What is SAM?
Ask five people in the SAM industry that question and you will get at least six different answers.

ITIL define it as "...all of the infrastructure and processes necessary for the effective management, control and protection of the software assets within an organisation, throughout all stages of its' life-cycle."

This is regarded as being the complete answer for large organisations that need to have processes in place for each step during the life of a piece of software i.e. from the moment it is required to retired.

For many this is way too heavy a definition, which is often why people are put off by the concept of SAM.

There is no doubt that SAM has been over-hyped for the last few years and as with all hype the subject rarely lives up to the expectations...

How does SAM work?
In essence it is very simple.  Your organisation procures software, deploys (installs/makes it available), uses it and eventually throws it away or upgrades to a newer version.

SAM is all about managing that lifecycle efficiently.

However, understanding what SAM means in a tangible sense depends on the size of your organisation, your role within it and the current state of control in particular areas such as the purchasing and deployment of software.

Who do you think you are?
Your reasons for wanting to understand SAM can be quite different depending on where you sit:
  • (Upper) Management
  • Technical
  • Purchasing (procurement)
  • or indeed already managing the SAM function.

You could be approaching this from one, two or all of these areas.

Before we look at the individual needs of each of these groups, a quick word about the size of your organisation and what that means for your relationship with SAM.

Does size matter?
Yes.  Clearly SAM will be totally different in execution for an enterprise of 20,000 computers than it is for an organisation of 5 computers.

Many of the principles however, are the same.  In the How to do SAM section we show you what you need to do depending on the size of your organisation - What you should do

So, returning to the 'who do you think you are' in a little more detail....


As Management in a general sense you are under all sorts of pressure to increase productivity (whatever your organisation does) control costs and manage risk (in no particular order).

Where software is concerned, getting results in all three of these areas is a balancing act.

Maximising productivity means giving your people the tools (software) to get on with the job. 

The perfect answer in this sense would be to give everyone access to all relevant software all of the time, whether they use it or not just in case they need it.

But, all commercial software requires a licence of some kind if it is available whether it is used or not. 

This is one of the most misunderstood or ignored factors in software management.

To counter the desire to make software available to all, software licences cost money, a lot of money.

And to underline the need to control those costs, if your organisation cannot prove that the right licences have been purchased then those purchases are wasted = financial and business risk.

A good SAM function will assist in providing users with what they actually require whilst balancing cost and mitigating all risks.


If you are coming to this from a technical perspective, you have to deal with the same tension in a slightly different way when deploying software and making sure it works.

Often what is technically the best solution isn't necessarily the cheapest from a licensing perspective.


Purchasing and procurement's priority on the other hand quite rightly is to manage costs, but of course there is more than one kind of software cost:
  • Initial purchase
  • Ongoing maintenance
  • Renewals
  • Decommissioning
  • etc

Good SAM encourages the efficient recording and tracking of all relevant software costs so that expenditure can be controlled.


What you can see already is that various types of controls and information are needed to achieve the objectives of different roles in any organisation.

Good SAM means that each one of these groups gets the information they need when they need it.

The SAM function works with each of these various disciplines to raise awareness of requirements specific to software and its licensing.

And of course there is a tension here that needs to be balanced as well.

The greatest and most comprehensive SAM system would cost a fortune to create and administer, thereby completely defeating the point of its existence which is to reduce overall costs (whilst also mitigating risks and increasing productivity).

Which is why SAMsource focuses on what you need to do rather than what you could potentially do which is a much longer list.

Next we look in more detail at SAM myths, the cause of so many misunderstandings...