overspend? Where we were once overly-concerned about just being compliant, with SaaS comes the additional need to monitoring your consumption levels, or better put “optimizing” your investment in SaaS.

Other opportunities surface when considering a full remote SAM team. Does your software catalog present to the end users the demands of the changing environment? Are you offering products that require deskside support or similar touchpoints where a competitive or cloud solution with the same software publisher is available? Consider having in your contract reviews a process to review competing or cloud solutions to better serve a remote workforce. Our typical brick and mortar office had whiteboards, sticky pads, projection screens and other “physical” not easily portable collaboration tools to share content within those four walls. Pivot to products that transform offering the remote worker optimal tools as well beyond just conference call and screen share. Products like screen capture with advanced features to better collaborate ideas, concepts to virtual whiteboards, cloud note taking, talk to text, report sharing, progress/metric tracking and similar productivity tools are all worth considering for your remote workforce. Many of these may have already been part of your day-to-day, if not maybe now is the time to consider a shift in investment. Look around your estate identifying all of your SAM offerings, products on your catalog that are nearing renewal time or long in the tooth and have reached end-of-life (EOL) to consider a new investment strategy that is more supportive of a remote workforce. There are many more topics in this area and the saying “think outside the box” couldn’t be more true as we are forced to “think outside the office”.

Tools/Technologies – Traditionally our SAM Programs operate using on-premise, installed tools to conduct inventory, discovery, repository for entitlements and offering compliance positions through the SAM tool provider’s proprietary logic. Lots to consider here in moving to the cloud. Do they even offer a cloud presence, how much control will I have over my company’s data? There are certainly many benefits for those making the shift. To reconcile the two you must understand your TCO (Total cost of ownership), that is to say your infrastructure, licenses to run your databases, support for the hardware, patching, your internal employees supporting the infrastructure, upgrades, not to mention the maintenance and support contracts. Weigh it up carefully, as a shift might provide your SAM program some peace of mind without any additional cost. Just be prepared to understand what you’re giving up.

These are challenging times. Make no mistake, external service providers and software publishers are pivoting to protect their revenue streams. Conduct a full SAM Program health check and lay out your roadmap and ask yourself, “do they embrace the coming changes?” If not, seize this opportunity to move beyond performing daily cycles and status-quo work to being a strategic business partner for those who invest in you.

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