Are all customer-vendor SAM software relationships doomed to end in divorce?

Are all customer-vendor SAM software relationships doomed to end in divorce?

Too often, organisations are only really interested in SAM software when the auditors are about to pay a visit, says License Dashboard’s Sean Robinson

Published on 8th July 2019

The relationship between an IT service provider and their customer is not unlike the romantic relationship of a married couple. The relationship between a software asset management (SAM) provider and their customer is no different.

Both scenarios start with an initial courtship and a period of dating. If both parties deem the dating phase to be a success, they sign a legally-binding contract and begin their “marriage”.

However, in the same way that 42 per cent of marriages in the UK sadly end in divorce, not every SAM relationship is a happy one either. In many instances, this once blossoming relationship ends in a messy and acrimonious divorce, with both sides blaming each other for the breakdown. As the marriage counsellor in this analogy, I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way.

If we follow this analogy to its logical conclusion, we must start by examining the stages of the relationship, from dating to marriage to divorce.

First, there’s the initial realisation that life would be better if you had a partner to share it with. In SAM terms, this is the realisation that you cannot easily manage your software licensing by on your own. You realise you are not an expert in licensing and are concerned you might be paying more than you need to.

Or, even more likely: you have just received a letter from one of your major software suppliers advising you of a pending audit that you really don’t want to have to face on your own. You therefore seek out the help of a SAM consultancy, SAM tool – or both – to reconcile and optimise your software spend.

This is when the dating begins. You meet with different suitors and learn what you do and don’t want want from a partner. Eventually you figure out what you want and need in a partner, get engaged and the marriage begins.Your new SAM partner wows you with software savings you never knew were there. Your software bills are slashed and you’ve never felt so organised

At first there’s the honeymoon period. You reach levels of happiness and satisfaction you never thought possible. In IT terms, your new SAM partner wows you with software savings you never knew were there. Your software bills are slashed and you’ve never felt so organised. You know all of your licence entitlements and face that audit head on, confident that there will be no surprise bill at the end of the process. The vendor completes the audit and leaves, satisfied that your house is in order and disappointed they couldn’t extract more money from you! You know you won’t hear from that vendor for years to come.

But this is when the first kinks begin to show in the relationship. You begin to sense your partner isn’t trying as much as they used to, and the benefits of the relationship just aren’t as dramatic as they once were. Perhaps your expectations were unrealistic. Is it fair to expect your SAM partner to slash your software licensing bill every year?

You have passed your audit, but your SAM partner is still pestering you for more data, encouraging you to keep your software inventory up to date. But without the pressure of an audit you begin to hold back. You share less with your partner. You are fed up with the nagging and start thinking the grass could be greener elsewhere… This relationship is not as easy as it used to be.

I have sat on all sides of this SAM relationship, so I can see where the challenges lie. I have been the SAM tools buyer, the creator of a SAM tool (License Dashboard), and a SAM partner/consultant. In 90% of cases where the customer is unsatisfied with the results of their SAM engagement, they naturally blame the SAM partner.

After all, they are paying good money for a service and don’t feel they are getting the same results they once did. But, just like a marriage, you get out what you put in. In almost all instances the cause of the breakup is a breakdown in communication between the parties.

The reality is, without the imminent threat of an audit, both parties become less focused on maintaining the software inventory. This means that data stops being shared between the customer and the SAM partner.

This is the nail in the coffin, since your SAM partner or SAM tool will only be as good as the data you feed into it. How can you reconcile your software licensing with your software usage if the data for either (or both) is out-of-date?

Software Asset Management is a collaboration that all parties must participate equally in. It is important to set roles and expectations, but most importantly of all, to keep the dialogue open! If you, as the customer, are struggling to keep your data up-to-date, perhaps you should ask your SAM partner for assistance? If you don’t want a SAM divorce, don’t bottle up your data!

Sean Robinson is a sales director at SAM software company License Dashboard


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