The ITAM Review

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ARTICLE: Software Asset Managers – The Skills to Look For…

Cynthia Farren, Software Asset Management Expert at Cynthia Farren Consulting explores the Skills and Qualifications required for an effective Software Asset Manager. Software Asset Management (SAM) is a combination of automated tools, key process controls and talented individuals.

Realizing how key those talented individuals are in SAM, it is important to identify what skills are required in a SAM manager.

I’ve been doing SAM for over 10 years and found in the early days I had to look for raw skills and fine tune them to meet the needs of SAM as there wasn’t a pool of skilled individuals available.  That has fortunately changed over the years but keeping a focus on those raw skills still tends to find the “truly talented” SAM managers.

Here are some of the basics:

•    High level understanding of technology
•    Strong understanding of the business
•    Financial management skills
•    Negotiation skills
•    Interpersonal skills
•    Legal knowledge
•    Strong analytical skills
•    Ability to solve puzzles

High Level Understanding of Technology

The person does not need to be able to install servers but does need to understand clustering options, virtual technologies, cores versus sockets and the basic functionality of the software and technology deployed. Additionally, this person needs to keep current with technology changes in the world to be able to understand the licensing implications of technology projects within your organization and be able to recommend alternatives. This knowledge can convert $500k in licensing needs into $250k when used at the planning stage.

Strong Understanding of the Business

What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for the business? How are they impacted by technology? This will allow your SAM Manager to make recommendations to fit the business need especially as emphasis changes as to which KPI’s take precedence over the course of business.

Financial Management Skills

Financial Management Skills are needed to understand the implications of expensing versus capitalization and if your organization does charge-backs as well as tax implications of purchasing and importing methods. While your Account department has the final say, having your SAM Manager savvy in financial management can help avoid having the negative impact of improperly accounting for software and maintenance.

Negotiation and Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal and negotiation skills are key to both vendor management and navigating your own internal company politics. When vendors want to work with you, you will find there is greater opportunity to negotiate a favorable deal. The vendor wants to sell something and you want to buy it, but each wants to maximize the benefits to their respective organization. Additionally, your SAM manager needs to rely on resources throughout your organization and frequently will not have the positional power required to command cooperation.

Legal Knowledge

Legal knowledge is important for understanding the implications of intellectual property rights and contracts. You need someone who can catch the basics before the cost of a legal review.

Strong Analytical and Problem Solving Skills

Strong analytical and puzzle solving skills are often the hardest to find. Frankly, SAM is a maze. To maximize the benefit of SAM for your company takes the ability to solve complex puzzles and frequently do so on the fly. You need to be able to see the big picture of the problem, trace through the implications of each solution and propose logical solutions and the implications of each.

If you have the luxury of a SAM team, then ensuring all these skills exist can be fairly easy. If you’re trying to find all these skills in one individual, start your search outside of the IT world as they more frequently exist in the world of Finance.

The skills desired will depend upon the maturity level of your SAM program, but I recommend hiring for the maturity level you expect and leverage experience consultants for the transitional phases. For example, a company that has been around a while and is just now implementing or re-implementing a SAM program might need someone with strong historical knowledge of licensing to ensure they are not losing valuable assets already owned by the company. However; this need is minimized in companies that have an existing SAM practice so better to bring in a temporary expert to fill that need (and bring them back for the occasional need for historical information such as audits or acquisitions).

About the author:
Cynthia Farren is the President and founder of Cynthia Farren Consulting a US Software Asset Management consulting firm headquartered in California. With over 13 years of industry experience, Cynthia has played a key role in the development of several industry SAM programs and standards and is a long time evangelist on the importance of SAM. Read Cynthia’s blog here.

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About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource and community for worldwide ITAM professionals.

Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.

On a voluntary basis Martin a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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