Starting out as a SAM Consultant
ITAM is a growing industry. Salaries have risen 15% in two years, and more organisations are hiring for ITAM roles, but it’s taking longer than before to fill these roles1. This is due to the worsening skills gap– which is exacerbated by the lack of young people entering the industry. Without new people and new skills, the growth of ITAM is going to be slow and difficult – particularly as new technologies such as the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and containers continue to increase the number of assets to manage, and the complexity of managing them.
Here at the ITAM Review we have long stated that organisations, ourselves included, must do more to attract new people into the ITAM industry. We’re aware of graduate schemes at several SAM partner organisations and we are having discussions with universities and students to help drive interest and access. Amongst this, License Dashboard, the UK based Software Asset Management technology and services vendor, recently added three new SAM Consultants to their team based in York. Two of the new starters, Leah Rawlings and Huw Jones, are brand new to the ITAM industry, with the third, James Bell, returning to License Dashboard after two years spent working with an end-user organisation in the SAM team. The ITAM Review is joining License Dashboard to keep a diary over the first six months of the new starters’ introduction to IT asset management.
Our aim with this series is twofold: we want to show potential entrants what is involved in starting a career in ITAM, and we equally want to give organisations an idea what is required to successfully onboard and grow a new hire and give them a strong basis in ITAM.
We spoke with Leah (LR), Huw (HJ), and James (JB) a month into their roles at License Dashboard to understand their thoughts on taking on the vast and disparate world of software license management, their own personal goals within the ITAM industry, and the training programmes required to equip a new starter in IT asset management with the required skills and knowledge.
On their expectations of understanding software licensing models…
LR: It’s along the lines of what I expected; I’d done quite a bit of research into what the job entails but there’s a lot to learn – a lot more than I thought there would be. We aren’t just learning one licensing model, it is all the previous editions and understanding what versions of each software has what model.
HJ: I knew what I’d be doing overall, but I didn’t realise how much there would be to learn in terms of licensing. It’s the sheer amount of it, but also because a lot of the licenses are so similar with the difference being a couple of letters that could alter the whole scenario. I’ve come straight from my degree so that’s been beneficial in terms of learning techniques and revision. I’m using the same techniques from university as I would have done when revising for an exam to learn the licensing models.
On learning software licensing rules…
LR: So far, I’ve been getting to grips with the License Dashboard tool, License Manager, and understanding how to input licenses, import data, and apply suites. The bulk of the work so far has been learning Microsoft licensing. I’ve been working through both Microsoft’s “Get Licensing Ready” and ITAM Review’s “LISA” licensing training programmes.
I’ve found the LISA training to be really useful. It was nice to actually hear the trainer explain things rather than just reading through PDFs. It comes from a SAM perspective rather than purely licensing and they include the older versions of licensing as well.
JB: I found the best way to learn the licensing rules was just to throw myself into it and break each section down into its component parts. Allocating a product to an individual so that they can learn the licensing and editions related to it is better than taking an entire managed service and trying to learn everything about it. It’s very overwhelming when you start and you are introduced to all of the products and versions and then you have questions such as, is it academic, is it corporate, are there any other licensing concessions we need to make?
From my perspective, as a more experienced SAM Consultant, the LISA training provides useable licensing information. LISA points out the ‘gotchas’ and the grants you get from going to processor to core and how that impacts your SA costs ongoing for example. The IBM, SAP, and Oracle resources are really valuable. It’s a complex subject but it helps to make it slightly easier.
On what they’ve been working on so far…
HJ: Producing ELPs has been one of the main things that I’ve been working on so far. Using data to practice with, we’ve been turning this into a format that is customer friendly. Microsoft in particular provides a lot of data, so we’ve been working on identifying the relevant data for customers. The senior SAM Consultants have been supporting us with training sessions and time slots to go through the ELPs step by step and then we’re given time to reproduce what they do ourselves. Everyone in the team is willing to help.
LR: I’ve begun my first real-life ELP for a customer and working with another consultant on the project. I’ve been on calls with customers where they don’t realise what the implications of licensing can be, and while obviously that’s something we’re only starting to learn, I can see how we will be able to help them. It’s a big responsibility but it’s rewarding to think you can be saving these clients so much money.
Goals for new SAM Consultants…
HJ: The opportunity to be working with customers is great. It’s one thing to be working with the data and analysing the licensing and then a different skill set to communicate with the customers. I’ve had customer service experience in various jobs before and during university which has been useful.
LR: In terms of goals, we’ve been revising towards the Microsoft SAM MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) exam which will be later this summer.
Goals for an experienced SAM Consultant…
JB: I want to tighten up on my existing qualifications, firstly the Microsoft SAM MCP and then build from there. I’d also like to complete an ITIL qualification. The training I’ve been working on so far has been ITAM Review’s “LISA”, and Microsoft’s “Get Licensing Ready”. Before I came back to License Dashboard, I was working on internal SAM at a technology company with the office based in Barcelona. There I would deliver reports to the CIO of the organisation. One of the benefits of coming back to License Dashboard has been working with the technology that the company develops, specifically related to the server side. Also, I find working with the clients to be a lot more fun and more diverse.
That experience of working in an internal SAM team has given me a different perspective of the challenges that organisations face. One of the challenges is the collective goal that is difficult to push as a SAM team in an organisation. You not only need to show that you are adding value, you need to align to all the other teams. It isn’t the SAM team who are responsible for uninstalling applications or limiting the number of virtual machines that can run on a certain cluster or host. One of the issues that we always had was going back to the teams within our organisation and showing that our recommendations was worth doing.
As an external SAM consultant, we deliver the report to a client, but we won’t always see the result of that. We can see the progress on the next reporting cycle, but we won’t always see the interaction in the organisation that has happened in between. But with the experience of being in that internal role, I now ensure that the reports I deliver are in a simple format that the end user team can understand and action. Giving them the tools to action the report is the way forward.
Delivering the data back is really rewarding, especially when you consider how much we are saving these organisations compared to what they are paying for the service. I’ve just delivered back a Red Hat report that had a cost optimisation opportunity of £2.4m.
I’m working and training towards becoming a Senior SAM Consultant and would, ultimately, like to have one of my own large managed service accounts. One of the prerequisites of that is being a mentor to others in the team and introducing innovations.
It’s great to see new entrants to the industry so enthusiastic about ITAM, what they’ve already learned, and what they still have ahead of them. It’s interesting that Huw and Leah, who are totally new to the industry, both expressed their surprise at how much there is to learn and contend with when it comes to licensing! Clearly, training is a key element to help introduce new starters to the key vendors, concepts, and terms – but I feel one must manage the training workload in order to prevent them becoming overwhelmed by an avalanche of metrics, programmes, and documentation!
I look forward to our next conversation with the Huw, Leah, and James and seeing how they’ve progressed, what challenges they’ve encountered, and how they’ve overcome them.
Wherever you are in your ITAM journey, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic.
- Thompson M. 2019 ITAM Salary and Skills Survey – The Results. ITAM Rev. June 2019. https://marketplace.itassetmanagement.net/2019/06/07/2019-itam-salary-and-skills-survey-the-results/. Accessed August 19, 2019.
- Tags: getting started · graduate trainee · license analyst · license dashboard · LISA · New starter · SAM Consultant · SAM Consultants · Training
About Rich Gibbons
A Northerner renowned for his shirts, Rich is a big Hip-Hop head, and loves travel, football in general (specifically MUFC), baseball, Marvel, and reading as many books as possible. Finding ways to combine all of these with ITAM & software licensing is always fun!
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