Microsoft Outlines Partner Strategy to Help Customers Achieve Optimal Software Asset Management

DENVER, July 11, 2007 – At Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference, held this week in Denver, Microsoft is outlining its partner strategy for Software Asset Management (SAM). SAM helps customers realize maximum benefits from their IT solutions and services investments. SAM is a business practice that has proven its value by helping organizations assess what software they have and what they need, as well as more efficiently manage their IT investments.

PressPass recently spoke with Juan Fernando Rivera, director of anti-piracy at Microsoft, to learn more about the company’s strategy and vision for SAM, how the company is incorporating asset management resources into its technologies and services, and the role partners play in implementing SAM programs.

PressPass: How has Microsoft’s SAM strategy and vision evolved over the past year?

Rivera: Our strategy is evolving and will continue to evolve based on the needs and realities of managing a business IT infrastructure. Our strategy is based on a dedication to building committed and loyal Microsoft customers who accurately value their software assets and the investments they make in them. This strategy has three main components.

The first is focused on the SAM value proposition. This consists of SAM training and education, which is based on industry standards such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 19770-1, an international standard on Software Asset Management that organizations can adopt. We are very committed to the development of tools to help make SAM easier for our customers.

The second component is focused on the development, recruitment and training of SAM partners worldwide. These partners are certified under the SAM Specialization Competency in the Microsoft Partner Program, which is designed to build a strong community of partner experts that our customers can depend on.

Finally, our third component is direct customer engagement, a cooperative model with customers and partners that provides specific value-added guidance and recommendations about SAM. We plan on expanding and refining this model worldwide to adapt to specific market needs.

PressPass: What has been the response from partners regarding Microsoft’s SAM program?

Rivera: There is definitely an increased interest among our partners. We’ve seen an exponential growth in SAM in the marketplace as measured by the number of partners enrolled for certification in the SAM Specialization. In November 2005, we launched the Licensing Solutions SAM Specialization Competency in the Microsoft Partner Program, which to date has over 338 members in over 76 countries. To accommodate this increase in interest, this year we will offer three sessions focusing on recruitment, business opportunities and future directions on SAM, in addition to a hands-on lab. Our goal is to provide our partners with access to a variety of resources to help them succeed.

PressPass: What other investments have you made that partners will benefit from?

We offer on-going training to our partners via Web casts and other online resources, such as the SAM Partner Playbook and the Partner Advisory Service to provide support and guidance to our SAM Partners. We work closely with partners to demonstrate the customer benefits of SAM that utilize tools and solutions they have available to them such as the Microsoft Licensing Statement (MLS). The MLS provides a comprehensive record of software investments that our customers have made through volume licensing.

I’m pleased with the mental shift that’s taken place, which has gone from a perception of SAM being nothing more than licensing compliance to regarding it now as a true benefit for customers. This has been the catalyst for much of the increased partner interest we’ve seen over the past year, and we’ll continue to make investments in the resources that our partners need to help customers implement a successful SAM strategy.

PressPass: What are some of the new tools Microsoft has introduced to help its customers better manage their software assets and actually implement a SAM strategy?

Rivera: Software Asset Management represents a strategic investment for Microsoft. We currently offer tools such as the Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer (MSIA) and the SAM ROI Calculator, available for download at no charge on our Web site. However, we’ve also taken a phased approach to building robust asset management tools into our mainstream products and services.

The first phase, which is going to market this year, is designed to improve asset visibility in an organization. It involves building asset management capabilities into System Management Server (SMS) 2003 Service Pack 3, which was released in May), System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and System Center Essentials 2007. Another resource customers can use to better manage their assets is the Microsoft Asset Inventory Service, which is only available through the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), an add-on subscription license available to Software Assurance customers.

The next phase, in 2008, will focus on automating asset management within an organization. This phase will include easy integration with procurement systems, workflow solutions that automate tasks across the entire asset management lifecycle, and the ability to track and manage disparate license types via new products in the System Center family.

In phase three, which will take place in 2009 and beyond, we will provide more tools to make it easy for all software developers to describe their products in a consistent way and easily integrate them with Windows licensing technologies. During that phase we will also deliver new capabilities in System Center Wave 3, making it easier to manage license stores and data across the enterprise, in addition to generating comprehensive asset reports such as lifecycle summaries and policy compliance scorecards.

PressPass: Are there any lingering misconceptions about Software Asset Management?

Rivera: There are two primary misconceptions. The first is that SAM is about license compliance. The primary way we’re trying to overcome that misconception is by working with our partners to educate customers to view software as an asset, not an expense. When software is viewed as an asset, it needs to be managed like any other investment. Once customers understand the importance of their software assets, identify their software needs, and set a base-line, they can start making smart decisions about these assets because they realize where they are and where they are going with their software assets. This provides customers greater control of their IT budget and environment, and maximizes the investments they make on IT. License compliance is just another benefit of a proper SAM implementation, but the focus should be on gaining control of their assets and optimizing their investments.

The secondary misconception is that SAM is merely about a set of tools. In reality, 20 percent of it is tools, while 80 percent is putting processes and policies in place across a business. These processes and policies involve professionals in the areas of legal, human resources and finance, among others, with the goal of maximizing the investments the organization has made in technology. Our partners play a critical role in helping customers set up these kinds of necessary processes.

PressPass: What do customers need to do practice better Software Asset Management?

Rivera: SAM is about control across a business, such as financial and legal control. It’s also about making sure that businesses have control over their software investments. In order to reach that level of assurance it’s critical that customers understand what they need and what they actually have, and then determine whether it’s all properly supported and licensed. The first step is for a business to identify its assets. Then, it needs to map those assets to entitlements, and set a base line to establish policies and procedures that make sure everything is in place. Finally, the business needs to build a plan. It’s important for companies to realize that SAM is not done once and then it’s over. To be highly effective, SAM needs to be incorporated as a core business practice.

PressPass: What’s next for Microsoft’s SAM program?

Rivera: One of our goals is to keep growing our partner ecosystem so partners can continue to educate and help our customers with their SAM implementations. We will also keep working on developing tools, participating in industry-wide events, driving customer engagements worldwide and providing customers with specific recommendations that help maximize their software investments.

One of the areas we’re looking at is the concept of an Infrastructure Optimization model, where we approach IT as a profit center, instead of a cost center. With an effective SAM model, customers can free up the resources that companies need to make this transition. We feel strongly that this is the right approach, and will be offering a session at the Worldwide Partner Conference that is dedicated to this model.