What is software asset management (SAM)?

Software asset management (SAM) accounts for all software, both virtual and non virtual, along the software lifecycle.

SAM includes costs, budgeting, strategy and decision-making processes in the acquisition, use and disposal of software resources, whether internal or external, on premises or in the cloud.

Role within organisations

SAM is more tactical in nature, as it focuses on balancing and accounting for software licences and agreements purchased in addition to software being used. Software assets are managed to ensure that the usage of all software is in line with the terms and conditions of the software and other conditions from the software vendor. SAM is an ongoing process with strategic goals that:

  • Negotiate volume contracts to eliminate or reallocate software licences that have been underutilised.
  • Work with corporate security and risk practices to ensure that the organisation and software are compliant with licensing and security, and not vulnerable to attack.
  • Improve productivity and workflows.
  • Limit the cost of overhead by streamlining IT processes through automation or management, including patch deployment and issue tracking.
  • Establish and maintain processes associated with long-term SAM goals, including acquisition, documentation, deployment and usage of software.

SAM technology

SAM processes are supported through a number of technologies:

  • Licence management: An intelligent repository for licence reconciliation against data provided by inventory tools. This provides the organisation with an effective licence position, or an overview of places where the organisation is over-licensed or under-licensed.
  • Managing patches: Automates the deployment of software patches. The goal is to ensure that all computers and software are up to date and compliant with organisational security standards.
  • Software inventory: Accounts for software across the computer network, including software file information, title, size, date, version, path and product ID.
  • Software metering: A measurement of software utilisation and whether or not the software is in compliance.
  • Application control: Managing who and what can access certain software or certain areas of software.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has a series of standards categorised under the ISO/IEC 19770 family of standards that assist IT teams manage assets, including software assets.

SAM began to rise in relevance as early as the 1980s, when mass software was being used across multiple systems within an organisation. SAM’s popularity accelerated with the implementation of ITIL V2 and how it formalised SAM’s principles.

What is ITAM?

IT asset management (ITAM) is a series of practices that are meant to oversee and manage IT systems, processes, data and hardware. An ITAM strategy involves the implementation, tracking and maintenance of IT assets, and an assessment as to whether or not IT assets need optimisation or replacement.

IT discovery vs. SAM vs. hardware asset management

A good plan for the future involves an analysis of what an organisation has. It needs to be aware of what is on their servers, whether or not their devices are virtualised, and the configuration of some installations. This is a crossroads for discovery, SAM and ITAM, as there is no single discovery tool or process that can account for the assets in both IT and software.

SAM as a bigger part of ITAM or ITSM strategy

Centralised IT planning is a highly recommended business practice for today, no matter how challenging. While decentralising is tempting, it leads to too many siloes or IT expenses that are unnecessary. ITAM and IT service management (ITSM) are excellent keys for handling IT assets and services.

SAM plays an important role in ITAM, ITOM, ITSM and SecOps as SAM is in charge of monitoring software assets, usage, configurations and installations that help decision-making, even in a decentralised environment.

Cost savings

Complete overview of an organisation’s software needs and current use provides a thorough understanding of cost. Once there is an understanding, software licensing can be tailored and negotiated to meet the needs of an organisation.

Time savings: licence management, lightning fast

Organisations spend an unnecessary amount of time accounting for software assets without a SAM system involved. An automated SAM system helps employees account for all necessary software asset information, which leaves more time for more important tasks.

Automation: no more heavy lifting, no more spreadsheets

There are SAM processes that are automated, which frees up individual time to focus on more complex software-related tasks. A SAM tool detects non-compliance, finds high risk configurations, suggests optimisation options, and fills software requests within a current licence.

Improves vendor relationship management

A good vendor relationship can go for years, assuming there is a good relationship and constant innovation of the vendor’s product. It is crucial to keep an open and consistent dialogue with vendors to ensure that vendors have an understanding of needs and software asset management goals.

Simplifies audits

Software use often requires audits to ensure compliance with laws, regulations and contracts and licensing agreements. An unplanned audit creates financial loss for an organisation, in addition to a loss of confidence in the organisation and their products or services. It is important to know in advance whether or not an organisation is in compliance, which SAM helps ensure with constant management and communication with software vendors.

Provides control over cloud software usage

SAM decreases the need for IT intervention in software installation, as it can be easily downloaded and installed from a vendor or the internet. The use of SAM tools help with the all-round control of cloud software spend. It also provides transparency for which cloud software products are being used by the organisation, and on which devices. Licences by an organisation can be accounted for, including the terms and conditions, maintenance agreement, and use rights.

  • Software asset manager: In charge of purchasing and deploying software, handling software requests, compliance and using reporting and documentation strategies.
  • Software asset management analyst: Ensures that software meets an organisation’s requirements, monitors licensing compliance, ensures that software is properly upgraded, and prepares for migrations when needed.
  • Director of IT assets: Oversees all of the IT assets within a business, including hardware, software, digital assets and cloud assets. They are also responsible for deploying and overseeing ITAM measures.

The move to cloud-based software is accelerating as companies demand more mobility and centralisation. SAM systems are currently, or soon will be, hosted in the cloud. This helps with SAM in that SAM systems can be consolidated or centralised for more efficient management and information gathering.

SAM is also moving towards more automated systems on a single platform that accounts for information like terms and conditions, software costs, configurations and usage. This frees up time for more complex tasks.


Software licences are part of software that need to be managed and accounted for. Each licence contains standards and information about how the software is to be installed and used, and it is the role of the organisation to ensure that their company is compliant with the terms and conditions within the licence agreement.


Vendors will often perform audits to ensure that you are in compliance with their licensing agreements, including the terms and conditions. There are two possible outcomes: compliant or not compliant. There is no in between. Conduct internal audits regularly to ensure that an organisation is in compliance with a licence agreement, as audits done by vendors can be costly and time consuming.


Compliance is incredibly important, but it is also important to ensure that an organisation isn’t overpaying for licences due to a fear of being non-compliant. Unnecessary licences over a long term can be more costly than an audit or being out of compliance in some cases, so it is crucial to take the time to ensure that an organisation is only using the necessary licences and staying compliant at the same time.

Strategy: plan ahead

SAM provides the ability for an organisation to have consistent insight into software needs, both current and future. Teams then have the ability to plan ahead for software needs or restrategise based on current software changes or abilities, which provides a proactive strategic approach. This also includes conducting proactive audits to ensure that everything is in compliance.

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