One of the current competitive differentiators in market-leading SAM tools is the ability to offer a software request platform or web-shop for users within an organization.
This is whereby the Software Asset Manager can present his or her end users with some form of web-based software catalogue to choose and manage the software they consume. This can vary in complexity from a simple web page in which to make a request for new software through to end-to-end execution and automation.
Why Is a Software Request Platform A Good Idea?
End Users: Assigning Value to Choices
Firstly I believe using a software request platform sends the right message to the users you are attempting to serve. Requesting new software or software changes represents a cost to the business. If software choices are presented in an Amazon style shop format it reinforces the fact that:
- This stuff costs us money – the choices you are making affect the business (Open source choices also cost the business money to support, update and maintain etc.)
- It isn’t just bits and bytes to be consumed instantly – software is a commodity and asset and needs to be treated as such
- Choice – We’re trying our best to serve you what you need
The IT Department: Driving Best Practice
From an IT department perspective I believe a software request platform is an excellent goal to aim for. This is because in order to successfully deliver a software request platform you will need to have given some thought to and have the ability to deliver:
- An approved software list with approved versions
- A software request, approval and change request process
Both of these items are sound objectives to aim for in their own right and are firmly aligned with ISO/IEC 19770 and ITIL best practice.
Features to consider:
- Software and service options customized for the end user – the receptionist should not have to wade through 17 different variants of a high end engineering application in order to choose the software required to open a PDF.
- Presentation of software in business context, use cases and alternatives e.g. Are you looking to edit Visio diagrams on a regular basis or just view them?
- Box shots, images and pricing – a small aesthetic gimmick which reinforces the fact that software is an asset and needs to be purchased.
- An easy to use and intuitive experience – it has to be seen and experienced as easier and more responsive than getting printed forms routed via in-trays or trying to engage with the IT department directly.
- Automated approval process – route requests to an appropriate manager or team leader to approve the request. Facilitates cross charging, chargeback or ‘show-back’.
- Ability to manage job lists – send Installations, Moves and Change (IMAC) jobs to a helpdesk system for action, include the ability to mark jobs as ‘pending’ until they are acted upon (Since compliance is based on actual state not desired state) or integration / synchronization with a systems management tool.
- Reporting and Analysis – who is requesting what software? Why? What will we need in the future etc.
- Advanced Features – the ability to build complex workflow and kick off procurement requests based on license management rules.
Scope for Vast Improvement and Automation
Like the Swan, who looks elegant and graceful above the surface whilst things look less pretty and legs are kicking frantically below the surface, the web-shop presents an easy to use and simple front to an otherwise complex process; license management.
I’m not an expert on Service Oriented Architecture, but this approach also allows for modules, services or business process outsourcing to occur below the surface of the water with no change in delivery or perception for users. They make a request for service, it gets approved and it gets delivered. Behind the scenes the approval process, checks and balances, procurement and checks and balances and IMAC requests might be delivered by third party apps, business partners or different departments.
Resellers who offer SAM services are stepping up to provide ongoing managed services in this area; either as an independent business process or as part of their software licensing business.
Matrix42 and Spider have some good technology in this area – although it is a blend of software and professional services. Centrix Software also has a platform for delivering this sort of experience but it does not include very sophisticated license management capabilities.
Your ITSM provider is also likely to provide the workflow engine to deliver this form of service but most vendors lack the vital license management functions. For example one vendor I reviewed recently had a slick process from requesting software, kicking off a change request and delivering software automatically to the desktop, but it completely by-passed any license management checks and balances. Slick and efficient – but lethal if you are trying to contain costs and maintain compliance.
Finally, a successfully implemented software request platform puts the control squarely in the control of the SAM department. A proactive function rather than endless firefighting and cleaning up mess after projects and changes.
What do you think? Have you implemented a web-shop?
About Martin Thompson
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 is 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.