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SAM Tool vendors should focus on retention over new business

This article has been contributed by Mark van Wolferen of b.lay.

The SAM tool market is growing, but not as much as expected, according to Martin Thompson’s article. Whether this slow growth is caused by SAM managed services providers, as Martin claims, I cannot substantiate. However, I would like to discuss the steps SAM tool providers need to take to advance the entire SAM sector.

In an ideal world, SAM tool providers and SAM managed services providers (MSPs) reinforce each other. The tool providers offer an organization a solid system and the MSPs ensure that this system is set up in the right way, so that it provides relevant data. These service providers have specialized knowledge of software vendors, the resources to quickly onboard the customer and the ability to advise him based on the data provided. And there are also service providers that set up business processes that help the SAM approach to bear fruit in the long term.

The mutual cooperation should ensure that a customer always has a good overview of software installations, licenses and use. A number of things, however, demonstrate that there is no such thing as this ideal SAM world.

  1. SAM tool providers are too focused on sales figures
    So far, SAM tool providers have mainly manifested themselves as software vendors. Short-term sales figures seem more important than customer satisfaction in the long term. There are intensive partnerships with resellers, but no partnerships with SAM managed services providers to ensure that customers use the tool correctly. Perhaps this is caused by the fact that a number of SAM tool providers are supported by venture capitalists. If the stock market value is leading, it is not surprising that software sales has priority: there are higher margins to achieve than with services.
  2. Too high expectations are created
    A consequence of this focus on sales figures is that SAM tool providers (and their resellers) generate too high expectations among their potential customers. The level of knowledge at many companies is not yet high enough to dispute the sales story. A SAM tool cannot do everything, but I still come across many companies that feel that they have bought a complete solution for SAM. The disappointment is then even greater if it turns out that their SAM problem cannot be fully automated and that they still need a third party to support them in this. I often compare it with an accounting system – you still need a trained accountant to create correct financial reports.
  3. There are too many promise-breakers among the SAM managed services providers
    Then there are also enough SAM managed services providers that take advantage of the lack of knowledge of companies. They promise everything, but ultimately do not appear to have the knowledge in-house to set up the SAM tool and help the company. Because it concerns long-term projects, it may be that the customer only finds out after three years. When it turns out that this customer, despite huge investments in a tool and a service provider, didn’t advance and is still non-compliant, it is not surprising that he completely loses his trust in SAM.

The solution lies in cooperation

In order to bring the SAM market to a higher level, there is, in my view, only one solution: better cooperation. Initially, the ball is in the SAM tool providers’ court. In addition to their reseller programs, they should build partner programs, where retention is just as important as bringing in new customers. The SAM tool provider is given more of an advisory role, in which he explains the (im)possibilities of the tool and advises which SAM managed services providers can best help the customer to get as much value from the tool as possible. This way he can immediately prevent that the company gets caught in the promise-breakers’ trap and eventually terminates the contract due to lacking results. SAM managed services providers with different specialist knowledge can collaborate in return so that each customer is supported optimally.

Creating such a partner ecosystem around SAM tools is in the interest of the entire SAM market. For me it is the step that we now have to take to advance our sector and let organizations benefit as much as possible from the advantages of SAM. I’m curious about your opinion on this!

About Mark van Wolferen

Mark is co-founder and managing director of B-Lay. He uses his 21 years’ experience in software compliance to make managing software entitlements and usage transparent for organizations. Prior to founding B-lay, he was responsible for all compliance activities in Europe, Middle East and Africa at Oracle. This included building the foundation for what now is the global Oracle License Management Services (LMS) team and onboarding the many acquisitions Oracle made over the years into the compliance program of Oracle. In recent years, with B-lay, the focus shifted from compliance to cost savings and optimization for users of the software and designing hands-on solutions for clients to gain and maintain control over their IT spending.


  1. Completely agree, Mark, particularly with your first two points. I’ve seen multiple issues across SAM tool providers and clients I’ve worked with, where the former uses aggressive sales tactics to land the deal and, subsequently, doesn’t give the customer the care and attention they deserve. This, for me, is an educational issue – customers should undertake due diligence before they even consider going to RFP for a SAM tool. Understand your requirements, do your market research, reach out to your peers to see what experiences they’ve had of particular tools and, most importantly, look for independent advice.

  2. Angus Vause says:

    Good points made all round. It’s important not to generalise too heavily though. There are solution vendors and service providers out there who absolutely do deliver high levels of quality and customer satisfaction. However, the key challenge is overcoming the FUD that’s overwhelming organizations who’ve had their fingers burnt in the past by hollow promises. As well as the due diligence advocated by Barry, experience shows that the best way to overcome such doubts is with a straightforward POC, that – given the advanced provisioning capabilities of the latest technology – literally takes just a few days, not weeks or months.

  3. Rory Canavan says:

    Amen! I’m attempting to deal with several SAM suite vendors at the moment concerning just such an approach, and the apathy is something to behold. Thanks Mark 🙂

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