One of the top SAM myths
Before we move onto suggesting some solutions to cope with SAM tool issues we must discuss one of the greatest myths within SAM.

Most people believe that it is possible to automate the licence reconciliation process for their organisation if they purchase and configure an inventory tool.

And indeed it is possible, as long as you have an unlimited amount of time and budget.

So it isn't quite a myth because it is possible, but the extent to which tool vendors are being economic with the truth is legendary.

What is possible?

Starting from the top in terms of technological nirvana, there are tools out there that offer the ability to totally automate the SAM processes, but they cost a fortune, i.e. in excess of £100 per client machine just for the licence.

You then need to consider the configuration required to make them work which can easily equate to as much again if not more.

These are tools that manage the software lifecycle end to end.  That means that you can deploy, manage and retire software from a central console, as well as automate processes around each part of the lifecycle, for example licence management.

From a licensing perspective it is possible to attribute licensing requirement to particular packages or units of software being deployed.

For example, as individual pieces of software are deployed, when the tool detects either the deployment or later the installation, the system can trigger a process so that a licence can be purchased or at least counted as being required (for later bulk purchasing - see Licence purchase frequency).

Similarly, bundles can be created so that if you deploy a PC with the standard set of software applications, this can automatically request the required licences for the installed software as well as user licences for all systems that the user of the PC is going to be accessing.

The same can go for purely user based systems.  As the Help Desk grant access to the particular system, a message can be automated that keeps count of new user accounts that have been created.  A standard inventory tool can never achieve this when there is nothing installed for it to take an inventory of.

But, to achieve all this someone has to configure the tool to understand exactly which licence is required for each specific application or bundle.  This piece of work NEVER arrives out of the box due to the endless variables available in software licensing and contracts, and the way in which your organisation might have configured things.

Is it worth it?

Of course any kind of automation in this area is beneficial, but you must ask yourself whether it will be worth it from a financial perspective when compared to the costs of implementation.

We would argue that in the long run such a system can be justified, but it is a very hard sell in terms of this years budget.

The norm

Most inventory tools won't ever get close to the description above as all they can do is report inventory.

It is possible to build manually driven processes around such tools, but they will never be an integral part of the system unless the tool has the ability to set up work flow processes within itself.

This is part of the two part problem that means that automation is a myth for the majority rather than a reality.

Why does the myth of automation exist?
People are led to believe that automating the reconciliation process is possible for their organisation by the tool vendor marketing.

It should be possible, but the more the problems identified in The truth about audit tools are present the less reliable automation becomes.

The reality

As an example, if you have a 1000 machines, each of which has a copy of Office installed you would expect a tool to report 1000 copies of Office.  But, if there have been multiple versions and editions of Office deployed and if there have been upgrades, the tool could report anything up to 30% more Office installations than you have machines and a list of versions and editions that can easily cover 10-15 different descriptions.

The more rubbish you are trying to cope with, the wider the gap between reconciling install data and licence entitlement, the more manual intervention is required to make sense of tool information, the further you are from any automation being possible.

Conclusion

All tools can feed automated reconciliation processes, however the reality of achieving automation is reliant on several factors.

If the base information is of poor quality (i.e. rubbish) then forget it.  The cost of getting there will just be too great.

Some tools have the ability to configure processes built in, but these are very expensive to purchase and you still need to build the process.

Most tools don't have the ability to build in processes but you can of course construct a system where the tool simply feeds a manually driven process.

Whatever you chose to do, don't expect a great deal out of the box and do expect a great deal of time and investment on your part.

One thing is for sure, the cleaner the inventory information and the narrower the gap between inventory requirement and licence entitlement, the easier life is and the more chance of automation there will be - Solving inventory tool issues....