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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 09.35.29

(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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Crossover Podcast: Episode 7 – ITSM versus ITAM

Episode 7 is the first in a series of crossover podcasts between The ITSM Review and The ITAM Review. Co-hosted by analysts Rebecca Beach and David Foxen, ITSM versus ITAM includes guests from each side of the divide:

Agenda:

  • Why are ITSM and ITAM so separate?
  • Why Asset Management is so important to ITSM
  • ITSM Solutions…Do they really do Asset Management?

ITAM Review and ITSM Review Feeds

 

ITSM thoughts from the world of Software Asset Management

Pondering the worlds of ITSM and SAM
Pondering the worlds of ITSM and SAM

Do you ever stop to think about the higher business goals that ITSM seeks to achieve? Or perhaps the boundaries between ITSM and ITAM? I was recently at the SITS14 event at Earls Court, and it was fascinating to hear so many tool vendors state that they did “asset management”. However, when I asked them where they loaded the contracts and purchase orders into their system(s) the tumbleweed was rampant – aka they couldn’t give me an answer!

Of course, what these vendors are actually referring to when they use the term “asset management” is “inventory management”. This is just as vital in the SAM world, however, in SAM we need to compare inventory data against “Proof of Entitlement” i.e. the evidence to say that a company has the right to use the installed software – typically, contract and procurement data.  The status of a software asset depends upon supporting data other than whether it is installed or not.

Where SAM falls down…

High-end SAM is targeted with providing intelligence around software consumption to aid in any business decisions that could shape future contracts and purchases in relation to software (and more recently) hardware. Software Vendors are also increasingly calling upon hardware specifications to calculate the consumption of software licenses.

However, SAM suffers from something of an image crisis – it is rarely considered a business as usual (BAU) activity, and seems to spring up at the behest of a Software Vendor Audit.  Best practice would have us believe that the creation of a SAM framework ties in seamlessly with the rest of IT, as well as with the rest of the business (many elements of data required to support a SAM framework lie with HR (named user licenses), the Contracts Department (concerning Software Contract metrics) and Procurement/Finance (to account for the installs made under the aforementioned contracts)).

Working from this foundation of low-business self-esteem, forging in-roads into well-established strongholds such as Contracts and Finance, can prove to be more exacting than determining what software is installed and how to calculate license consumption.

Falling between the cracks…

The reason I mention all of this is because I have found in too many organisations Contract and Finance personnel rarely (if ever) consult with IT to understand the nuances of licensing. They might appear to have struck a great deal on a software contract, but will have patently failed to consider the technological roll-out clauses that could add significant costs to a business at the point of a periodic review.

Another aspect that often gets overlooked is that of Support and Maintenance, and this was what got me wanting to reach out to the ITSM community.

Does your SAM function ask for your help?

Do you generate support reports based on the software vendor and the software title demonstrating the number of tickets raised, as well as the complexity of those support calls? And how many of these support calls are ever escalated to a software vendor?

Such data could prove invaluable to anyone negotiating whether or not a company decides to place titles under vendor-based support and maintenance in the future. Why? Well, vendor-based support can add anything in the region of 20-25% to the cost of a software contract.

In summary, I suppose I am reaching out to the ITSM community to say “can you help?” I have not seen a single SAM suite that has a dedicated option for the recording of vendor-based support against devices, software titles (or unique installations thereof) or individuals.  I can only imagine this kind of data would be readily available in a service desk tool worth its salt – or am I being overly optimistic?

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Is this issue on the ITSM radar? I would welcome feedback/comments on the above. 

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