The ITAM Review

News, reviews and resources for worldwide ITAM, SAM and Licensing professionals.

Coming Soon: Review of SAM Managed Service Providers

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider – proven track record is key.

We have the following technology reviews scheduled for publication before the end of 2013 on The ITAM Review:

  • Adobe License Management (in progress now)
  • SAM Managed Service Providers (July / August – see below)
  • Microsoft License Management (September / October)
  • Management of Cloud Based IT Assets (November / December)
  • Oracle License Management (December 2013 / January 2014)

If you have any questions or suggestions about who should participate in these reviews please give us a shout.

What qualities do you look for when hiring a SAM managed services provider?

SAM Managed Service providers are proving popular. The key difference is that companies are buying into an SLA rather than a tool implementation. It can provide a great way of jump starting your SAM efforts and tapping into complex licensing resource you might not afford on your own (e.g. The Oracle Licensing rocket scientist can look after your Oracle licensing estate as well as a few others).

ITAM Review readers provided some great feedback in the LinkedIn Group regarding qualities to look for when hiring a SAM Managed Services Provider (MSP):

“The ITIL v3 guide to SAM (p139) has a great section with 22 questions to ask on this and its my go to place for questions for tender docs covering your question. I have a modified version I use myself now but its a great place to start. For me, its all about experience and dedicated resources. Do you have someone in house now who is your IBM expert or would you bring someone in? etc.” Chris Morgan

Proven track record has to be key – talk to previous customers and references to make sure the SAM partner delivered what they said they would. Too many companies with little or no track record in SAM have added it to their list of skills, and in some cases, it is added to a larger outsourcing contract as an afterthought, without any vetting of capability etc. Any SAM provider worth their salt would be able to line you up a number of references” Robbie Richmond

Can the Managed SAM Provider work with what I have? I.e. existing discovery/systems management tools. Do they have the ability to perform SAM across heterogeneous environments – desktops, datacentres, development/Test, virtualised/ physical, cloud/SaaS and multiplatform. How do they decipher non-discoverable software usage / consumption – such as in the data centre (these might be Users / CALs, SAP types per account, Oracle Named Users/middleware/DB access, Symantec Back up agents etc…) Can they help me implement SAM policies, processes and procedures?” Aman Kahlon

Having their finger on the pulse in respect of provision of services; so that if budget/licence/usage limitations are being approached, then I am informed of this in sufficient time to make a considered business decision. Standard monthly usage and expenditure reports; and also having one eye on the future – i.e. being ahead of the curve in offering guidance on “end of life” information for software titles. Finally, I would hope that they could provide guidance on licence optimisation. In respect of qualities, honesty has to be top of the list; closely followed by availability/ready access – and sufficient character to deliver bad news with the same candour as the good news.” Rory Canavan

As Chris Morgan suggests above, the ITIL v3 Appendix (‘ITIL V3 Guide to Software Asset Management’, Colin Rudd, Page 139 ISBN 978-0-11-311106-4 provides a great starting point and will provide the backbone of our assessment criteria for our competitive review and comparison of SAM Managed Service Providers.

However, one key element missing from the V3 guidance is audit defence. Will our SAM service provider stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, in the face of audits or wither sheepishly and just refer to the SLA?

Our assessment criteria are as follows:

SAM Managed Service Provider (MSP) Competitive Review


  1. Experience with SAM (time in the market, projects, types of projects), proof of methodologies and tools used for SAM, specific licensing expertise (people, qualifications, experience, projects, availability, shared or dedicated resource?)
  2. Scope (Geography/Language limitations, license types, environment types, environment size etc)
  3. Financial credibility
  4. Number of full time SAM specialists, qualifications, license program expertise (Dedicated unit or shared expertise, in-house or contract).

Conflicts of Interest 

  1. “Is the organization primarily dependent on a particular manufacturer for most of it’s work” Page 141, SAM ITIL V3. Any notable conflicts of interest?
  2. Royalties from tool sales, licensing sales? Used as a ‘loss leader’ for attracting other services?


  1. Customer references proving quality of service.
  2. Sample output / reports from existing customers.
  3. Eating one’s own dog food / drink one’s own champagne etc – How well does the provider manage it’s own estate?

Audit Defence

  1. Will the provider stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, in the face of an audit
  2. Does the provider have experience with audit defence?
  3. How will shortfalls / penalties be managed within the SAM SLA?


  1. What is in scope, what are the deliverables? what is out of scope? how will we be charged for items out of scope?
  2. What are the expectations of the client, what resource / time is anticipated of the customer to uphold their responsbilities
  3. How does the client get started / how are publishers prioritised whilst starting? How does the client exit the service contract? what will the client be left with on exit?
  4. Continual Service Improvement – what will the service provider do to improve procurement and software management processes?

What have we missed? is there anything missing from these assessment criteria for assessing the capabilities of SAM Managed Service Providers?

About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the 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. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.


  1. Ryan Hardcastle says:

    I think this list pretty much covers the assessment of what an MSP does now, but what can set them apart is what the MSP is doing to help shape or advance the industry. For example rather than regurgitating ITIL, MOM or some other framework – all of which will eventually become outdated – is there a fresh approach being introduced that could lead the way? Are they comfortable being ‘just another SAM MSP’ or are they doing something that puts them at the head of the pack? Does their solution address the future landscape of technology rather than ignore it and hope it doesn’t happen? Think BYOD, App-V etc.

    Also another aspect to consider, does the MSP rely too heavily on the underlying SAM tool to define its service(s), or is it tool agnostic? For example if an MSP uses Snow to deliver a service, what happens if Snow drastically change the way the tool works? What if Snow go bust? Can the MSP quickly swap out the technology for something else with minimum disruption to the customer/service? These things need to be understood as it could have a knock-on effect. Normally as a customer I shouldn’t be concerned with what technology underpins the service but I need to be realistic and go in with eyes wide open.

    BTW I’m not picking on Snow it’s just an example!


  2. itsmreview says:

    Good point on product dependency. What happens, for example, when a vendor pulls the plug on their entire channel e.g.

  3. Kylie Fowler says:

    Depth of skill sets is critical for me. I want to see a complete range of skill sets assigned to my account, from license and vendor SMEs to project managers to data analysts who do nothing else but create compliance reports, to tool specialists and reporting specialists. I don’t want to see people trying to be jack of all trades when you need a specialist to have confidence in the accuracy of advice provided and compliance positions calculated.

    A lot of Managed Service providers also have problems ramping up to meet new demand – largely because of skill shortages in our industry. What is their recruitment and retention policy? How do they balance the use of contractors to meet sudden spikes in demand and Permies to provide continuity.

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