What is Active Directory (and how to use it to save on Software Licensing)

What is Active Directory? The Active Directory is an extremely popular directory service used by the vast majority of Fortune 1000 companies in the market today. It is also perhaps one of the most critical elements within your software environment, so knowing what it does and how it can benefit your efforts in taming this unruly technological beast that is your software environment is essential.

The Active Directory can be a confusing place. However, at MetrixData 360, we often find ourselves working with our customers’ ADs and we know how overwhelming an experience it can be without the proper assistance or knowledge.

We know how an Active Directory works, and we know how to make it so that it can assist you in your software asset management efforts.

So, in this article we will examine the Active Directory tool: what it’s used for, how it works, and how it can be used in software asset management.

What is the Active Directory?

Active Directory is a feature of the Windows Server Operating System and acts as a critical element in many companies’ software infrastructure. For a Windows-based environment, almost all applications and tools are put through the Active Directory to allow for authentication and directory browsing. The Active Directory is broken down into two parts:

  • The Database:

The database is also known as the directory, which is comprised of the most critical info about your environments such as users, groups, their passwords, their computers and their licensing restrictions and their permissions (e.g. You can allow all employees to see your company benefits but only permit the financial team to modify the document).

  • The Services:

This controls all the activity within your IT environment. This is meant to ensure that everyone is who they say they are, ensuring passwords and ID are correct and limits user access to certain information (authorization).

You can see how critical an active directory is to a software environment and you can also imagine that stability, availability, and security must be a top priority for Admin staff regarding the Active Directory.

How Does Active Directory Work?

While you could write a small book about the inner workings of the Active Directory, to put it briefly, it does not benefit a company to have their computers operating independently from one another: there needs to be an element of connection, with the ability to share information while simultaneously controlling access to sensitive information that should only be viewed by authorized employees.

If all this information is stored in a central location, it can greatly improve productivity. Picture the AD like a phone book, matching names to numbers and locations (although that is only one of the things AD organizes). This pool of data is arranged hierarchically. AD has a few main structures it relies on:

  • Domain: Any related group of users, computers or other objects, there are also sub domains or Children of top domains, which may act as smaller groupings within the Domain.
  • Trees: Multiple Domains grouped together
  • Forests: Multiple Trees grouped together
  • Schemas: Definitions of all the objects which are used to make sense of the storage systems of every forest.

Active Directory in the Cloud

With the vast majority of modern businesses existing now in the Cloud to some extent, IT professionals may be wondering about how their Active Directory will be able to effectively translate to this new environment or if it will even survive the move.

Sadly, the Active Directory cannot easily be transferred to the Cloud despite the growing popularity of Cloud solutions among the IT department. This is mainly due to the fact that the Active Directory was first published in the late 90s, where the main goal was simply to get every office worker a computer.

The Active Directory helped to ensure that these computers were controlled and monitored under one system. While it may be difficult to move your Active Directory from on-prem to the Cloud, there is also the available counterpart of Azure Active Directory, which allows users that same level of control over external resources (Microsoft 365, Azure portal and similar SaaS applications) and internal resources (applications on your organization’s intranet and cloud apps developed by your own organization).

A basic version of Azure AD is available as a free feature to those who are subscribed to any Microsoft Online business service, with more premium versions requiring licenses.

Related: Moving to the cloud can be a costly occasion.
Here are a few hidden costs you should be aware of!

Active Directory and Software Asset Management

Because so much is stored in the Active Directory, many companies let their Active Directory become disorganized, and some companies do not allow easy access to their Active Directory.

The Active Directory, as a result of this lack of upkeep, could have large amounts of data that is dated and a record of assets that have long since been retired while still seeming as though they are in use. Despite this disorganization, the Active Directory is one of the first places that the software auditors look to when conducting an audit.

They will take the information stored in the Active Directory and build a compliance gap based on that information. This is why having a clean Active Directory that is up to date and comprised of only assets that are currently in your infrastructure is important if you want to avoid unwarranted auditing fines.

Your Active Directory also allows you to have a clear picture of all your assets in one place and as such can prove a valuable tool in your software asset management efforts.

At MetrixData 360 we often consult our clients’ Active Directory when we first begin cleaning up their assets. This gives us a starting point for what assets need to be hunted down, and what assets can be cleaned up.

Related: Ready to Get Started on Software Asset Management?
Check out our Beginners’ Guide to Get Started!

MetrixData 360 Active Directory Reporting Tool

Having a clean Active Directory is imperative in your efforts to keep your software environment organized and ready for whatever this tumultuous year can throw at your business.

At MetrixData 360, we have created our own tool to help with the difficult task of cleaning up your Active Directory. Our Active Directory Reporting Tool is specifically designed to be adjustable, scalable, quick, easy, and safe to use. Our clients have found our tool valuable in its ability to complete months of work in seconds.

An accurate depiction of what you have, what you need and what you don’t is at your fingertips with our Active Directory Reporting Tool.

For more information about what our Active Directory tool does, and to see it in action you can check out our Active Directory reporting tool page.

Convincing Your Boss to Upgrade Your SAM Strategy

Convincing your boss to bring on a team of people is no easy task. You want your boss to think you’re capable, that you’re the one-person army you promised when they hired you. However, if you’ve been handed the task of managing the software assets of your company’s entire software architecture, then you may have quickly discovered that you can’t, in fact, do it all. There’s no shame in that, especially if such a large job has been prioritized as little more than a side project to be put on top of all your other work, we’re only humans, after all. We get tired, burned-out and even the hardest working among us can’t take on the gigantic task of enterprise-level software asset management alone. So how do you convince your boss to expand and bring on a team?

At MetrixData 360, we have been in the software asset management game for many years now and we have seen the consequences of companies not having a proper SAM solution in place only to have a software audit hitting them like a shovel to the face.

In this article, we’ll break down how you can get your leadership to invest in software asset management, so the task doesn’t fall solely on your shoulders.

Convincing Your Boss a Software Asset Management Expert is Best

Software Asset Management is a relatively new industry, with few people understanding what it is and even less understanding the need to invest in it. So, if you want the help you require, you’ll need to convince your boss of  the value of bringing on software asset management expertise.

Let’s look at the various skills that are required for one person to successfully maintain their company’s software asset management strategy:

  • Legal Expertise: Licenses, contracts, and how to read between the fine print are all necessary skills when you’re breaking down software contracts.
  • Vendor Expertise: Technology is constantly evolving, and your software vendors are constantly making changes to their product line and the licensing associated with it. Vendors can make changes that will affect your licensing hundreds of times a year. Keeping pace with the changes of even one vendor is considered an accomplishment.
  • Negotiating Expertise: Knowing how to handle contract negotiations, contract renewals and software audit negotiations will be an important element of a SAM expert. There’s no point in discovering these saving opportunities if they can’t talk the software vendor into making your contracts reflect those savings.
  • Technical Expertise: It helps if you actually know how the software you’re dealing with works and how it interacts with the rest of your software architecture.

As you have probably figured out from this robust list, being an expert in any of these fields would be a full-time profession. The main appeal of seeking external SAM expertise is that you will instantly have a team of experts from the second they walk through the door.

Providing Options to Expanding Your SAM Team

It’s important that you don’t frame your proposal to your superiors as a win-lose/yes-no scenario, try to present options to your boss. When confronted with the situation of needing more manpower for your company’s software asset management goals, you have a few options at your disposal.

Hiring a Full-Time, In-House Team

Building an internal team is both costly to initiate and upkeep over the long term. You may also have trouble finding someone to fill the positions you need, you don’t have the time to train a new college grad and the seasoned veterans in the software asset management community know that they’re in high demand.

Hire External Experts

Hiring an expert offers the greatest long-term value with a reasonably smaller upfront cost since they offer a wide team of experts from the second they walk through the door and their specialization can be hand-tailored to your time frame and challenge.

While there is the issue of becoming dependent on the SAM experts’ services, MetrixData 360 counters such issues by offering training wherever possible to our customers.

Hybrid Solution

Some organizations may only need assistance in specific areas. Perhaps you already have a SAM tool installed and merely need someone to manage it or your company excels at day-to-day SAM but needs assistance in an audit. Either way, there are many SAM solutions to pick from that can accommodate your unique case.

Have a Clear Goal for Your Company’s SAM Journey

As you may have already discovered, Software Asset Management can prove to be completely overwhelming. The sheer amount of raw data your discovery tool can drag in is enough to discourage and confuse anyone whose brain isn’t built with a motherboard.
A fully optimized SAM solution also isn’t gained just with the mere installation of a discovery tool, although that is an important element to it. There are five stages of SAM maturity:


Exactly what it sounds like. There’s no visibility into your software environment, it’s anyone’s guess how many licenses you use or need. When an audit comes, there’s a lot of scrambling and confusion, with only the auditor’s findings to go on — even though the chances are that you aren’t as far out of compliance as they say. The goal at this stage should just be to gain visibility.


At this stage, you have probably had a SAM tool installed and have some level of visibility, although software audits are still a matter of damage control and you still suffer from compliance issues. Now that you have visibility, your goal at this stage is to gain compliance.

Compliance Plus:

You’ve reached compliance, you have visibility into your software environment and problems found there are corrected before they are confronted in a software audit. From this stage your next goal is to start searching for saving opportunities.


At this stage you’ve reached peak optimization, you’ve made use of all the saving opportunities you’ve found. Now the next step is to solidify your efforts and to make sure the SAM processes you set in place outlast you by making them a part of your company’s regular procedures.

Amplified Value:

You’ve now achieved the ideal software environment. You have proper visibility and can handle a software audit like it is nothing. Your software environment is as efficient as possible, and you are only purchasing what you need. Best of all, the change will now be permanent for the betterment of your company in years to come.

Now, it’s important to understand that climbing up the SAM maturity ladder takes time and it may not be necessary for your company to reach the peak of SAM maturity. Assess where you want to go and where your company is heading and present your boss with a strategy to reach that goal.

Timing Your Request

Timing is everything. This is just a general rule, try not to come to your boss with your list of suggested SAM solutions when they are upset or frustrated, it might not bode well.
Take note of any of the more pressing issues that you are dealing with when it comes to your company’s software environment and frame your argument accordingly. If your company for instance, is dealing with an unpleasant software audit, then focus on more immediate and short-term SAM solutions as opposed to anything long-term. You’ll need to make a good impression.

Related: Need to convince your team about the value of Software Asset Management? Check out our article:
Promoting Software Asset Management to Your Team.

Getting a Handle on Your Software Assets

With so many organizations new to the idea of SAM, a lot of them are still writing the rules on what that process should be like and how many people should be given the task. If you find yourself overworked and burnt out because you’re trying to run your organization’s SAM with a penny’s budget and a scant team (if you have a team at all), then you’ve come to the right place.

At MetrixData 360, we pride ourselves in being both educators (so you can learn and improve your skill after an engagement with us) and SAM experts whose whole process from start to finish involves saving you money. Given our wealth of SAM experience getting our clients to the point where they are compliant while also cutting down unnecessary costs, we can create an estimate of the potential savings and Return on Investments of SAM Solutions. If you’d like to learn more about the kinds of solutions MetrixData 360 offers and which one would be best for your organization, you can contact our director of client success and you can expect a response in less than 24 hours.

Is Your Software Auditor Ignoring You?

You’ve almost made it through your software audit and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve collected the data despite how much of a drain it was on your resources; you gave your best defense. And yet, it seems, your software auditor is ignoring you.

Now what?

On the one hand, it’s pretty great to be ignored; you can finally get back to business. If the auditors gave you the silent treatment before you settled, then any day where you aren’t writing a big fat cheque to the software auditors is a day well spent.

But on the other hand, this unexpected and uncertain silence has got you on edge, what happens if they come back? You want this audit to be over so you can rest easy at night but that can’t happen until it’s come to a satisfying conclusion.

At MetrixData 360, we have gone through many software audits before and we have helped our clients get out of the stickiest situations.

So, what do you do without that bitter conclusion to this otherwise unpleasant story? In this article we’ll cover what to do if the software auditors have given you the silent treatment.

Why Are the Software Auditors Ignoring You?

The software auditors are not exactly angry romantic partners. If they aren’t talking to you, you’re not about to send them a bunch of text messages, fill up their voicemail and send them apologetic flowers just to get them to talk to you again.

Oftentimes, you may feel like not seeing them again is preferable, but it is important to know why they have decided to take the approach that they have so you can approach this issue with confidence. After all, you need closure.

Many of our team members are ex-auditors themselves, so they know what is going through the minds of auditors when they give you the cold shoulder.

The Investment is No Longer Worth it

One of the main reasons why the auditors may have gone silent is due to the sheer dwindling of incentives. A software audit is supposed to be the software vendor’s cash cow, with your compliance gap expected to be large enough to force you to contractually foot the bill of the software audit process or, at the very least, cover the expenses of the investment.

Before a software audit even begins, the vendors and the auditors create a rough estimate of what they think your compliance gap will be and how much revenue they expect to accumulate during the process.

However, if your software environment is far cleaner than the software vendors anticipated, then the auditors can already see that they are not going to get the money that they thought they would before your software audit has even ended.

When faced with this conundrum, the software auditors may try to stretch your software audit into other products, this is called scope creep and can be avoided if you clearly define the scope of the audit during the kickoff meeting. If they can go digging for their anticipated revenue elsewhere, then your audit will be shelved for a later date, so that the auditors can work on more lucrative projects.

They Are Hoping to Use Your Data in Your “Next” Audit

You’ll find there is an audit clause in your licensing contracts (it’s almost impossible to get rid of it). This clause states that the software vendor has the right to audit their software for whatever reason they deem appropriate.

However, your audit clause may have a few more elements to it. For instance, it may outline how long of a down period your software vendor must give you between audits with the usual minimum time period being a year.

It is also possible to negotiate for other requirements such as forbidding your software vendor from carrying your data from one audit to another. This prevents you from being held accountable for compliance issues you’ve already resolved in the last audit.

However, the way the software vendors get around this obstacle is by keeping a software audit open for as long as possible. They can’t be in breach of their contract for auditing you twice in one year if you are still technically in the same audit, and they will be allowed to use the data they collected in the first half of the audit and bring it over to the second half if it is all technically one audit.

They are Worried About Your Relationship with Them

The software vendors want your money, but they also want your continued business. One of the less common reasons why an auditor may pull back from a software audit is if things have gotten heated, and they are worried about the long-lasting effects this will have on your relationship.

That is not to say that they have dropped the audit altogether, especially if there is evidence of a compliance gap because that means there is still money to be made. Instead, they may just be waiting for things to cool off between you two before starting things up again.

What Can You Do If You Can’t Get a Response from Your Software Auditors

You Have the Right to Push Back

It might seem nerve-wracking and rather exasperating to push for something you never wanted in the first place. But if you are confident in the quality of your software data and you feel like you are prepared and can no longer take advantage of this downtime, reach out to the software auditor to demand closure.

The ammunition for your cause is the fact that the time and resources you’ve put into this audit might amount to nothing. If the software audit lies dormant for too long, the data you have collected may quickly become worthless as your software environment changes.

If you decide to leave things unresolved, then you must be prepared to potentially start from scratch if your software auditors initiate your software audit again.

Should You Let Sleeping Auditors Lie?

The silence of the auditors can give you a much-needed reprieve to build a rock-solid defense for yourself and may allow your business a much-needed break from auditing pressures and the ability to get back to business as usual.

However, the only reason you would want an unsatisfactory conclusion to your software audit is if you know you have a large compliance gap.

It is a rare thing for those kinds of audits to go away quietly. It’s usually the audits that are not going to be as profitable as anticipated where enthusiasm is lost.

Take these things into consideration when you are planning your next move. A silent and unwilling auditor may be a good sign that your compliance gap will not be as painful as anticipated.

What Can You Do to Prevent This?

The best thing to do is avoid this situation entirely, if you can. If you are entering a software audit or if you’d like to get ready for your next audit without encountering non-responsive auditors, here are just a few things that you can do in order to prevent this from happening again.

Negotiate a Turn Around Time in the Kick-Off Meeting

Every software audit begins the same way, with a kick-off meeting. During the kick-off meeting, there are a number of things that you will need to bring up including the scope of the audit, the non-disclosure agreement that will be set up between the third-party auditors and yourself, and of course, the timeline. The timeline is a very important thing that you will have to negotiate because should the software vendors have their way, they will create a very unreasonable and tight turnaround time in order to get things done all the faster.

It is important you create a timeline that accommodates your business’s needs including your busy season, your working hours, or even your holidays. Never think that you need to give up your days on the beach just because the auditors have given you an arbitrary timeline.

Ensure that the timeline reflects what you believe is a reasonable length of time to perform the tasks they are asking. If left unnegotiated, we have seen companies have to review thousands of rows of data in only fifteen days.

Negotiate what kind of response time is reasonable for both yourselves and the auditors during the kick-off meeting. Bake it straight into your NDA that should the auditor not respond for a certain period of time (such as four weeks), then the software audit can be considered closed, which means at that time you’ll be in the clear to rest easy and not have to worry about an audit from that software vendor for another year.

Keep Careful Tabs of the Auditors’ Response Times

Now that you have a reasonable response time outlined, keep careful tabs of how promptly the auditors are responding. Try to keep things prompt and timely on your end because it is never a good idea to go dark on the auditors. Ignoring them will make it look like you are dragging your feet to participate in the software audit. Not participating in a software audit can result in you being found in breach of contract. So, keep the pressure on them and make note of any slow response times, this may be an indication that your software auditors are losing steam.

Related: Get our Software Audit Defense Procedure in order to be prepared and ready for whatever your auditors throw at you.

Have a Proper Response for Your Software Auditors

Software auditors may be a puzzle to deal with; they may have vague requests and tight turnaround times, but nothing is more confusing than when all you get from them is radio silence.

At MetrixData 360, we know that there are many issues that can crop up during a software audit, and it can be unnerving trying to figure out your best response, especially when the software auditors are giving you very little to work with. We know what the software auditors are thinking because we’ve been on the other side of things, and we know how to create a perfectly timed response to the auditors’ most vague and puzzling responses. If you’d like to learn more about the kind of services we offer, check out our audit defense service page.

Internal Software Audit

If a software audit was to come to your organization today, do you know what they would find? Or does the idea of a surprise audit fill you with dread and a general wave of anxiety over the unknown? Running an internal software audit can help ease that anxiety and give you peace of mind.

The majority of organizations do not have any sort of software asset management solution in place and, as a result, a software audit for them would only be a matter of damage control to stop the bleeding wherever possible.

Needless to say, this is not an ideal situation to be in. Especially in these hard times, the old solution of throwing money at a software audit until it goes away is a luxury few organizations can afford.

At MetrixData 360, we have seen companies struggle to get their software environments in order at the last minute. But it is possible to get out ahead of the game.

How do you maintain a clean software environment that is compliant and under control all year round and not just when the software auditors darken your door? Self-assessments and internal software audits are an excellent step to helping you get your software environment in order.

Why You Should Perform an Internal Software Audit

Internal audits may come across as though they are nitpicking and critiquing the work of the IT and procurement departments. While it’s natural to become defensive when an audit team takes a critical look at past behavior, an internal audit isn’t meant to be adversarial. In fact, the purpose of an internal audit or self-assessment is to safeguard the company, not pick it apart.

The actual reasons for performing these software audits can be broken down into two parts:

Control: Internal audits are an excellent way to gain control of your software environment in a way that ensures that you are compliant with your software vendors and capable of cutting back unnecessary spending. You won’t be able to do that without a team who can tell you what you have to fix without making it about you as a person.
Action: Merely reporting issues will get you nowhere. Being able to tell there is a fire (smoke, alarms, the heat on your face) is only the first step in putting out the fire. You still have to figure out what comes next. Internal auditors need to be able to provide you with actionable solutions to the issues in your software environment.

When Should You Perform an Internal Software Audit?

Timing is everything in the business world. When would be the perfect time to kick off an internal audit? If you are experiencing any of the following situations, then performing an internalized software audit is an excellent idea.

  • Feeling the Threat of a Software Audit

While software audits are sometimes distributed at random, and every customer should anticipate a software audit of some kind from each of their vendors at least once a year, there can be a certain rhythm to them that we have noticed at MetrixData 360.

Some common factors that can catch the software vendor’s attention and may lead you to receive an audit sometime in the future are as follows:

  • The vendor has seen a dip in their sales and they’ll soon become resourceful in making up that revenue
  • You’ve cut back spending with the software vendor
  • You’ve let it slip to a vendor’s sales rep that you are working on some new projects that will require more licenses, but that project is unexpectedly postponed and the licenses are never purchased. The vendor’s sales team waits impatiently, and nothing happens, not being told about the project being cancelled. They will think that new projects are underway involving their software that they are not part of.
  • You’ve recently gone through a merger and acquisition (see the next paragraph for more details)

Performing a self-assessment is the best way to prepare for a software audit if you feel like one is coming. Times being what they are, software audits are expected to only increase as software vendors are desperate to make up for their lost revenue, so if you aren’t in a software audit, you have a good chance of being in one soon.

  • Going Through a Merger and Acquistion

The reason why this point gets its own section is because there are many reasons why it is a good idea to perform a self-assessment when your organization is going through a M&A and it’s not just because an M&A is the number one way to incite an audit (which it is!). Examining your own resources and the resources of the other company will give you better insight into what you are signing up for. You want to assume that the other organization is perfectly compliant and has their software licensing environment in order. However, we have often seen many organizations halt their M&A because they realize at the last second that the other organization has massive compliance issues that they will have to bear as well.

Their compliance issues become your compliance issues after the M&A is completed. Performing an internal self-assessment will not only give you the ability to check for compliance issues before the move, but it will also allow you to cross-compare which assets you can keep, which assets you can dispose of, and which assets won’t be able to move. It’s common after an M&A to have multiple pieces of software that serve the same function, and this duplication will only serve as a waste of money in your new software environment. This is the perfect opportunity to do a little spring cleaning and cut back any wastage.

It is also important to note that not every license can be transferred during an M&A, many organizations simply assume this without checking their licenses to determine if it is actually possible and they run the risk of being non-compliant. The last thing you want to do is be caught with compliance issues immediately after your M&A, it’s what the software vendors will be expecting and they will be knocking on your door with a software audit notice within 12 months of your finished M&A. You need to be ready for when that happens.

  • A Contract Renewal or True-Up Is Upon You

Contract renewals or true-ups are your opportunity as a customer to alter your current agreements to better suit your business needs. But you won’t be able to make informed purchasing decisions if you don’t have the data to back it up.

A self-assessment can tell you which licenses you need more of, which you can cut back on and the numbers for each. Simply buying based on what you’ve purchased in the past or making a rough estimation will not allow you to purchase in the most cost-effective manner, and you’re bound to lose money either by purchasing too many licenses or too few, leaving you exposed to compliance issues.

The software vendors and their sales reps do not have your business’s interests in mind when they make recommendations to you. The sales rep’s goal is to increase your spending with them and to get you to buy from them exclusively. Ensuring that you are using what you buy and making sure that you get the most value out of the product is not on their agenda, so you shouldn’t rely on their advice alone.

Having your own data to back up your purchasing decisions will put you back in the driver’s seat during your next software contract negotiation.

Related: Getting Ready for a Contract Renewal or Contract Negotiation? Make sure you are ready by checking out our article: Getting Ready for a Microsoft True-Up
  • Are You Going through a Cloud Migration?

These days, it seems like everyone in the modern business world is either already in the Cloud or heading there. Transitioning to the Cloud can be an expensive endeavor, riddled with hidden fees and unexpected costs related to rampant spending and uncensored processes. When you move to the Cloud, it is important to prioritize and only take what can and should go with you. Unneeded licenses that are just acting as a leech to your budget and untransferable licenses that will only represent a compliance gap later should be left behind.

Related: Cloud Migrations when done improperly can cost your organization a lot of money. Check out the issues you need to be aware of in our article: Moving to the Cloud? 5 Problems You’ll Need to Address

How to Perform a Software Audit Self-Assessment

Knowing that you need a software self-assessment is one thing, but knowing how to do it is quite another. Here are just a few elements that involved in creating a software self-assessment that will give results:

  1. Proactive Approach
  2. Informal Audit Activities
  3. Free-flow of Information
  4. Have the Right Team


  • Proactive Approach

It is easier to build something that is strong and stable in the first place than to go back later and fix it. Going back and reworking faulty systems is more likely to be met with resistance on the part of the IT team, who will have more work for them. Building controls upfront will help you to keep your software assets under control before they even grow into issues.

If you’d like to learn how you can create a proactive SAM approach, you can check out our article about growing in SAM Maturity.

  • Informal Audit Activities

Internal audits can involve an extensive process of granular research that may be difficult to conduct on a regular basis. Allowing your team to perform informal, less rigorous research to simply scan an environment for red flags will greatly reduce the data you will have to sift through and will allow you to cover a lot more ground on a regular basis without losing steam.

Since you are not in an actual audit at the moment, there is only the need to keep a pulse on the health of your software environment, there’s no need to dig deep and cut into it just yet.

  • Free-Flow of Information

In many organizations, there is a disconnect between the IT department and the procurement department; a communication breakdown between those who buy the software and those who use it. This is an inherent deterrent towards the goals of achieving a realized software asset management solution. Breaking down these walls by encouraging the free flow of information between departments is essential to ensuring a healthy software environment.

  • Have the Right Team

Having a messy, unorganized and unmonitored software environment is a costly luxury and an unnecessary expense when compared to the savings that could be realized with a properly implemented software asset management solution. This is why performing internalized audits and self-assessments is a great way of realizing those risks before they grow into greater issues.

Who Should Act as Your Internal Software Audit Team?

When it comes to hiring a team, you can either create an internal SAM team or hire an external source.

At Metrixdata 360, we have helped many of our customers get their software licensing environment under control, cutting down your expenses to their smallest digit.
Our goal is to save you money and if you would like to learn more about the kind of services we offer, you can check out our self-assessment page.

Buying a SAM Tool

Software Asset Management (SAM) is a set of business processes that are designed to maintain license compliance and spending efficiency regarding an organization’s software licenses. Buying a SAM tool to help gain visibility into your software licensing seems like a no-brainer, but not all SAM tools are created equally.

SAM done right can provide significant benefits to an organization, including:

  • Cost Reduction or Expense Elimination: a potential 30% savings could be found in any software environment that hasn’t implemented SAM in the past.
  • Reduced Risk: Software vendors use software audits as a source of revenue due to the fact that often in the event of an audit, companies have no way to defend themselves against the (inaccurately high) claims of the auditors.
  • Cost Optimization: SAM empowers your company to only purchase what you need and allows you to get the most out of what you purchase.

If you have decided that your company would like to implement SAM, then your next logical step would be purchasing a SAM tool. The reasoning behind this is simple: modern software architecture is quite complicated. For mid-sized to large businesses, counting your licenses manually using nothing but a spreadsheet would produce enough data to drive anyone mad. To implement true software asset management, you need to purchase a SAM tool. At MetrixData 360, we have been working in the SAM tool industry for many years now and we pride ourselves in our high customer satisfaction rate.

To ensure you have a good experience, it’s important you don’t rush into this purchasing decision. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about SAM tools: what they are, where they often fall short, and how they fit into your greater plan with SAM.

What Are SAM Tools?

SAM tools are applications that are meant to aid and assist the management and organization of your software assets. SAM tools are divided into two categories: agent and agentless, both of which come with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Agentless SAM Tools

By far the more popular option of the two, agentless monitoring relies on protocols to relay information back to a central monitoring software. Software and hardware manufacturers have built features into their products which will allow the software or hardware to relay information about itself if prompted.

Agentless monitoring simply embeds itself within the software or hardware to tap into this relay of information in order to read their operational parameters before sending it back to the central monitoring software. So, it’s technically not agentless but simply tapping into a communication network that was already there within the product.

Pros of Agentless SAM Tools

  • Deployment and installation are easier and faster, since there is less software to install compared to agent-based monitoring. With agentless tools you only need to install the central system.
  • Monitoring is always done the same regardless of the system it is monitoring.
  • Licensing and hardware expenses are low compared to agent-based tools.
  • Maintenance and updates are often easier and cheaper.
  • Only requires basic knowledge of graphs, monitoring, and analysis to use.

Cons of Agentless SAM Tools

  • Limitations in what can be monitored, some elements of your environment simply can’t be remotely monitored. Due to this limitation, monitoring is less expansive, and the analysis is restricted.
  • Monitoring protocols sometimes are lacking in security measures.
  • Requires additional network traffic for when the raw performance data is sent to the remote data collector.

Agent-Based SAM Tools

Comparatively, agent-based monitoring gives you the opportunity to collect and analyze more data from your infrastructure using agents that run on the monitored system. The agents are pieces of software that are installed to collect operational data and they will send it back to one central system. Since vendors of agent-based tools often provide their tool when you host on their platform, the increased breadth of data is expected.

Pros of Agent-Based SAM Tools

  • Flexibility for developers to define the information that is passed between the monitoring tool and the system it is monitoring.
  • Adding new devices onto the tool is very easy and doesn’t require updating the tool. You simply need to install the agent onto the new device.
  • Often provide much more detailed information compared to the agentless tool.
  • Collection of parameters are done by the agent, making it easier and simpler to use.
  • Often comes with profiling features and in-depth analysis.

Cons of Agent-Based SAM Tools

  • Monitoring limitations.
  • If your SAM tool vendor also provides you a Cloud platform, it will be difficult to ever switch platforms since it will mean losing your SAM tool.
  • Often hardware expenses and licensing expenses are higher compared to its agentless counterpart.
  • The agents that are running are added to your CPU, memory and disk space on the monitored systems, which could then in-turn affect performance.
  • You will need to install both the central system in addition to the installation of all the agents on each server.
  • Maintenance will often prove to be labor intensive, especially if the deployment process is not automated.
  • Not every system will allow the installation of the agents.
  • Often requires a level of skill to harness the full potential of all the features.

How SAM Tools Fit in with a Good SAM Maturity Strategy

Every SAM strategy needs a good SAM tool to back it up. However, reaching that peak performance of software asset management — where you are completely compliant, cutting costs and gaining complete visibility into your software licensing environment — isn’t something that you gain as soon as your SAM tool is up and running.

The 5 Stages of SAM Maturity

There are actually five stages of SAM Maturity:

  • Chaos:
    1. Your software environment is a mess, you have no visibility, no SAM tool installed, and every software audit is simply a matter of putting out fires.
    1. Simply gain visibility and get a picture of what you have.
  • Reactive:
    1. You have one or multiple SAM tools, and you are starting to gain visibility into what you have. Audits are still a matter of damage control as your company is only reacting to findings.
    1. Use the data the SAM tool has provided you to hunt down licensing issues and gain compliance.
  • Compliance Plus:
    1. You’ve reached compliance; your software environment is neat and tidy, and you have full visibility and the ability to effectively defend yourself in an audit.
    1. You can now start actively looking for savings opportunities in your software environment. * *You need to ensure compliance before you start hunting for savings since attempting to reduce your licenses and cut costs can often incite an audit from software vendors.
  • Optimize:
    1. All your licenses are in order and are cost-effective without reducing value. Software audits are no big deal because you have full visibility into your licensing environment and any compliance issues are dealt with as they arise.
    1. Solidify your hard work to make sure this SAM strategy outlasts you.
  • Amplify Value:
    1. Not only is your SAM strategy proving effective and useful to your company but now this strategy will continue in the company’s best practices. Savings should begin to accumulate at this stage.
    Pick where you want your software environments to grow based on your company’s unique business needs.

As you can see, purchasing your SAM tool is only a single step in your journey to SAM maturity, and it won’t take you straight to the later stages immediately. Now, your company doesn’t have to reach all of these stages, it may only be in your interests to reach the mid-level stages and that’s completely fine. This whole process from beginning to end represents roughly a year of effort from your SAM team.

How Do SAM Tools Work in the Cloud?

Everyone is heading into the Cloud, and for good reason, as it provides its users with flexibility and a pricing metric that is often comparatively cheaper than their on-prem counterparts.

One of the main appeals the cloud offers is the ability to use a pay-as-you-go model of payment, where you only pay month-to-month and only for what you need.

Surely this means that software asset management is no longer needed, since the confusing licensing part of it is handled by your provider and you can sleep easy at night, right? What companies often don’t realize is that SAM is now more important than ever, especially when it comes to the Cloud.

What Makes SAM so Essential?

  • Migrating to the cloud is often an expensive process as licenses are transferred, replaced with their Cloud equivalent, or purchased for the first time. We have seen many companies halt their Cloud migration or replace their original full migration with a hybrid solution simply because of unforeseen expenses.
  • Shadow IT becomes a huge risk in a Cloud environment. In the old, on-prem days, purchasing licenses often required negotiating contracts, an activity which would require weeks. Now, it’s easier than ever for a customer to purchase licenses, all they need is a credit card, an account, and an afternoon. The pay-as-you-go pricing models also makes it difficult to anticipate what the year-end cost will be.

Related: Get a comparison of the three major Cloud Platforms: AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud

Why Do SAM Tools Often Fail?

Software Asset Management has taken on a slow adoption in the business world at large, with under 20% of companies worldwide having some sort of SAM practice in place, with the vast majority of them taking on SAM during some kind of event: either a software audit or when the Cloud migration expenses hit the CFO as gently as speeding freight train.

However, even looking at the percentage of companies that have SAM and don’t just take it out for special occasions, there is a vicious cycle that has become apparent.

The “Trough of Disillusionment” is what Gartner calls the realization companies experience over either 6, 12, or 24 months that their SAM tool can’t deliver, with only 25% of enterprises expressing satisfaction with their SAM tool in 2020. So, what are the causes of this dissatisfaction? There are a few things that contribute:

The Silver Bullet Solution

Companies assume that their SAM tool is the silver bullet which will save them from all their compliance issues. They are often disappointed when SAM tools fail to live up to the expectations put on them. That is because the tool is just that – a tool.

Tools need to be in the hands of the right people to get the results you want. It’s the people who drive the success, and a strong SAM strategy often requires a team of full-time professionals to get the job done.

We have seen companies who have thrown the task of the entire SAM process into the lap of some unlucky member of IT or Procurement; someone who already has a full-time position and who can’t possibly deliver the results you need using only their spare time.

When building a proper SAM team, you’ll need to consider the following skills:

  • Legal Expertise with a specialization in contracts and/or software contracts in particular.
  • Negotiation Expertise — you’ll need someone who knows how to make deals with the software vendors.
  • Software vendor specialization, software vendors are inclined to modify and update their software products and their licenses frequently (up to hundreds of times a year).
  • Experience dealing with tech would also be considered an asset.

Finding any one person who encapsulates all these skills will be difficult if not impossible.

Implementation Failures

The way that SAM tools are implemented and used can also have an impact on your overall success rate. There are a few common scenarios that are seen when companies first begin to implement SAM:

  • They don’t know what success looks like, they enter into the project without thinking of their end goal. Working backwards from a goal will help you build an implementation plan while also ensuring that you know what ‘done’ looks like.
  • They try to do everything at once, organizing your entire infrastructure will not happen immediately. You will need to set up a tight scope: start with a few of your vendors at first and eventually branch out.
  • They see SAM as a single event; however, SAM is really something that should be considered as a continued service – something that you are slowly but surely moving towards improvement.

The Shortcomings of SAM Tools

There is a reason why SAM customers often purchase their tool with high expectations and that comes from the fact that many SAM tool vendors often promise things that their tool simply can’t deliver on, giving their customers a false sense of security. SAM tools come with many potential shortfalls that you must be aware of when purchasing your SAM tool, such as:

Naming Conventions

SAM tools get confused when confronted with unique naming conventions, test/development environments, and updated licensing rules. This often results in licenses being skipped, mislabeled or counted twice.

Solution: Make sure that your SAM tool can label specific devices correctly, which may require manual intervention that requires a SAM team.

Remote Users

If you use remote server access software like Citrix then your SAM tool may only count one installation, when in fact there may be many.

Solution: You can use manual workarounds to identify remote server access and fix this issue prior to being confronted with it during an audit. You can also pull your remote access users from your Active Directory into a user-based license record within the tool.

Unique Licensing Metrics

Basic SAM tools can count users, devices, processors, or cores. If your software publisher has anything more unique than that as a licensing metric, such as CALs with SQL Servers or Sub-capacity licensing with IBM, then you may run into some issues.

Solution: This is also capable of being overcome with manual intervention, although the challenge is that these licensing metrics are extremely complicated, so you might need a licensing expert available for your particular metric. You can also check out our tools which are specifically designed to handle difficult licensing challenges.

Cloud Struggles

As many businesses are moving to the Cloud, they often find that their SAM tool struggles to accommodate for the transition. In some cases, the SAM tool will use a connector to access the company’s portals for their Cloud solutions and pull data in from there but where this occurs, it is often prone to error.

Solution: To improve your SAM tool’s accuracy you can retrieve the reports manually and upload them into your SAM tool. It’s encouraged that you do this on a monthly basis.

License Keys

SAM tools can find it challenging to detect ‘invalid’ license keys if an employee brings a software license into the company from a personal account. SAM tools may read these keys as valid, but the software vendors certainly will not. Some vendors are particularly sensitive about these ‘invalid’ keys. They will ask to review them for fear that your organization has duplicated licenses or is even pirating their software.

Solution: Suspecting that your software environment contained pirated licensing material will make any audit that much more difficult because you’ll be confronted with battling against legal penalties in addition to the audit findings. You need to create a custom script to identify invalid license keys and tag any potential issues. You can also advise employees to not bring in personal licenses without authorization as well.

Activated Features

While SAM tools are great for counting the number of licenses, they often have trouble detecting activated features of a product. Take Oracle as an example, Oracle licenses their products cheaper if features that are a part of the product are ‘turned-off,’ but Oracle has very few restrictions in place to prevent customers from using or activating these features. This can then result in heavy auditing fines if these activated features are discovered in your software environment.

Solution: Keep track of specific license edition types, set user permissions on licenses and tell your users not to activate specific functionalities without seeking confirmation from authority.

Want to more details? Check out our webinar hosted by CEO Mike Austin: The Failure of SAM Tools

How to Avoid Getting a Worthless SAM Tool

  • Learn to Verify the Accuracy of the Data
    1. One great way to avoid a worthless SAM tool is verify its accuracy within your software infrastructure. There are three ways to do this:
  • Physical Spot-Check:
    • Test a small sample of assets (e.g., 20 devices) and compare the records your tool collects on them based on manual investigations into each device.
  • Lifecycle Checks:
    • Constantly cleanse your tool’s asset data by asking your IT staff to verify asset data as a part of their ITSM daily duties. They could easily verify things like ownership of assets when a ticket is raised against it, they can also check departments, specifications or configurations.
  • Compare Asset Data with Other Sources:
    Compare your SAM tool against other large data sets that you have in your environment, such as your SCCM data or your Active Directory Accounts, which leads us into the next point.
  • Get More than One
    1. As great as it would be for a single do-it-all SAM tool to exist, we’re still a long way away from that place. We have seen that in general, installing a single SAM tool only increases visibility of the company’s infrastructure by 20%. Typically the use of a second tool is needed to cross reference the quality of data or fill in any missing gaps. This will often increase the company’s visibility to a level where meaningful action can be taken to reduce compliance exposure and licensing issues.
  • Get Someone Who Can Manage It
    1. Lastly, it’s important to have a team of people in charge of managing your SAM strategy. You can either hire someone in house, hire a third-party consultant to handle the task, or you can get a hybrid solution for your SAM needs. There are many pros and cons to each of these solutions, which we discuss in length in our article:
Hire a Software Asset Management Expert or Do it Yourself? The Pros and Cons of Each.

Introducing our SAM Tools

At MetrixData 360, we have state of the art tools of our own that we’d like to offer you, our SAM tools are unique in the fact that they:

  • Are designed with the intention of saving you money
  • Take a holistic approach to the examination of your data
  • Simplify complicated jobs
  • Come with expert assistance
  • Safe to use

The Tools We Offer

Active Directory Reporting Tool

Your Active Directory (AD) is the first and most critical step for determining your user and device counts. Although using AD is not an exact science, it is what Microsoft Auditors use as a guide to determine Qualified Devices/Users. So, you will want your AD as clean as possible, to reflect what you actually have and use.

However, your AD is often the area of your software environment that is cluttered and full of noise. MetrixData 360 has created an amazing tool which can determine qualified devices and qualified users in your Active Directory, which can be set to either standard or specific criteria and used to obtain accurate information.

Office 365 Reporting Tool

Your Office 365 license is critical for ensuring productivity for your business, but how can you be certain that your company is making the most out of the licenses they have when overspending on software is so common? Take control of your Office 365 licenses with MetrixData 360’s in-house solution to identify waste and overspend in your Office 365 Subscriptions with our Office 365 Reporting Tool.

Azure Usage Tool

Azure is an amazing platform that can offer your company streamlined productivity and versatility. However, it can also be extremely complicated. With organizations easily owning hundreds of Azure related products that they need to pay for every month, it can be a challenge to understand where all your organization’s Azure spend is coming from.

If you try to break down your cost using the invoices found in your Azure portal, you will find a nightmare of complicated data spreadsheets waiting for you – which is where MetrixData 360’s Azure Usage Tool comes in. Our Azure Reporting tool is custom-tailored to decipher Azure’s complex pricing and break it down into easy to understand and utilize information.

SQL Licensing Optimization Tool

SQL Server Licensing may be one of the most confusing license models that Microsoft has today. Even the biggest SAM tools on the market have a hard time truly optimizing SQL Server licensing. Usually, other tools will produce a simplified version of the data that doesn’t provide the in-depth analysis customers need to take meaningful action to organize their SQL Servers.

Our algorithm will provide a comprehensive view of your SQL Server Licenses, taking months of work and cutting it down to a few minutes. This is done to ensure your SQL Licensing is completed in the most cost-effective way possible, regardless of if you are on-premise, in the cloud, have Software Assurance, purchasing through an EA or a Server and Cloud Enrolment (SCE).

Windows Server Licensing Optimization Tool

Your environment is likely very dynamic and not static. You will have Virtual Windows (VMs) servers moving across VMWare hosts or VMs that are moving from on-premise to a public cloud. How do you manage these licenses?

Many organizations simply purchase licenses as they need them and never look to reset and re-optimize those licenses. Truth be told, it’s likely because it’s a very difficult thing to do. Our Windows Server License Optimization Tool has been developed to help clients quickly figure out the best use of their Windows (and System Center) licenses.

Learn More About SAM Tools

Buying a SAM Tool can prove a difficult experience because the market is saturated with tools that are only designed to sell you more tools.

It is important that you purchase SAM tools of quality. These products are the things that will keep you compliant. They will be the backbone of your defense in a software audit. They can ensure your transition to the Cloud is smooth and cost-effective. And they can give you back control over your software licensing environment.

At MetrixData 360, our goal is to save you money and get the most out of your software purchase, which is why we offer tools that are designed to save you money, time, and frustration. If you’d like to learn more about the tools we offer, you can check out our Tool Catalogue.

Stakeholder Management and SAM

Software asset management doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and software asset managers (especially if they are a part of a larger company) will spend a large chunk of their time appealing to stakeholders. In fact, some IT departments even hire stakeholder managers just for that specific task.

With so much riding on convincing this group of people that your SAM solution is a good one, what is the best way to foster a strong stakeholder relationship?

Over the years, the MetrixData 360 team has helped many companies work through their own SAM solutions and have helped manage dozens of stakeholders in the process of each engagement. so today we thought we’d share what we know about working with stakeholders, especially when they don’t know anything about SAM.

Who Are the Stakeholders?

Your group of stakeholders is composed of anyone affected in any way by your SAM project. The bigger your organization, the more stakeholders you’ll have whose job will be to either support or hinder it, depending on how they perceive your project will impact them (either negatively or positively). Some stakeholders that you might have to deal with in your attempts to implement an effective software asset management strategy in your company includes but are not limited to:

  • Senior executives that would oversee the SAM program
  • CIOs and their IT VPs
  • CFOs and their Finance and Procurement VPs
  • The Business Unit Manager
  • The Chief Compliance Officer

Having these stakeholders in your corner means that you’ll have someone who is willing to back your SAM project, defend it, and (most importantly) fund it and give you the go-ahead to begin.

Principles of Stakeholder Management for Software Asset Management

Build Your Business Case

The first thing that you’ll need to do is create a case which appeals to all the various stakeholders. Consider what’s in it for each of them, then highlight the benefits and key performance drivers.

For instance, if you’re speaking to the IT Operations VP, focus on how SAM will create labor saving potential and operational efficiency. If you’re speaking to the CFO on the other hand, focus instead on cost reductions and budgeting potential.

Clarify what you want from each of your stakeholders. Your case should accurately lay out the anticipated size and complexity of your SAM project, the amount of help and resources you’ll require and how long your project is estimated to take.

Try to put in as much detail as possible but make sure to account for the fact that SAM projects are subject to roadblocks in the form of missing data or discovered compliance issues.

Educate Your Stakeholders

It’s important to ask yourself how much each stakeholder might know about software asset management. Someone with a background in finances might not have a history working with or understanding the complexity of SAM.

If you feel like you might be greeted by a boardroom of blank faces with your business case, it might be worth it to include a quick overview of what SAM is and the general value it can provide to a company.

Related: Get your Team on Board with Software Asset Management with our article, Implementing Software Asset Management for Beginners.

Reporting Your Progress

After you’ve gotten your initial shot to try out your plan, you’ll have to prove that it was worth their trust by providing progress reports frequently. These reports should detail if you’ve hit any milestones in the project plan, if you’re seeing any return on investment etc.

It’s especially important that you communicate your progress during the early stages of the project, where confidence in your SAM vision will be the shakiest and the project is most prone to change. At this point it may be beneficial to aim for easy wins and low-hanging fruit to display results quickly.

Once momentum is gained and the value of your project is proven, then the cost of pulling the plug will be higher and you can breathe a bit easier. These reports should also include any difficulties you are facing that present the potential of slowing down the results of your project.

You’ll need to provide separate reports for each of the stakeholders, tailored to their specific interests (don’t make the VP of Procurement slosh through data on how many hours of labor you’ve removed from the IT staff) and their certain level of supervision; will they be closely managing your project? Or will they simply need to be kept informed? These reports will be vital in securing permission to advance your project into its next phase.

For this reason, stakeholder management needs to be treated as a critical aspect of your project and not given the half-hearted attention of a side task. The last thing you want to do is have your stakeholders feel like you are treating them like a low priority.

For reporting your progress, your SAM tool can easily prove an excellent resource, since they will be able to provide excellent reports and insights that each of your stakeholders will find useful.

Develop a Strong Relationship with Your Stakeholders

Without appealing to the right stakeholders, your vision for properly implementing a strong SAM solution will never get off the ground. It’s not because it isn’t a good idea, SAM is an excellent way to curb expenses, manage risk and empower companies to manage their own software licenses. And it’s important to remember that is what you’ll be able to bring to the table.

At MetrixData 360, we have helped many companies realize their goals when it comes to software asset management, we’ve removed a lot of stress and headache from our clients by taking care of the majority of the difficult work, so you can deliver great results with minimal effort on your part.

If you’d like to learn more about our SAM-as-a-Service offering you can check out our service page!

How to Prepare for an SAP Audit

Getting Ready for a Software Audit with SAP? 
Five tips to keep in mind  

Of all the software publishers out there, SAP is known for dealing out particularly vicious audits with high numbers that are dreaded by SAP customers. 

But living in constant fear of being audited is no way to live your life. 

If you have SAP software of any substantial scale, then it is only a matter of time before your SAP audit is at your door. The best thing you can do is simply prepare. 

At MetrixData 360, we have gone up against SAP in enough audits to know what to expect.

In this article,  we’ll share with you the five ways you can prepare for an SAP-specific audit. 

Know What Triggers an SAP Audit 

Expect an SAP audit at least every two years. You may receive a software audit from SAP more frequently if:

  • you are a larger corporation 
  • your company has gone through a merger or acquisition which has led to substantial growth
  • you have purchased a new SAP product
  • you are deemed a ‘high risk’ customer based on the findings of a previous audit

Basically, if your last audit didn’t go so well, then in SAP’s mind, two years is a long enough time for old habits to flare back up and for disorganization to creep back in.  

While it is not a rule set in stone, SAP may initiate audits as a reactive measure to events that are occurring within their company. If SAP has lost a competitive bid, if their sales are slowing down, if they have released a new licensing model, it may increase the likelihood of you seeing an audit sooner rather than later.  

Know Your SAP Software Contract  

SAP contacts have the tendency to be needlessly complex, with over 100 separate Agreements/Order Forms/Exhibits/and so forth. These contracts all contain custom wording that can be difficult to understand but this comprehension of your agreements is critical if you want to avoid the brunt of an audit. Take something so simple as SAP’s definition for Use, as an example.  

Isn’t it great when a software publisher slightly changes the use of a seemingly commonly understood word? For SAP that word is “use.” 

According to SAP’s Software License Agreement, Use is defined as the ability to load, execute, access, employ the software or display the information resulting from those capabilities. This is a fancy way of saying basically any interaction or capability of interaction with SAP’s software can be defined as Use and any Use requires a license.

Since the definition is so broad, it means that it could prove a challenge in an upcoming audit for companies who do not have a strong understanding of Use according to SAP.  

In particular, you should make sure that your company has a strong understanding of the following terms as laid out in your specific agreement since they are often subject to customization:  

  • Named User 
  • Definition of your particular license metric, with close attention to any exceptions that your company could qualify for.  
  • Indirect Access or wording related to Indirect Access such as External user, interfaces, etc. Pay attention to even the smallest clause.  

SAP Indirect Access  

Many SAP systems have a dual-licensing system that relies on two main components.  

  • Packaged licensing: is what you paid for and what you use. I couldn’t tell you which metric SAP will use since SAP uses every metric under the sun and it will vary from product to product.  
  • Named User License: allows a user to use any number of SAP applications that can be found in the packaged licenses. Every user needs at least one license and to access any package you need a packaged license and a named user license. Confused yet? 

Taking the SAP definition of Use as seen in the last section, Indirect Use can be interpreted as Use through a custom-built application or a third-party application. So basically, anyone who touches SAP data or software in any way could be considered having Indirect Access.   

Make sure that you have a clear map of your SAP environment, including any SAP architecture not linked to your main ERP environment and affiliate system that might be interlinking with your SAP environment. 

Risk Management for SAP  

Before you start organizing your briefcase full of money to hand over to SAP for the purchasing of more licensing, there are a few strategies you can implement that can address the compliance issues of an SAP audit even before you are found in the middle of one. License purchasing should only be used after all other methods have been exhausted. 

  • License Identification: You may already have the licenses required to cover unique and seemingly unlicensed scenarios. You need to figure out if you are even in trouble before you start paying for it.  
  • Software Reconfiguration:With issues like indirect access, a reconfiguration of your software architecture may be just the thing you need to get you out of the compliance risk hotseat. 
  • System Clean-up: It’s important that you are using up-to-date software, and a system cleanup can be a great way to reduce your exposure. 

Have the Right People on Your Side 

Above all else, it’s important that you have the right team to handle an SAP audit. This isn’t a side project your IT department can get done in their spare time. 

Depending on the size of your software licensing environment, you may very well need to hire a team of people for the job, either in-house or an expert. Each option comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. 

An in-house software asset management team, while they may be more integrated into the culture of your company, will need to be versed in licensing and contracts from every vendor in your profile, negotiation skills, expertise in technology and so many more. 

To get all the resources you need, you will be required to hire a whole team of experts and it may take them a while to get up to speed. An external expert may come at a higher starting price but their immediate expertise and scalability to match your project can make it easy to gain massive returns on your investment. 

If you’d like more information about the pros and cons of hiring a SAM expert vs. doing it yourself, check out our article!

End on a Good Note!  

The frequency of software audits are only accelerating, and SAP is no exception. Ignoring what you have in your software licensing environment until your SAP audit is upon you will only create further problems, along with copious amounts of unneeded stress for you and your company. Imagine being able to approach a software audit with confidence in your own compliance and a rock solid defense to back your claims? 

At MetrixData 360, we have all the tools you need to get yourself ready for any audit that might be thrown your way, regardless of which software vendor it comes from. So, get ahead of your audits today!

Reactive vs. Proactive SAM

If you’ve just begun to dip your toes into software asset management, you may have realized just how consuming of a job it can be. But implementing Proactive SAM measures can help to slow the chaos down and avoid it all together in the future.   Perhaps your software environment was disorganized when you started and now after weeks of struggling, data hunting, and persevering, you’ve reached a state that SAM experts like to call Reactive SAM.  At this stage, you have full visibility into your software architecture. And that really is great news! However, despite how tempting it may be to throw in your SAM towel and call your efforts good enough, there is a reason why, once you’ve reached this stage, it may be beneficial to keep going.  What’s the next step after this? And why would you even bother to continue after you’ve made it this far already?  At MetrixData 360, we have seen many companies who have made it to this stage only to have their motivation and interest dip, and so in this article, we’d like to show you the benefits of pushing forward in reaching your software asset management goals.  

The Problem with Reactive SAM  

When many companies first begin to implement SAM throughout their company, they may be tempted to assume that their job is done after they are finished running or installing their SAM tool, but it isn’t so simple. There are five stages to SAM maturity, of which the Reactive Stage is only the second: 

  • Chaos:
Nothing is monitored, there are no SAM processes in place and no SAM tool installed. Unplanned costs due to unbudgeted audits and rampant cloud spending is the norm.  
  • Reactive:
At this stage you have a SAM tool and a static view of your software and hardware inventory. Now you can start creating purchasing processes and root out compliance issues.  
  • Compliance Plus:
At this stage you’ve reached compliance and now you have greatly reduced your audit risk. At this stage, you’ve also reached proactive SAM. Your next goal will be to automate the SAM process to ensure continual compliance. 
  • Optimized:
Now it’s time to start realizing some tangible savings and negotiation authority. At this point you’ll be able to discover cost saving opportunities and scenarios. 
  • Amplified Value:
At this stage SAM isn’t just an idea but an integrated part of your company’s culture. Now SAM has a hand in procurement, data center architecture, portfolio management and vendor management. From here you can now project saving scenarios for the future. 

As you can see, while reaching Reactive SAM is an achievement, it is only the first milestone that will allow your company to reach meaningful savings. While many companies chose to halt their SAM process after reaching the Reactive stage, there are limitations in what you can do from this decision:  

  • Your organization will be stuck putting out fires: As the name would suggest, in Reactive SAM, you and your team will spend a lot of time reacting to problems as they arise and you won’t be in a position to effectively alter the root cause of the problem, so the issues are bound to keep happening. 
  • Audits will still catch you off guard: unexpected audits can be quite the slap in the face to your business and at this stage you will be stuck exhausting your resources to address the issues of an audit.
  • You still won’t be able to regulate spending or consumption: Without coordinating the efforts of your procurement and IT departments and without a complete understanding of your software estate, you won’t be able to set a budget that your company can stick to. 

What Does it Mean to Have a Proactive SAM Strategy?  

Being Proactive means that if confronted with a software audit, you will be ready to handle anything that comes your way without expending tremendous amounts of company resources. Although it will take a lot more time and energy to make it through the rest of your company’s SAM Maturity journey, there are tremendous benefits waiting for you along the way.  

Benefits of Proactive Software Asset Management 

  • Reduced Risk: this is the biggest appeal for most companies. When you employ a proactive SAM strategy you are lowering your risks for software audits, compliance issues and unbudgeted software cost. 
  • Cyber Security: cyber criminals will often use old, untracked, and unnoticed software as an entry point into your infrastructure; greater visibility will increase your ability to keep software updated and protected. If you’d like to learn more about how software asset management can help improve your cyber security, you can check out our article: How SAM Can Improve Your Cyber Security
  • Savings and Peace of Mind: Knowing what you have and knowing it is properly licensed will allow you to rest easy at night without having to always be looking over your shoulder, wondering when the next audit-shaped wrecking ball will come swinging towards your company. You will also be able to realize more meaningful savings when you build a proactive SAM portfolio as you take control of your software environment.  

Continuing Your SAM Journey

Now the next question that needs to be addressed is where do you go from here.. How do you get to that next stage in SAM Maturity? Here are a few goals to keep in mind in order to help you reach Proactive SAM:

Get the Stakeholders Involved 

Anyone who will have an influence on your SAM project should be considered a stakeholder, this includes people who are in charge of purchasing your company’s software licenses and people who manage that software. It may be difficult to balance the relationship between these two parties, since the financial side will tend to be motivated by a tight budget and may see SAM as a frivolous luxury.  Meanwhile, the tech side of things might see SAM as something of a deterrent to the effectiveness of their software infrastructure.  It may be a challenge to convince both parties to get on board with SAM, and for that reason, we’ve made a few assets to help you along the way:  

Have a Dedicated SAM Staff 

SAM is not a part-time job, if you want to make it to the Proactive stages, you’ll need someone to own the project. While the needs of every software environment are unique, when searching for your new SAM team you’ll need to take into consideration the number of vendors and the complexity of your software environment. There are a few options to pick from when it comes to hiring a SAM team, you can hire internal resources or outsource the project to a third-party.   If you’d like to learn more about the Pros and Cons of each solution,you can check out our article here!  

Anticipate Roadblocks  

Fortune favors the prepared, as the saying goes, and sadly not everyone in your company is bound to understand the inherent value of software asset management right from the get go. Expect and prepare for such obstacles like:  

  • Given a small budget for SAM 
  • Solution: Start small and find low hanging fruits that can create small savings and quick wins. These small victories will act as proof to encourage upper management to further invest in SAM. 
  • No internal resources and no one with licensing experience 
  • Solution: There’s no need for you to do this all alone, which is why you need to make it a priority for you to get the help you need.  

Keep Calm and Carry on With Your SAM Journey!  

Now that you’ve started on your SAM journey it’s important that you keep on pushing to get more meaningful results. Reaching a stage of SAM Reactive is great but it is not the most stable position and the last thing you want is to let your software environment fall back into a state of chaos and risk.  At MetrixData 360 we have helped companies at every stage of SAM maturity and have helped them reach their own goals quickly and efficiently. If you’d like to learn more about our Software Asset Management as a Service offering, check out our SAM Service Page.

How to Avoid Overspending on Software Licenses

Why You’re Overspending on Software Licenses

Overspending on software licenses is a common problem many companies are confronted with. In fact, it is suspected that 93% of companies possess software environments that consist of up to 20-40% of unused or unnecessary products.

This is not a tiny sum considering many companies put millions of dollars into their software budget every year. But what is the root cause of this problem? And how can you proactively strive to avoid such a costly predicament?

At MetrixData 360, we’ve helped our clients save millions of dollars on their software licensing just by simply cutting away the excess they didn’t need. After reviewing so many of our client’s profiles, we’ve noticed a few commonalities. So, let’s take a look at what causes this bloom of unused licenses and how you stop its spread.

What Is Shelfware and Why Should You Be Worried?

Shelfware is a rather informal term in the tech industry that describes software or hardware that you have purchased but are not using. There are many reasons why this shelfware might manifest in your company:

  • The product does not have a complete life cycle and has not been retired or re-harvested correctly. Even though no one is using the hardware or software anymore, it is still considered active.
  • The product has been purchased in a bundle, a discount offer, a testing scenario, or simply as an impulse buy. Perhaps the company envisioned it being used for something or perhaps they thought they’d find a use for it later. Now however, it exists as excess beyond what the company initially needed and they continue paying for it.
  • Despite investing time and energy into planning, testing, deploying and developing a product within their software infrastructure, the stakeholders of the company just aren’t interested, and the software is shelved for the time being, if not indefinitely.

When your company houses significant amounts of shelfware, you run the following risks:

  • Security Risks: losing track of assets may leave them outdated and under-patched, and therefore exposed to potential security breaches. Few hackers will try to butt heads directly with your firewall; most attacks occur through old and forgotten software.
  • Financial Risk: the biggest risk of shelfware is a financial one: despite the software not being used, you are still stuck paying software fees in addition to continued maintenance.

Common Causes for Shelfware

Upfront Payments

This is a common tactic that the software vendors use — they often offer a greater discount with larger upfront purchases in order to obtain those enterprise-level deals.

This makes sense when you consider their motivations. Their goal is to ensure you are perpetually increasing your spending with them and to make their year-end quotas, so it will not make much of a difference to them if you end up making effective use of the software.

On your side of the table, you are optimistic that you’ll be able to use the extra licenses for something, if not now, later. Besides, it will be worth it regardless because you will have a better discount, right?

However, the result is a massive and growing stockpile of shelfware. It’s important that your discount is not your only goal during a contract negotiation. Instead, focus more on your company’s future growth and the exact amount of licenses you will need.

Related: For information on how to conduct a software contract negotiation effectively, you can check out our article:  Guide to Software Contract Negotiations

Compliance Satisfaction

Software audits are known to get messy. What usually happens is that the software vendors will send in their auditors. The auditors, who may very well have been paid based on the size of compliance gaps they can find, review your software environment and produce an inaccurately large compliance gap based on making conservative assumptions.

Since they assume the worst-case scenario and if you didn’t have a strong defense to counter them, then you likely had to settle the negotiation phase. This will be done by buying the number of software licenses you were told you owed, which turned out to be far from reality.

Since your compliance gap is overinflated, you have to overbuy on licenses just to satisfy the vendor and to bring the tedious audit to an end. This leaves you with far more licenses than you actually have a use for.

Having a strong software audit defense will give you the tools you need to prevent this fate. Imagine only paying for what you owe during an audit.  It’s possible, and if you’d like to figure out how you can get started on building out your rock-solid audit defense, you can check out our software audit defense page.

Licensing Metric

Every company is slightly different in the way their software environment is run and how it can most effectively be licensed. Certain licensing metrics, therefore, can prove more expensive for certain companies than others.

For instance, let’s say you are licensing a product using a per-user metric.The system that will be hosting the product is accessed by nearly everyone in your organization, despite the fact that only 20% of your employees will need to use the product.

In order to be completely compliant, you will need to find a solid way to prove that only certain employees are using the product without having to buy a license for everyone. It all depends on how your unique software environment is configured and it is important to take into consideration the multiple licensing metrics that your vendor offers.

Losing Track of Assets

One of the root causes of shelfware is not having a clear picture of what you have and what you need.

Many companies purchase based on what they have purchased in the past or based on an educated guess (we have 1,000 employees, therefore let’s get 1,000 licenses, done!). This type of oversimplified estimation puts you at risk of guessing too high or too low, both of which can prove costly and unnecessary.
Having a clear picture of your software environment will help to prevent shelfware through reharvesting old licenses and avoiding the purchase of unneeded new licenses. This is an area where Software Asset Management (SAM) can prove highly advantageous since SAM will give you a clear picture of everything you have in your software environment and based off of that, everything you need to purchase.

You can also use SAM to create a value gap.  An organization is made up of all kinds of employees, and each employee needs a different type of technology in order to get their work done. Some employees sit behind a desk all day, working on five monitors with the best technology at their fingertips while other employees spend their days on their feet sharing a desktop with five other employees.

Licensing all of an organization’s employees the same way will mean that the employees on their feet will get the same technology as the high consuming employee with five monitors, despite the fact that they will use it significantly less.

Hand-tailoring your licenses to match the specific needs of each employee type will greatly reduce your end cost, but the type of data you need to create this type of solution is only provided by software asset management tools.

Related: Want to Get Started on a Software Asset Management Solution? Check Out Our Article: Beginners Guide to Software Asset Management.

Underused Software

One simple remedy of shelfware is making sure that the communication chains are kept open between the people who buy the licenses and the people who will be using the technology.

Ask users their opinions on the technology and assess how useful it will be to their job. This will give yourself a clear framework on how the investment will better improve the productivity of employees.

Make sure that you provide effective training that teaches employees how to work with new software so that you can ensure the proper integration of the software into your organization.

Get the Software You Need and Skip Paying for the Extras

Shelfware is a common occurrence that organizations suffer from. It is an unnecessary and unseen leech on their budget. There is, however, another way of doing things, which will allow companies to effectively control their software spend without running the risk of software compliance. This involves creating an effective software asset management strategy.

At MetrixData 360, we have helped many of our clients create a rock-solid SAM strategy using our combined tools and team of experts, giving them peace of mind while they move forward in developing their organization’s technology.