Software Asset Management – Past, Present and Future

While enjoying a nice bottle of wine with a friend and fellow Software Asset Management consultant last week the topic of the future came up (which I think is probably pretty common when alcohol is involved), the future of Software Asset Management.

Well, we couldn’t really discuss the future without rehashing the past and disecting the current.

History of Software Asset Management: SAM has been very cyclical in its popularity over the years. In the mid to late 1980’s when desktop computers were gaining in popularity within business there was a constant eye on the cost of such technology. Volume agreements and product use rights were very different from today with the minimum entry point for a volume discount being much higher and use rights flexibility such as concurrent usage being more current. Also during this time we saw the formation of the industry watch dogs (the Software Publishers Association and the Business Software Alliance) to educate and “police” organizations in regard to copyright infringement on software. In the early 1990’s there was a strong concern for the potential fees associated with being audited on improperly licensed software causing companies to implement SAM programs. The mid-1990’s saw a dramatic shift in volume license programs and product use rights creating a need for education on these changes and their impacts on organizations. The late-1990’s saw organizations moving away from a focus on SAM as publishers and industry watchdogs became more concerned about potential litigation. While there was some increase in attention due to the concerns around the Year 2000 problem, the cost cutting requirements of the early 2000’s had the effect of eliminating many internal controls as organizations cut positions. Now, in the mid-2000’s we see an increased focus on internal controls with the various regulatory requirements, an increased aversion to risk and an increase in industry audits.

SAM Present Day: As I mentioned, we’re now seeing an increased focus on internal controls and increased regulation. This is resulting in a renewed interest in SAM. For some companies that threw out their programs in the 90’s with all the other cuts – that means starting from scratch. For others, it’s just a brush-up to become current with new product use rights, new licensing programs and better tool options. Unfortunately for a few, it means continuing to stick their head in the sand and hope that they don’t have to deal with it.

Future of Software Asset Management: OK, so I don’t really have a crystal ball. I’m actually going to raise more questions than I answer…

Many that I talk to think that we will be facing more regulations and therefore SAM will continue to grow. Personally, I don’t think business will continue to support that model…how regulated can private industry become (and how much money can companies spend on regulation compliance versus increasing profits) before it rebels?

Others feel that Software as a Service (SaaS) will remove a lot of the licensing demands on companies making it a pay for service commodity. While I think we’ve already seen an increase in SaaS (or ASP for the old school), I also think there are basic desktop applications that are going to remain being exactly that…desktop applications (OK, not sure betting against Google is a smart move…but I also don’t really think they expect to win big business). Mind you, I’ve predicted for the past 10 years that software licensing would move to a “lease” model…but this isn’t the way I expect to see us get there.

So, what does this mean for SAM? Personally, I think it means that SAM will be an ongoing part of business and just like it has for the past many years the true adoption of it will be more a basis of the maturity of an organization rather than an indication of the industry.

What do you think?

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