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What follows needs no explanation—it’s just one man’s honest, transparent story about experiences that would shake anyone’s world, yet they took him down a path of unexpected success! The key to his success was to never give up.

Like many software asset management (SAM) professionals, my involvement in SAM was thrust upon me in the aftermath of a failed software audit. At the time I was responsible for information technology (IT) Vendor Management. I was with a Fortune 500 global financial industry firm. The senior vice president (SVP) I reported to informed me of my new responsibility to lead the launch of a dedicated SAM function.

Little did I know the chain of events this brief encounter was going to touch-off in my professional life. It started when I quickly discovered our Flexera2 deployment was running 15 months behind schedule. Due to an internal decision made by our IT tools team, we had forced Flexera down an unnecessary integration path. Once we identified this error, we quickly achieved the necessary environment coverage.

However, with the integration and rollout of Flexera back on track, I was still a bit nervous, because I quickly realized that ‘a guy and a tool’ was woefully inadequate to deliver true SAM operational execution. I learned that to load and manage software license entitlements in the Flexera platform for our top enterprise software publishers would require dedicated analyst expertise for each. I therefore requested additional SAM investment so I could bring in a team experienced with our SAM platform and the leading software publishers who dominated the environment.

And yet, even with my SAM platform functioning and team established, I encountered the next ground shattering event, specifically surrounding financial miscalculations. The initial Flexera reconciliation to our environment revealed that we were out of compliance by literally a hundred million in U.S. dollars (USD). Almost immediately I found myself standing alone in front of our chief financial officer (CFO) being chastised for the unbudgeted exposure with the demand for an accurate accrual amount and a detailed plan on how this type of mismanagement would never occur again.

True, my back was against the wall, but today, I am pleased to share that over the following months, with a great deal of blood and sweat, we were able to remediate the vast majority of identified exposure, but nonetheless, the SAM operation and my reputation as a leader and problem-solver were damaged. Not surprisingly, when the next wave of organizational change was announced, our dedicated SAM operation was being disbanded and the responsibility for SAM was being assigned to IT service management (ITSM).

As I sat contemplating my future, I decided to revert to my earlier career in journalism and research and dig into this thing called software asset management and asked myself:

  • Could I be the only person that had this type of SAM experience?
  • Did my executives have a clear vision of SAM or was it a knee-jerk investment to keep the CFO happy?
  • What steps could I have implemented to have avoided this outcome?

With the goal of getting answers to these questions and identifying the best practices employed by other SAM leaders I set out to create what became The SAM Leader Survival Guide. I decided to do some intensive research, and speak with individuals who owned SAM accountability and ultimately learn about the successes or failures of their operations.

I learned the majority of consultants and advisors SAM leaders turn to for guidance have never actually owned the accountability of running a SAM operation. Most are former auditors or representatives from SAM tool organizations. They have never had to stand in front of the CFO and CIO to be questioned on the value the organization is receiving for their SAM investment. Although these consultants and advisers bring value, I needed to design The SAM Leader Survival Guide1 to be ‘for SAM professionals by SAM professionals’.

To deliver this vision, I had the pleasure of interviewing 11 current SAM leaders who openly provided their opinions, experience and recommendations. I blended their input to produce clear and actionable best practices to drive greater SAM operational success and maturity.

Today, The SAM Leader Survival Guide is a reference structured on the logical flow of activities SAM leaders need to set up and run productive operations.

Universally, the SAM professionals I interviewed believe sponsor and stakeholder management of SAM -- with its clear mission and value statements aligned -- is essential to achieve their targeted results. The book explores these concepts and more, with detailed recommendations and guidance for SAM professionals to be successful in this important area.

But we cannot stop there, not just yet. Once we align our expectations and sponsors have clarity of the SAM mission, we as SAM professionals need to explore multiple dimensions of organizational and operational design alternatives.

Too many times SAM leaders are pushed to select a tool as the initial action. While this is important, they need to take the time to explore the upstream and downstream process alignment necessary for driving effective SAM operations.

In addition, SAM leaders need to study the makeup of their software publisher portfolio and internal requirements concerning reporting detail and frequency. This input will begin to point to potential platform or managed service alternatives as well as the staff and skills that will become necessary.

Beyond the foundation, The SAM Leader Survival Guide moves into the realities of executing SAM operations. The book introduces the concept I call The Danger Zone3 -- the time between executive signoff to establish the SAM capability and the time it takes to be fully operational.

We define operational as the point where the platform is enabled, entitlements are loaded, and reconciliation is occurring. We SAM professionals know this is a period of high risk, because the length of time to enable operations is always grossly underestimated by our sponsors and stakeholders. SAM leaders need to quickly provide value and actionable intelligence to executives during this period and avoid being so fixated on getting the SAM platform productive, they neglect to initiate all important educational activities.

The best practices cited by the SAM leaders I interviewed focused on providing communications to educate sponsors and stakeholders of potential exposure; taking actions to remediate the identified exposure and identifying all dynamics that will reduce non-compliance.

Top actions I suggest taking to reduce the perilous period for SAM leaders include these three:

  • Review the Top 10 software publishers by spend and carefully assess the areas that could indicate audit susceptibility and those actions that would improve audit readiness. (This parallels the SAM platform deployment which could be 9 – 12 months or more.)
  • Use a ‘self-audit’ capability from an expert third party to understand current baseline and compliance profile. SAM leaders will then be able to provide sponsors and stockholders with detailed insight to challenges that may otherwise produce a non-compliance exposure. This effort will help the SAM team see the type of data auditors will use to calculate their findings. Having this dynamic occur while the team is configuring and deploying the SAM platform will enable the team to discover and resolve key gaps in capability. Typically it takes three months to execute this.
  • Assign a SAM executive committee during this period, comprised of the core executive sponsors and stakeholders, to provide SAM leaders a forum and to establish appreciation that SAM effectiveness requires a number of teams to collaborate and share accountability. SAM leaders need to leverage this group to ensure the comprehensive SAM mission is clear.

Once The Danger Zone is over, SAM leaders can examine the requirement to establish audit-ready operations and then educate targeted stakeholders on their role and contribution to maintaining compliance and optimizing software utilization.

The SAM Leader Survival Guide introduces the importance of The SAM Optimization Council4 and how SAM leaders can use this group to align with cross-functional teams. In essence, the SAM Optimization Council extends the SAM Executive Committee to establish critical linkage with operations teams in IT, Sourcing, IT finance and Information Security. The SAM Optimization Council helps drive SAM Mission and Value Statement5 to the expertise within your organization who will do the work and ultimately determine deployment effectiveness.

Lastly, SAM leaders who take the time to appoint and educate The SAM Optimization Council will be able to quickly transition to the Audit Response Team (ART)6 to reduce the typical high drama reaction when an organization receives an audit notification and needs to prepare the appropriate employees for response.

Get clarity or get left behind! It is critically important for SAM leaders to ensure they have established clarity and deep understanding of the value they deliver to the business. If executives and sponsors view SAM as audit insurance – as most do – SAM leaders will risk being left behind when the discussion ticks up to Cloud governance.7

Seize the day! Many of us once thought subscription-based licenses would reduce the need for SAM, but, the strong growth of Software as a Service (SaaS) and the well-publicized challenges to govern SaaS spending place SAM leaders in an excellent position to expand scope and deliver value.

That’s why The SAM Leader Survival Guide includes current SAM best practices concerning Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) -- the focus being on Bring Your Own License (BYOL), establishing a clear role in these important areas and demonstrating value in this high growth area.

Once this is accomplished, SAM leaders will be able to increasingly engage with SaaS. It is growing dramatically -- not only within process or targeted functional areas -- but SaaS is also used by software service organizations leading the way -- like Salesforce, O365, Service Now.

These are just a few of the recommendations and insights provided from the SAM professionals I interviewed. Of greatest interest to me was how consistently they identified the same areas as the greatest challenges regardless of the maturity or the size of the SAM operation they used.

Overall, it appears we SAM leaders have a tremendous opportunity to not only solidify our role and contribution to IT efficiency, but with the emergence of Cloud in particular, proactive SAM leaders can establish an important path to the emerging function of Cloud asset management (CAM).


As this review points out, Jim Hussey has led a Fortune 500 technology vendor management organization. After successfully implementing a robust SAM discovery capability, combined with a global team of SAM analysts, Jim began a detailed study of the SAM community. When he then authored The SAM Leader Survival Guide he realized that unless he did the needed research he would remain “alone” in his zeal to understand and then manage such a complex platform as SAM. His stick-to-it attitude ultimately led to success.

Today, Jim is active in developing SAM market specific research to provide SAM professionals independent data to refine their SAM operations. A frequent speaker and blogger about SAM leadership coaching and professional development, he is a member of’s content development team and currently leads the NPI ( SAM advisory and audit defense practice.

  1. The SAM Leader Survival Guide
  2. Flexera is an American computer software company based in Itasca, Illinois. See also the supplier division Revenera.
  3. The Danger Zone, part 3 of The SAM Leader Survival Guide
  4. The SAM Optimization Council, part 4 of the SAM Leader Survival Guide
  5. The SAM Mission and Value Statements, part 1 of the SAM Leader Survival Guide
  6. Audit Response Team, part 4 of the SAM Leader Survival Guide
  7. Cloud – The Future is Here, part 6 of the SAM Leader Survival Guide

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Jim Hussey, U.S. software asset management practitioner and author of The SAM Leader Survival Guide1

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