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Stop blaming the SAM tool. Do not repeat these six mistakes

The reason your SAM tool is not working for you is not that "there is no silver bullet". Let's stop saying that. Nobody buys it. Let's flip the narrative and face the truth. It's because either you didn't do your homework, or you knew there was no silver bullet and still didn't do your homework.

Snow SoftwareFlexeraCerteroLicense Dashboard, and even ServiceNow have pretty decent tools. Yes, they all have limitations. Each has its own, so what? You will win and achieve incredible results if you treat them as a foundation for your SAM solution. And you will fail, guaranteed, if you only "buy a tool".

One of the above only recently implemented Windows Server licensing in a non-misleading way, and I love it. Still, our team has been delivering solutions based on that tool since 2015, and our customers have never complained.

Here are the top reasons your tool fails you and what you can do about it:

1. You bought a tool as opposed to a solution.

Did you lay out your exact goals? Did you study your software metrics in-depth? Did you write down clear, micro-level things you want your tool to address? If, instead of that, you just paid for something that would "help you save money on the cloud" or "help you manage licences", in generic terms, here's the top reason. Study your infrastructure, software, metrics, and issues first, have a heat map and a detailed action plan, and then go to market.

2. You expected too much.

By all means, look at the tool's strengths first, then study the shortcomings, and set your expectations straight. Be prepared to build workarounds. Do not trust marketing materials. Rip it all apart, go to the community and ask exact questions. To put things in perspective, even a question like "Does it do Oracle Middleware?" doesn't cut it. "Does it recognise components deployed by Oracle Enterprise Manager?" is the question you want to ask. Tools do not operate with abstract, "ballpark", "high-level", "holistic approach" smoke-and-mirror BS. Tools need good quality data and the means to get it.

3. You chose the tool by its price.

Do I even have to go there? The vendors will compete by price if you put it out to tender without outlining your exact non-generic requirements. That's the rule of the game. Cheaper does not mean better. Common sense, right? I wish. A more affordable tool among the few that solve your problems is a much better approach.

4. You invested in a tool, not a complete solution.

And because of that, you only set aside a budget for a tool. Never, ever, ever, only budget a tool. Outline the complete solution first and see how much you will need to implement it fully, with all the infrastructure changes, security considerations, connectors, databases etc. All of it. And the resource (I mean people) to maintain it because none of the tools run independently. Again, don't budget for a tool, budget for a complete solution.

5. You did not implement it as you should implement it.

The number of times I have seen tools installed, then configured, excuse my French, in a half-arsed way, and the SAM people are complaining that it's not working – I cannot count the times I've seen this. The tool "is not working" because you aren't letting it do its job. What's the point of collecting inventory from virtual servers if VMware connectors are not set up? That's only half of the data, utterly useless on its own.

6. You do not maintain it regularly.

As your infrastructure changes, the tool must follow. If you deploy something new – a new cluster, new cloud etc. – and there is no automated discovery, you must configure the connectors manually. Forget to do it, and you'll lose visibility of that part of the infrastructure, lose the ability to track compliance and costs, and ultimately make the right decisions. Who's to blame, then? The tool?

It is never the right time to waste money, but it is an even worse idea now. Failure to study the problems you're solving, an incorrect approach to acquisition, and incomplete implementation will result in a dead weight of a non-working tool and, ultimately, wasted money.

So, where to begin?

If you already bought a solution, put together a plan of action to mitigate the shortcomings. Start with finalising the deployment but also plan to build workarounds where the tool itself does not deliver. They may be addressed in the following versions but can you afford to wait? Put together a plan and a business case, and ask for a budget but don't forget to let the business know what they'll get in return.

If you haven't yet bought a tool, start by studying your landscape. You don't need full-on ELPs. What you need is a Strategic SAM and Licensing Assessment that would produce a heat map of issues, recommend a plan of action, both at a granular level and give you input that will allow you to outline the exact requirement for your SAM solution. Then go out to the market and start asking uncomfortable questions. You don't need promises. You need it to work now. There will be shortcomings. Expect them. Meet them in full gear – have a good team and a list of workarounds. Then budget for a solution. And then you'll be sorted.

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