software asset management (SAM)

Software asset management (SAM) is the administration of processes, policies and procedures that support the procurement, deployment, use, maintenance and disposal of software applications within an organization. SAM is the part of IT asset management that seeks to ensure the organization complies with license agreements and does not overspend on software.

An important goal of every SAM initiative is to facilitate the discovery of software assets, ensure the validity of end user license agreements (EULAs) and validate the appropriate use of free software. SAM documentation can protect the organization from anti-piracy litigation, prevent the unintentional overuse of licenses and provide a control for shadow software on the network.

In a large organization, software asset management can be so complex that it requires a team to create and maintain a database that stores information about software purchases, subscriptions, licenses and patches. Typically such a team is responsible for renewing software licenses, negotiating new license agreements and identifying and eliminating software that is rarely or never used.

A SAM team may also be responsible for ensuring SAM processes and procedures are aligned with the COBIT framework or ITIL V3  service management system standards. To automate the way information is gathered from multiple mobile, desktop, data center and cloud inventory sources, SAM software will audit the number of software licenses purchased and reconcile that with the number of licenses that are installed. SAM tools can also keep track of the number of remaining licenses. This knowledge can be used to eliminate or reallocate software that is not being used in order to keep costs down.

Intelligent SAM tools can be especially helpful if the organization is part of a volume licensing program or wants to optimize how perpetual and subscription-based licenses are purchased. In addition to providing a federated view of raw software asset data, some SAM software products also have a layer of intelligence capable of flagging specific criteria related to software licensing and application lifecycle management (ALM). Flagging allows SAM team members to proactively identify circumstances that can be used to cut costs; for example, the software may flag incidents in which licensing and support costs can be combined. 

This was last updated in June 2017

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