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Differences Between Software Asset Management and IT Asset Management

What is the difference between Software Asset Management (SAM) and IT Asset Management (ITAM)? It’s been a long time since the IT department was all of one overworked staff member, who sighed long and hard whenever someone asked them how to send an email. Now that digital transformation has touched almost every industry,  it has left us with many new titles that may be difficult to tell apart, such as the difference between ITAM and SAM. At Metrixdata360, although we specialize in Software Asset Management, we often find confusion around such topics, so we thought we’d clearly define the two categories.

What is IT Asset Management (ITAM)?

ITAM Defined

According to Comparesoft’s article The Real Difference Between ITAM and ITSM, ITAM stands for IT Asset Management and it is a practice of managing all the assets in your organization –such as hardware, software, network, and non-network devices. ITAM specializes in licensing, technical support and maintenance, and is designed to bring down the costs of an asset throughout its lifecycle. If there is a branch-wide server failure, ITAM is involved and for this reason, ITAM will often be the department that will see the most interaction with other departments and upper managers.

Do I Need ITAM?

According to ITAM’s article Building the Business case for ITAM, since personal and company motivations behind ITAM can be unique, there’s no single answer as to which area of ITAM will benefit your company most.

However, ITAM specializes in improving agility and efficiency, so if these two areas have been a headache in the past when it comes to your company’s technological profile, it might be a smart idea to approach the idea of ITAM. Some of the expected benefits that can be gained from undertaking an effective ITAM strategy is reduced audit spending, reduced unused assets, quicker and more accurate migration, upgrades, planning, more accurate budgeting, and a more secure system, just to name a few advantages.

What Does a Good ITAM Expert Do?

Usually ITAM is focused only on high value items while the more specific cases will be handed off to more narrowly focused roles. This means that a strong ITAM team would be in close contact with the CIO and Procurement. The team could consist of licensing specialists and program managers, who would answer to the Software Asset Manager, who would answer to the IT Asset Manager.

An effective IT Asset Manager can stretch an asset far beyond its anticipated value, such as reselling or transferring an asset, finding alternative uses, or extending the use life of an asset. They can fully utilize the usage rights of a product and train people to be technology experts.

Bottom Line: How Much Does an IT Asset Manager Cost?

According to, the salary range of an IT Asset Manager is anywhere between $95,000 and $128,000 a year in the United States.

What is Software Asset Management?

SAM Defined

SAM stands for Software Asset Management. It can be recognized as a sub-category of ITAM, along with Hardware Asset Management (HAM). According to Aspera’s What is Software Asset Management and How to Get Started, Software Asset management is focused primarily on lowering the budget expenses of a company through controlling and automating the processes of procurement, use, and deployment regarding software licensing.

SAM focuses mainly on optimizing licenses, saving money and remaining in compliance to a license’s use rights. An effective SAM strategy will mean that you will have a lower risk of being audited by a software vendor and your compliance gap will be lower if you are audited.

Do I Need SAM?

ITAM’s article What is the Difference Between SAM and ITAM? points out that software is harder to track since it is not tangible. Hardware can be counted and can collect dust in the back-storage room if it is not being used. Software, on the other hand, is not eye catching when you are out of compliance. Software audits can be staggeringly expensive, so software asset management’s main job is to make sure the company remains in compliance.

It is a huge undertaking considering that each vendor has its own way of writing up licenses and conducting audits. Microsoft alone changes its policies around licensing roughly 300 times a year. Many businesses choose to outsource SAM to consultants on a short-term basis while they build the capability of their internal team. For a more detailed look into if you need a SAM professional or not, visit our article Hire a Software Asset Management Expert or Do it Yourself? The Pros and Cons of Each.

What Does a Good SAM Expert Do?

According to Aspera’s What is Software Asset Management and How to Get Started, an effective SAM expert can potentially save you 30% on your licensing expenses and even more money when it comes to a software audit. Imagine handing your data over to a software auditor and producing the conclusion that you actually owe less than the auditors anticipated.

A well-organized software audit will not only mean your compliance gap will be smaller, it will also mean you are less likely to be audited again in the near future. Software vendors perform audits as a way to make money off of their customers; if they do not believe you’re likely to yield a high return for their efforts, then they’ll target potentially more profitable clients. Software asset management is in high demand with a shortage of skilled professionals currently in the marketplace, especially in areas of software licensing, software asset management and contract experience. For this reason, it will make it difficult to find an effective in-house software asset manager, which is why companies will usually hire consultants.

Bottom Line: How Much Does a Software Asset Manager Cost?

According to Glassdoor, the average in-house Software Asset Manager can earn roughly $85,000 a year in the United States. Hiring an external software asset management team would cause the price to vary depending on the size of your company, the type of vendor that you’re dealing with, the time frame, and the consultation payment method that you can choose from (such as a flat rate or contingency rate). For more information about hiring a SAM consultant, please visit our How to Hire a SAM Expert post.

For More Information on Managing Your Assets

While ITAM and SAM may seem similar, they hold different areas of focus: one that is looking at the general picture and one that is looking at a small but important part of your IT profile. It is important to understand the difference between the two, so that there can be an effective strategy for both SAM and ITAM within your company. With strong SAM and ITAM, you won’t be scrambling to get your digital environments under control. At Metrixdata360, we are committed to providing you with solid Software Asset Management service. For more information on how Software Asset Management can better serve your company, head over to our SAM as a Service Page.

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