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Rolling the SAM dice: in-house vs. managed

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Choosing a SAM solution: in-house, managed or perhaps there is a third option?

The following comment piece is contributed by Sean Robinson of License Dashboard, a firm that specialises as a supplier of software license management tools.

Once an organisation has decided to implement a software asset management (SAM) solution, it must then decide how and who is going to carry out the work. There are generally two options when it comes to this decision: in-house vs. managed.

But how do you choose which is best — and are those really the only two options available?

In-house argument

There is an argument to suggest that organisations should opt for the in-house approach only if they already have significant SAM experience and licencing knowledge.

This is because it requires the organisation to undertake the majority of the license management tasks themselves, from implementing software metering to compiling the Effective Licencing Position (ELP), to ultimately making all of the decisions based on their analysis of the SAM reconciliation results. They must also ensure they choose the correct tool to perform the job and learn how it operates.

Operating an in-house SAM programme does reduce the dependencies on external parties and saves on time and resources spent managing a third party supplier. It makes use of already established IT management practices (which would ideally include forms of software licence management). However, it is rare that organisations have all the necessary skills and experience needed and will still need to bring in consultants for specific tasks.

Without hiring a licencing expert and specialist tools, the tasks are very difficult and time-consuming to complete to an acceptable standard.

Managed SAM guidance

This is why a growing number of organisations are opting for managed SAM programmes. A licencing specialist partner can take care of the SAM programme largely independently and is able to offer guidance on the best licencing purchasing decisions.

This is just the same as hiring any specialist third party. For example, organisations hire accountants to provide a specialist service. Hiring a SAM partner can offer the same specialist service and deliver value for money.

The value of hiring a good SAM partner is reaped when it comes to interpreting the ELP into actionable tasks that not only prove compliance to software vendors but optimise the organisation’s software spend at the same time. As an organisation you are purchasing peace of mind, knowing that the SAM programme is being managed professionally and by experts.

An external resource focuses solely on the task at hand whereas in-house staff have other business demands to attend to as well, meaning the SAM programme can fall behind or doesn’t get the attention it requires. An external resource is also more flexible as it can be scaled up or down according to changing needs, for example when an audit is due.

Cost conundrums

Whilst a managed SAM programme may seem more expensive than in-house at face value, the compliance and cost savings delivered far outweigh the investment. After all, companies cannot afford to have their SAM programme go awry or to haemorrhage money!

Lastly, when choosing a SAM partner, it is important to find out what tools they use.

For example, if they use a simple spreadsheet then the quality of the job they do for you is unlikely to be as good as one that uses a specialist SAM tool. At the end of the day, you want the best value for money, and the tool they use is fundamental in their ability to save you money, ensure complete compliance and to optimise your licences as effectively as possible. The right tools are needed to do the job right.

A third way?

While the debate has traditionally centred around in-house vs. managed SAM, a third solution is proving to be an increasingly popular choice: the hybrid of in-house and managed solutions.

In the hybrid approach, organisations purchase the SAM solution themselves but enlist the services of SAM specialists to handle specific technical tasks when required. This approach retains an element of control for the organisation while adding the peace of mind of managed solutions, thus providing the best of both worlds.

This hybrid approach is most appropriate for companies who can manage licence optimisation day-to-day but need support when it comes to an audit or when more extensive or specific licencing expertise needs to be called upon. It also works for companies who are attracted to a managed service but for regulatory reasons are unable to let data outside of the organisation.

Choosing the right approach comes down to one initial question: Do I have the required level of licencing expertise, knowledge and resource in my organisation to be able to deliver an effective SAM programme independently, or do I need support from a third party?

Once you know how much support you need, you can decide the best route for you.

Image Credit

About Sean Robinson

Sean has over 12 years’ experience of delivering SAM consultancy to organizations worldwide and is a founding director of specialist tools vendor, License Dashboard.


  1. itsmreview says:

    LinkedIn discussion here:

  2. While vendors insist on unclear and constantly changing licensing models the move to hybrid solution or “third way” will be inevitable.

    Few organization are large enough to have a dedicated SAM expert for all major vendors so they will have to bring in the experts to supplement in house skills both technically and on licensing.

    What will be interesting to monitor is how much organizations are willing to outsource and where the responsibility for compliance begins and ends

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