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ITIL4 – how it influences Software Asset Management practices

Version 4 of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL4) was released in Q1 in 2019. This article, from guest contributor James Jones, looks at how ITIL4 influences software asset management practices.

ITIL4 Basics

ITIL is a framework that describes best practices both inside and outside IT. In its most current incarnation, it has been revamped to deal with many of the new challenges in the greater business landscape. This article will briefly look at some of the basic aspects of ITIL 4, including value, the Service Value System, integration of new methods of working, and a more holistic view of processes and how they relate to SAM.

Value Focus

One of the most important aspects of ITIL 4 is its heavy emphasis on value. According to ITIL 4, value is:

 “the perceived benefits, usefulness, and importance of something,”

and it is co-created by both the person providing, and the person using, the service.

This is made clearer by the terms “output” and “outcome” in ITIL 4. An output is defined as the result of an activity, such as a gap analysis for Microsoft while an outcome is a result the customer wants to achieve, in this case a compliant and cost optimised Microsoft footprint.

The outcome is enabled by an output, in the example above the client (or your internal stakeholder) will take the gap analysis and perform actions on their own such as:

  • Uninstalling software they aren’t licensed for
  • Ending Software Assurance on licenses they are no longer using
  • Improving their processes to more effectively recycle licenses

These actions, enabled by the output (the entitlement position), can help the customer achieve the output they are looking for – an optimised Microsoft footprint.

How ITIL 4 conceptualises value clearly indicates an uncomfortable truth that many SAM tool and service providers have a hard time articulating to customers: – there is no SAM solution that can be effectively implemented without effort from the customer.

The language of ITIL 4 potentially addresses this by enabling a SAM service provider to communicate to stakeholders what they are going to provide (an output) and what the customer needs to do to get what they want (an outcome).

However, it isn’t all about ways for a SAM provider to justify the work that a stakeholder must do in order to achieve the benefits of a software asset management program. ITIL 4 has a lot to say about how to look at processes in such a way to make them more valuable, such as the Service Value System.

The Service Value System

The Service Value System is a new concept in ITIL 4, and it describes “how all the components and activities in the organisation work together to enable value creation”. It is comprised of the following components:

ITIL v4 Service Value System

All these components can be viewed as a way to improve your software asset management practice.

The Guiding Principles impact the overall practice on a high level, Governance focuses on the direction and control of the practice, the Service Value Chain focuses on how value is created via a set of specific activities, Continual Improvement puts emphasis on the need to continually revise the practice, and the Practices are the other elements of an organisation that software asset management relates to or is composed of.

To illustrate this point think of IT Asset Management as being the practice that Software Asset Management falls under in ITIL 4. This helps to conceptualise and improve software asset management on a high level (and to assist the practitioner in understanding and integrating into organisations) but it isn’t the only thing that ITIL 4 has to offer to a software asset management practice. ITIL 4 also has new ways of working, such as its integration of short, time limited cycles of work like Agile.

Agile ITAM

Another new focus in ITIL 4 is that it has adapted ideas from new work methods such as Agile. This is most noticeable in the guiding principle “Progress iteratively with feedback”, where it is encouraged to break your work into small, time limited loops where you take what you learned from the previous iteration in order to improve the next iteration. This can be a great way to prove the value of SAM from day one. For example, focusing on a small publisher where you can easily gain some cost avoidance or savings will also provide insight into an organisation’s environment which will improve future SAM activity.

Holistic ITAM

The last aspect of ITIL 4 that impacts software asset management is the broader view that ITIL 4 takes of an organisation. In all previous versions, ITIL was geared specifically towards IT. In ITIL 4 this has changed, and it is now designed to be viewed much more broadly.

ITIL is now designed not just for IT but for the entire business. The guiding principle, “Think and work holistically”, describes how all the parts of an organisation should be seen as working together as a whole. This can help broaden the view of software asset management across the wider business, something that is integral to maturing a SAM program.


In conclusion, as ITIL 4 has evolved to include a view of business practices, there are now several aspects of ITIL 4 that can inform and innovate software asset management. SAM practitioners can generate value for their organisations and create a well-functioning practice by placing a strong emphasis on value, using the Service Value System, adopting new methods of work such as Agile, and taking a holistic view of their processes.

This article has been contributed by James Jones.

About James Jones

James Jones is an ITAM professional specializing primarily in Oracle and SAP with over a decade of experience working with Fortune 50 companies examining their SAM processes and standards. He is also a hiker and climber, having spent time climbing in Colorado as well as an avid traveler(his favorite destination is a three way tie between London, Paris, and Reykjavík).

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