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15 hidden costs in SAM tool implementation

This article is the first of a four part series by Martin Thompson of ITAM Review and Hugh Skingley of Livingstone. The series explores Building the Business Case for SAM Managed Services. 

15 hidden costs in SAM tool implementation

The cost of SAM tool implementation extends way beyond the license price of your new shiny tool. Factoring others costs can often double the outlay of SAM tool implementation.

Research by The ITAM Review in 2017 asked readers what they wish they had known before investing in SAM tool technology, the overwhelming feedback stated they wished they had known how much manual effort was involved to deliver results, even with so called “automated” SAM tools.

Here are some additional costs to consider when implementing SAM Tools, factor these into your budgets to avoid embarrassment at a later date and ensure success against your original plan:

15 hidden costs in SAM tool implementation

  1. Additional license module costs – Some SAM tool vendors charge extra for value added modules, especially for vendor specific features. For example, at the time of writing, Flexera and Snow charge extra on top of their base license cost for managing Oracle, whereas Aspera and Certero do not. What functionality do you need to meet your business objectives and will the software you have budgeted for meet these?
  2. Maintenance and module maintenance – SAM Tools, like most other software vendors, charge around 20% of the license cost for maintenance, you’ll also need to pay maintenance on the modules too. Unless you are buying a subscription or hosted version in which case it is usually a flat fee.
  3. Estate growth – Growth in your estate equals more SAM tool licenses – have you factored this into your budgeting process?
  4. Installation Costs – SAM Tools take between a few hours to a couple of weeks to install. Will that be done in house, bundled as part of the license price or bought separately? Note – this is just for installation of the software and perhaps deploying agents, not delivering business value. You have a few more steps to go before reaching that goal.
  5. Infrastructure costs – where will your SAM tool be installed? New hardware? A virtual machine, are there any internal hosting or provisioning costs to consider?
  6. Database Licensing – Most SAM tools are commonly underpinned by a relational database. Have you factored in the cost of the database license into your budget or will some other department pick up the tab?
  7. Integration Costs – Modern licensing is complex and requires many data points to build an accurate portrait of risk. Integration to enterprise systems might be required such as user directories, service desks, procurement systems and so on. Can you cover that cost with internal resource or buy it in externally?
  8. Data Population – Your entire license history since the beginning of time. How will that be populated within your shiny new tool? Can you do that internally or will this be resourced externally? SAM Tools are effectively a ledger showing the balance of consumption versus entitlement – they need to be populated to deliver results.
  9. Training – Even the most “easy-to-use” tools need training to deliver results. Also, budget for training to be revisited in the instance of new recruits, new features and version or simply to refresh.
  10. Software Recognition – Modern SAM tools have good recognition libraries to understand your environment and normalize technical data into licensing language – but it never works 100%. You’ll either need to do a bit of manual tweaking yourself, buy consulting to help or buy service to maintain it for you.
  11. License Optimization / Licensing Guidance and Configuration – Once the SAM tool is installed, working and populated, do you have the licensing expertise to reach and maintain a license position on your high risk and strategic vendors? Do you need a little external help to validate your position and ensure your assumptions are correct? Does the solution require additional configuration to cope with the nuances of your environment and deliver against business goals?
  12. Health Checks / Technical Maintenance – It’s a painful mistake to think SAM Tools are a “set-it-and-forget-it” exercise. They need ongoing maintenance to ensure everything is working correctly and information is being reported accurately. Will your partner or supplier throw these checks into the SAM tool purchase or do you need to buy them as an extra?
  13. Upgrades – the upgrade might be free as part of your maintenance or might be chargeable. Do you need to budget for additional consulting to help with upgrades?
  14. Customization and Consulting – Finally, does your SAM tool ecosystem require any customization or consulting to deliver business results? Will customizations need support and will they need to be upgraded at a future date?
  15. People Costs – Don’t forget people costs! (This is key) – Conduct an internal assessment on how much time, effort and cost is required to invest in existing staff to put in the required man hours to get the tool implemented and/or recruitment costs for new staff to do the job.

Consider these fifteen elements when budgeting for SAM Tool implementation to avoid any nasty surprises down the line.

Livingstone have built a SAM calculator for simulating these costs over a three year period. Download a copy here (Registration Required). 

Have we missed any elements or do have you any experience with hidden costs to share? Please leave a comment below. Stay tuned to The ITAM Review newsletter to be notified when part two is published.

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. Ian Fischer says:

    I agree with most items on your very useful and comprehensive list.

    Point 4 however did make me smile. A few hours to a couple of weeks to deploy the tool and agents across your entire estate? This may be true for very small organisations however for large enterprises it can take several months and even then there may be parts of your network where inventory tools are not permitted and you need to rely on other methods.

    I would also argue on point 8. You need to take a pragmatic approach to what entitlement is relevant and is required in the tool. Do you want to add your entitlement for perpetual rights to Photoshop 5, Acrobat 4, Office 2000? Unless they are deployed across your estate (in which case you have other challenges to attend to) it is just going to add noise to your reports. For those minor product purchases it may be cheaper to buy the licence again rather than try to find who bought it in the past, depending on the size, complexity and history or your organisation of course.

  2. Trevor Chambers says:

    Integration and data population – 7 & 8 – have proved to have a longer tail than we expected/hoped, we were probably too optimistic in our own plans. Our SAM tool provider was clear from the start that our internal data sources could be integrated and automated, happily we weren’t sold false promises about implementation!

  3. Daniel Begg says:

    The 15 points are subjective considering the size of your estate and its complexity. The 15 points don’t address that unless the data is available and of a quality that can be consumed and interpreted correctly and accurately then you’re not ready for a SAM tool or a SAM managed service.
    Point 1 – Certero also charge on a Module basis like Flexera and Snow.
    Point 4 – I agree with Ian that this could take a longer time to get the tool integrated with the various systems but that is just the long and short of it, you must get the data or live with the cost.
    Point 7 – This goes on forever, you have your main implementation points but depending on each piece of software and how it is licenses allows you to determine the level of automation, most can be automated with some scripting but expect this to be something that would continue as your maturity grows and the level of granularity increases and your estate evolves, as no one’s business stands still.
    Point 8 – Completely agree with Ian again here knowing you had bought Win3.11 licenses with upgrade rights and considering you have been paying maintenance since 1992 makes the base licenses a moot point. You will chase things that have little if any value.
    Point 10 – That’s always going to be the case if the data is not there than no one can help depending on your business model the recognition could be 10% or 100% and anything in-between, but even if you have 100% of recognition are you capturing 100% of your assets. If the data is there then the cost of getting that data monthly or daily etc. could outweigh the benefits. A consultant or managed service will only tell you what to gather you still must get that data.
    Point 11 – Although an end user will not have expertise in each area and a SAM MSP could have expertise you have probably already purchased your licenses, they could end up giving you a pool of licenses back which could avoid future cost if you of course intend on growth but there are other areas that you could deliver much higher value back to the business though the architectural team
    Point 12/13 – If you are implementing a tool then acceptance into service by your MSP or internal IT team is part of the service, monitoring/upgrades etc should be considered into that.

  4. Plk says:

    These SAm tools does not monitor the software from network appliances . It’s just runs on top of a oSimage.

    But we procure licensing for hardware/ appliances.

    These area is easily forgotten by Sam tools vendor.

    Their focus is only on the publisher who threatens industry on compliance grounds.

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