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SAMS Europe 2014 Event Review

SAMS Europe

The ITAM Review was recently the ‘Premium Media Sponsor’ at the SAMS Summit Europe 2014 event in Berlin, Germany. This was the third year that we.CONECT hosted the SAMS Europe event, which included an awards ceremony after the first night. I was also fortunate enough to be asked to attend the event, be on the judging panel for the SAMS Europe Award and also to host the awards evening (oh dear!).

Whilst in Berlin, we managed to compose a short video on what went on during the event, and what our views were on the content of the event and networking. You can find the video and a few pictures on our YouTube channel, or simply watch the video below.

Icebreaker

On the evening of the 17th September, I hosted a 30 to 40-minute ‘Icebreaker’ session about the importance of education and communication within Software Asset Management. We talked about how organisations need to focus on communicating with there staff about the SAM project, and also to provide an education on what SAM and software licensing is. We talked in depth about the challenges SAM professionals are face in communicating with end users. Some don’t have the support from senior management; others simply do not have the time or resources to put such a program in place.

What was really interesting was that all attendees to the Icebreaker session agreed that communication and education within SAM is important, but it is overlooked for seemingly more important actions. Senior management would rather the SAM team focus on saving money and removing software than educating the end users as to why they are removing the software for the benefit of the organisation. This has lead to a number of instances in which the SAM team have been met with extremely hostile users. This could have been avoided if their senior management would allow them to talk about SAM and licensing to all end users.

There were also comments about how database users and some ‘power’ users think they don’t need to talk to the SAM team about licensing, they’d rather go directly to the vendor. An example of this was when one SAM Manager ended up having a very confused phone call with a vendor about a license they’d never heard before, only to find out that a user had gone directly to the vendor without talking to them first. If the processes were communicated correctly, then this sort of situation wouldn’t happen.

“You talk about communication internally. What about the lack of communication we have from software vendors?! It goes two ways!” – Icebreaker Attendee

Finally, the conversation moved towards getting end-users on board with the SAM project, and how communication and education would help dramatically with that. One of the more interesting points made was the fact that some organisations have actually given their end-users incentives to ensure they support the SAM program. These have been rewards for complying with the SAM processes and compliancy drive. I may be missing something here, but end-users should need ‘incentives’ to do something that the organisation is asking them to comply with. If you don’t use a piece of software, give it back! Users should naturally be following the right processes, without any form of incentive!

Day 1

Day 1 consisted of ten ‘Case Study’ presentations, and two round table sessions (for a list of speakers and subject matter please click here). The presentations were slick and informative and provided a really useful insight into how organisations across Europe are implementing and managing SAM.

The overall feeling from Day 1 is that implementing a SAM program within an organisation is an extremely difficult challenge, and one that some organisations have under-estimated. The common theme with the keynote speakers is that it takes years to successfully implement a SAM program within a company that has a number of different entities, that each have their own licenses and procurement methods. Some openly admitted that they are finding the challenge tough, and that they are facing an uphill battle to address the issue of non-compliancy.

Europe lagging behind?

Another common theme from the keynote speakers was that Europe is lagging behind the UK and America with regards to SAM maturity and understanding SAM. I think this may be the case because there have been a lot of successful and unsuccessful SAM stories to come out of the UK and US, and not many from Europe. Based on the keynote speeches I wouldn’t say Europe was that far behind the UK. There are a few common issues like process implementation, education and also allowing users to purchase software on credit cards that need to be sorted out, but the same could be said for organisations within the UK and America.

“We had two options. Hope we don’t get audited, or implement SAM” – Lars Laursen, VELUX

Mobile Assets are the future!

The keynote speech from Alastair Knight about mobile assets really made the room think and caused a number of interesting debates. It struck me that a number of attendees and their organisation didn’t actually consider tablets and mobile devices to be part of the SAM infrastructure. However, after a number of discussions it was agreed that it certainly is a part of ITAM/SAM, and that moving forward, with the increasing number of mobile devices, they need to focus on putting in processes in place for the software and hardware related to mobile devices. It was eye opening to understand how different organisations have ‘classed’ mobile devices, and how future devices such a Google Glass and the Apple iWatch will cause a problem for organisations.

“Locking down mobile devices could result in a bad customer experience. There needs to be the correct work/life balance when managing mobile devices” – Alastair Knight, BP

“Free” software

Finally, the issues around Open Source software were highlighted, and again proved an interesting topic. There seems to be confusion over the differences between Open Source software and software that falls under the GPL (General Public License). There also seems to be a very unclear line on what you can and cannot do with Open Source and GPL software, something that the Campaign for Clear Licensing will no doubt address.

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It turns out that a lot of Open Source or GPL software can’t be used in Europe due to European laws and copyright issues. This means that when looking for free alternatives for software, European companies cant use the same software that an American company could for example. An interesting point, and something that global organisations need to remember if they decide to install ‘free’ software on a global scale. Any software that is free comes with strings attached to it!

“A lot of open source licenses are not clear enough for end users” – Anna Siedlecka-Van Rumst, ING

Day 2

Day 2 consisted of 5 case studies and 5 ‘World Café’ roundtables (for a list of speakers and subject matter please click here).

Day 2 was the day in which the attendee’s could really network with each other and compare SAM stories. This gave me a really good insight into the problems and personal challenges those SAM professionals and organisations are facing at the moment.

Subscription Licensing

There are a number of users who are not happy with the subscription license model offered by the likes for Microsoft and Adobe. Some organisations have actually moved away from these models, simply because they didn’t agree with them and thought they were not value for money. They also found the subscription models to be hard to manage and deploy, with a number of attendees stating that the vendor has been of little or no help to them in explaining best practice for managing such licenses and deployments. However, some users found the subscription model to fit better within their organisation, the only criticism they had was that you couldn’t true-down during the duration of the contract.

“We’ve moved away from Microsoft because of Office 365. We’ve migrated to using Google Apps” – World Café attendee

SAM Tools

SAM users also felt that whilst SAM Tools are required for a SAM project, you cannot trust them or the tool vendor 100%. All attendees agreed that SAM tools make license compliancy and license management a lot easier than spread sheets, and that they have had a lot of success with internal reviews reducing compliancy and saving money. They agreed that SAM tools shouldn’t be considered as an expense, as it can pay itself back pretty quickly!

However, the data from SAM tools has been put into questions. A number of SAM tool users recommended that you perform manual audits of the estate every so often to ensure the accuracy of the data. It is also important to cross check the SAM tool data with other datasets, so you can be sure that all of your machines are being picked up by the tool.

“Our SAM tool paid for itself within 5 months. We highlighted non compliancy and non usage through an internal review using the SAM tool!” – World Café attendee.

Datacentre troubles

Datacentre issues were another hot topic for Day 2. Understanding the licensing metrics for software used within the datacentre, and having control over their own database employee’s is proving a real struggle for SAM and licensing professionals. Changes to features or new features for datacentre software that are not communicated by the vendor was the main bugbear, with a number of attendees giving examples as to how their users have unintentionally ended up costing them thousands of Euros by using a feature they thought they were licensed for.

“A DB guy can open up a feature in Oracle that he’s been told about, without telling me, and that feature can end up costing us thousands of Euros. To be fair, Oracle wouldn’t tell me about the change in license terms either!” – World Café attendee

Licensing changes

Finally there was criticism for vendors regarding the recent licensing changes. I mentioned it was a theme for Day 1, but the attendee’s really made their feelings felt at the World Café roundtables. The lack of communication from vendors about the changes to licensing, and then ‘forcing’ the new licensing models on the organisation is an approach that, unsurprisingly, didn’t go down very well in the majority of organisations.

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Common themes

The common theme from attendees over both days was the lack of help and support they feel they get from vendors, both software and tool vendors. Most roundtable sessions and the World Café talks ended up being about how users feel like they are not educated enough on the new licensing models, or new features with their SAM Tool.

Users felt as though they would rather look online for information regarding the new licensing metrics than go to the vendors due to the threat of being audited. There is certainly a ‘scared feeling’ amongst SAM professionals that if their organisation is audited, and the results are bad, that their personal reputation would be on the line despite having no communication from vendors around software licensing.

It also struck me that the majority of people there were only implementing SAM within their organisation because of an audit. Surely this trend needs to stop? Organisations need to be implementing SAM regardless of the audit threat. It’s time to get your estate in order, and act now rather than when it’s too late and you’ve got a large bill and damaged reputation.

Event Review

I thought the event was well organised and both days went smoothly. There were a number of interesting presentations on Day 1, and the ‘World Café’ sessions on day 2 provided a valuable insight into what challenges SAM professionals within Europe are currently facing.

Positives

  • Really well run and organised. Everything ran just about on time and people knew where they were supposed to be going
  • Excellent networking opportunities. Attendees felt free to speak their mind and talk about their SAM problems openly and in confidence
  • Interesting keynote speakers.
  • ‘World Café’ idea was brilliant, gave people a chance to give their opinions on SAM Tools and software vendors
  • Ability to have one-on-one talks with tool vendors such as iQuate, Flexera, Aspera and Snow

Negatives

  • The Icebreaker session, whilst a good idea was in the wrong location. It was in the hotel bar with another event going on so it was extremely noisy. You couldn’t hear each other talk so it ended up having to be one-on-one conversations rather than speaking to a large group
  • Day 1 felt a bit like ‘Death by PowerPoint’ with so many presentations
  • Day 2 did end up feeling like ‘lets criticise tool vendors/software vendors’ towards the end of the afternoon

Conclusion

To summarise, SAMS Europe 2014 was a great event for networking opportunities and to understand the challenges currently faced by SAM professionals within Europe. I preferred Day 2 to Day 1 as I felt the first day was a bit of ‘Death by PowerPoint’ with so many case studies. It would have been nice to have a break-up between all of the customer case studies.

I also felt that a lack of social media presence hindered the event a little bit. A number of attendee’s were asking what hashtag’s they could use on Twitter, and whether there were any social media accounts they could follow.

I highly recommend going to next year’s event. It will open your eyes to the challenges currently faced by SAM professionals, and it’s also a great opportunity to get peoples views and opinions on what works, what doesn’t work and also on the changes to licensing. It’s also really interesting to hear people’s views on SAM Tools, and the successes and failures users have had with certain tools.

we.CONECT confirmed at the event that there will be a 2015 SAMS Europe event. However, I have been unable to locate the dates and locations online, so if you are interested in attending next year I suggest you keep an eye out on this website!

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About David Foxen

David Foxen is a Software Asset Management expert and enthusiast. He had a vast experience of successfully implementing SAM, SAM tools and also made huge cost savings. A member of the ISO Standards WG21, David is a massive ITAM geek, so uses any opportunity to talk about the subject to who-ever will listen. He believes that the industry needs to share its knowledge and success stories to help the SAM industry mature and become more effective. Always willing to help, his primary goal is to make a difference to organisations and the SAM industry so everyone will know how epic SAM is!

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