ITSM: Making a big splash in SAM

The following article forms part of a larger publication looking to understand the merits of best-practice as they pertain to Software Asset Management. Like any IT discipline, SAM does not exist in isolation, and can benefit greatly from the data typically deemed resident in Service Management. As ever, your feedback in the comments section below would be welcomed.

Software Support & Maintenance Review Process

To round off this updated version of the Process Kit, we have a process that might not be considered core SAM but should absolutely be in place if we are to make use of valuable data at our disposal. The review of value delivered by Support & Maintenance contracts should be instigated off the back of a software contract renewal. Support & Maintenance costs can add a substantial levy to the cost of software so an examination of its worth to the business should be a built-in step to any decision relating to contract renewal.

Primary Objectives:

  1. To assess the value received of vendor support & maintenance offered on software titles that have entered a contract renewal phase.
  2. To undertake a benefits analysis of the Support & Maintenance contract in relation to the IT strategy of the company.

Secondary Objective:

  1. To communicate the Support & Maintenance findings to the contracts renewal team

Assumptions:

  1. That such data required to support this process is retrievable from the Service Desk tool.

Function Step Overview:

1.10 Gather Service Desk data. The contracts renewal team should reach out to the Service Desk Manager to gather support call data relating to the software titles covered by a contract currently due for renewal.
1.20 Plot support calls. The Service Desk Manager should then seek to plot that data in a graph akin to the diagram below (Fig.1) Undoubtedly styles and layout will vary as regards preferences go, but if you can offer a breakdown of support calls answered at the varying levels of support offered to the business then this offers invaluable intelligence to the contracts renewal team.   The very simple Excel Spreadsheet that was used to generate figure 1 is available with this publication.
1.30 Determine acceptable call spread for your organisation.   Having plotted the support calls as per the graph in figure 1, the subjective task of determining the acceptable call-spread for your company has to take place. You might be more forgiving for newer titles, as these will not have received as many hot fixes and patches to plug potential vulnerabilities. Conversely, more for more mature titles, you might expect to see fewer overall calls logged against them due to the stability should titles should demonstrate.One aspect that should be evident of such analysis is the potential burden that these titles place on your company.   Let’s not forget that software is installed to facilitate end users to do their jobs, not to hinder a company in its productivity. A further benefit of such analysis to Service Desk Manager is that he/she can see at a glance where the greatest load is being borne for that software vendor, and so can direct training resources accordingly.
1.40 Examine support calls that escalated to vendor.   The percentage and quantity of support calls that have made it to the software vendor need assessing. As does the effective resolution rate, and overall experience of having dealt with the software vendor. Again, such an assessment will be subjective, but so long as the assessment is consistent and demonstrable to the contract renewals team then any findings are less likely to be questioned.
1.50 Compare Support & Maintenance benefits to future roll-out plans. The final piece of analysis required is to examine what adjacent benefits are bundled into the support & maintenance on offer. Some vendors will bundle in training (both on line and in person) their might even be upgrade rights to the next version of the software covered by the contract; rights to transfer; multiple install rights etc. This list goes on…. Such benefits should be compared to the mid-term direction the business and IT wishes to take those software titles.
1.60 Communicate recommendation to Contract Review Team. Having formulated the preceding research in an acceptable format for the contracts renewal team, the Service Desk Manager can submit his/her report to the team knowing that more than a “finger in the air” assessment has been made of the support & maintenance on offer.

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(Fig. 1 – Example of Support Call Analysis – See Section 1.20)

The business can analyse this data and use it formulate a truly informed decision as to which titles are taken forward with support and maintenance, and which they feel they are capable of supporting through their own in-house technical expertise.

A point worth observing here is that the contracts renewal team will only use this as part of their considerations in deciding the direction to go in renewing a contract – financial considerations as well standard checks and controls on doing business with that particular software vendor will have to go into the overall decision.

A further point the contracts renewal team have to bear in mind is that if they choose to terminate support & maintenance on a given product, then this will have operational consequences on any software left in situ (no further vendor technical support, or possibly even the removal of the software altogether). This could entail switching costs and training demands that require fulfilling. The nuances of terminating support vary from vendor to vendor – take the time to find out what these are (or to inform the contract renewal team what they are).

Finally, with the prevalence of as-a-service, such a review would not be out of place to factor in up-time of software titles. Remember: if you don’t push for compensation at the point of contract renewal, any potential demands for remuneration for loss of service/downtime won’t have a legal leg to stand on.

Software Support & Maintenance Review Process - Page A Software Support & Maintenance Review Process - Page B Software Support & Maintenance Review Process - Page C

This, and 21 other processes have been modelled by SAM Charter in Version 2 of the SAM Process E-Kit. To take advantage of this launch (and as a thank you for making it to the end of this article!) the following promo code will offer you a $50 discount off any purchase made at the link below:

ITSMREVIEW50

http://www.samcharter.com/sam-charter-process-kit-version-2/

 

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ITSM – Crossing the SAM Divide

As can be seen from the literature and marketing brochures of many Service Management tool providers, the appeal to cross the border and reach into the Software Asset Management space is proving very difficult to resist, and there is some merit to the approach:

  • Inventory agents for SAM report the same data as inventory agents for ITSM, so if an ITSM tool is already in place, why not use it and save a network manager a headache relating to network bandwidth?
  • If an end user has a query relating to licensing or software in general, their guided instinct would be to reach out to the Service Desk to resolve that question – so it would make sense to have SAM related data at the disposal of the Service Desk.
  • SAM could benefit from the practice of SLA adherence – as a discipline, it is too often rooted in getting reports “just so” rather than being able to offer reports “on time”. The repeated activity of generating compliance reports will see to it that a company is better placed to drive strategic and operational benefit through a company if it borrows such a concept from ITSM.

However, before anyone proclaims “I do”, it is also worth noting a few of the differences that will undoubtedly have to be overcome if a marriage is to proceed:

  • Except for the most basic of calculations, “one licence does not equal one install”. Reconciliation engines within SM tools are going to have to step up to accommodate upgrade rights, downgrade rights, rights of secondary use, multiple use rights etc.
  • If an SM systems provider proclaims “they do asset management” they should be able to demonstrate where and how to import proof of entitlement; IT already struggles obtaining such data from contracts departments as they (can typically) feel duty-bound not to share such data for fear of breaching confidentiality agreements between the company and the software vendor.
  • IT Processes will need an overhaul – Systems integration between SM and SAM are but just one aspect the bullets above allude to; Service Management processes will need to account for licensing deviations highlighted in the software asset management lifecycle if a successful union is to take place.

This final point is worthy of further attention, because regardless of whether you decide to unite SAM and ITSM under one entity within your IT organisation or not, SAM still needs to be woven into your IMAC activities so as to help mitigate the risk of non-compliance.

“Here and there” installations on your desktop may not peak your interest, however, a liberal approach to random installs, moves and hardware changes in the datacenter could lead to liabilities matching or exceeding the salaries of your entire IT workforce; and with the pace and speed with which virtual servers can be instantiated and hosted, due diligence should not be considered a “nice to have” business ethos.

In an article published on this site just over a year ago (ITSM thoughts from the world of Software Asset Management) I posed the question does your service management division assist in the generation of analysis pertaining to a software support and maintenance contract review? (A strategic function of software asset management) Service Management is the discipline sitting on this valuable data, and whilst SAM suites have the capability to record that software has support and maintenance associated with it, SAM suites are invariably not used to monitor the consumption of support and maintenance.

I would welcome your thoughts on this, but also on the forthcoming article – borrowed from the sister-site (ITAM Review) we will be offering a Process of the Month analysis of how support & maintenance analysis could be achieved; and the fringe benefits it offers both Service Management and Software Asset Management.

This article was contributed by Rory Canavan of SAM Charter.

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