HOUSTON, July 7, 2008 — This week at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, Microsoft is launching a new software asset management (SAM) evaluation framework called the SAM Optimization Model. The new framework adds value to Microsoft’s SAM program by facilitating a business management process that helps customers maximize their software assets. The SAM Optimization Model provides customers with greater control of their IT budget and environment by connecting the dots between IT and the business itself, with the goal of aligning software investments with evolving business needs.
As the worldwide director of license compliance, Michael Beare drives the strategy and execution of the SAM program and interacts with those leading local efforts around the world. PressPass spoke with Beare before the WPC to find out what the new framework means for partners and customers.
PressPass: First off, what is SAM, and how is the SAM Optimization Model different from traditional SAM?
Michael Beare, Director of License Compliance, Microsoft
Beare: One of the biggest misconceptions about SAM is that it’s a point-in-time assessment, like a license review. License reviews on their own simply take a picture or snapshot of an organization. Within a week or a month, devices have been brought in, software has been installed, and that point-in-time snapshot doesn’t evolve with those changes.
The SAM Optimization Model can be seen as a tool to measure performance and evaluate the level of maturity of SAM practices using straightforward criteria and easy-to-understand concepts. It’s essentially a structured scorecard framework by which a SAM practice can be evaluated and analyzed, and areas for improvement identified. Once you have that, you can really look at how investments in the organization SAM practice can be optimized.
Using the SAM Optimization Model, customers can more effectively implement an ongoing SAM practice, and actively manage their software. With this approach, not only will that licensing picture be just as good in the future as the one today, but the company can also systematically align its software assets with the real-world needs of the business.
PressPass: How does the SAM Optimization Model work?
Beare: SAM Optimization works through the same four stages as Microsoft’s Optimization methodology — Basic, Standardized, Rationalized and Dynamic. Using this framework, partners or customers can conduct a SAM Optimization evaluation to determine how efficiently they are managing their software assets. The end goal of the evaluation is to assess the SAM Optimization level of the organization based on a set of consistent, established and objective criteria. Once customers know their level of optimization they can work to transition from one stage of optimization to the next, thereby maximizing their software assets and reaping the benefits of doing so.
PressPass: What are some of those benefits?
Beare: There are many customer benefits of achieving a more optimized SAM process. Customers immediately realize a better level of precision for targeting the appropriate licenses to the right software assets at the right time. Customers gain better control and optimization of the software investment for their business needs. They reduce waste and increase productivity. Further, customers can take advantage of better, more strategic licensing — for example, instead of purchasing from multiple resellers they could be purchasing from a single reseller and optimizing their contracts and engagements to get the best pricing.
PressPass: How was the new model developed?
Beare: Interestingly enough, this is not something that Microsoft invented on its own. We built this model together with a team of very experienced worldwide SAM partners who had already reached the same conclusion: There is a logical alignment between Core Infrastructure Optimization, Business Productivity Infrastructure Optimization, Application Platform and SAM. From the broad IT infrastructure perspective, Microsoft’s optimization methodology incorporates software assets and management, with a common goal of driving business agility by streamlining IT and business processes.
PressPass: What is the opportunity for partners in adopting this model?
Beare: This new model enables the partner and the customer to have a structured conversation about the level of proficiency and maturity in a customer’s management of its software assets, approaching it from a management process perspective. It brings SAM down to a very practical and very IT-oriented language that we feel is going to serve as a bridge between the IT decision-maker and the CFO, because they will be able to have discussions about asset management through a model that the IT decision-maker is familiar with.
The opportunity for partners is in facilitating that dialogue and helping customers identify what areas of SAM to prioritize and invest in. In many of our pilots, partners had follow-on business that occurred right away, even though they were just having a discussion about the SAM practice and looking at it as an assessment tool. As they started looking at the results and presenting these results back to customers, the customers started to engage partners on SAM services to assist in those areas. So we know already that this model works for partners and benefits customers.
PressPass: What has the partner response been so far?
Beare: We’ve conducted more than 18 pilots worldwide over the past four months. The feedback we’ve received is very positive in terms of both customer and partner experience. Also, we found that a core set of partners had already been using a similar approach to SAM, and now with the SAM Optimization Model tools they find that their experiences communicating about SAM are a lot simpler and more consistent.
PressPass: What tools and resources are being offered to help partners get started?
Beare: There will be training available on SAM assessments, and on using the model. Partners can look for that on the Microsoft Partner Specialization Portal as well as on the updated Microsoft SAM site. On the site you will find guidance, including a workbook that contains the metrics and key performance indicators within each of the SAM competencies. We’re also going to provide templates as part of the model that can be used in the presentation back to the customers, so partners can leverage those as well.
It’s important to point out that we are making the model available openly. We want the SAM partner community to embrace this model and integrate it into their own processes, services and tools. Some partners are already developing tools around the model. It’s a natural fit for delivering online automated tools to help in the assessments, or onsite workshops to help customers progress through the different competencies.
PressPass: Is there a concern on the part of customers that Microsoft will be reviewing their licensing compliance?
Beare: It is important to distinguish the two components of a Microsoft SAM program, a license review and a SAM practice assessment. As part of the SAM Optimization assessments, the focus is only on SAM policies, processes and tool evaluations. Partners don’t want to be software compliance enforcers. This is about looking at a software asset management process and how they can evaluate and enhance it more effectively for the customer.
PressPass: Apart from today’s announcement, what is the status of SAM?
Beare: From an industry perspective, we’ve really seen the SAM market mature worldwide. Over the past three years, SAM has become more widely understood in both partner and business communities, and today there are more than 500 Microsoft partners specializing in SAM around the globe.
Over the past two years, we’ve also seen the International Organization for Standardization deliver a very comprehensive SAM standard that has been widely accepted by the industry. This awareness validates SAM as an effective process that can optimize a company’s IT assets and allows partners and customers to gain better control over software management.
Now, we’d like to begin formalizing and standardizing the way Microsoft discusses SAM with its partners and customers. There are some parts of the world where the program is established, and others, such as emerging markets, where the program still hasn’t embraced the full scope of what SAM offers. Unfortunately, in many areas of the world there is still much confusion about what SAM is; in these areas we see a focus only on licensing reviews or audits, which, again, is really only part of the picture. Today’s announcement is part of the overall effort to achieve that high level of consistency in how Microsoft discusses SAM with partners and customers worldwide.
We’re looking to eventually integrate SAM into standardized IT practices and into Microsoft’s Optimization methodology itself, and are having discussions about this with the appropriate teams at Microsoft. With the Optimization Model we’ve released today we’ve achieved what I call a logical or terminology alignment with the broader Optimization framework. We have the same four levels and approach in questioning and profiling, and now we’re headed toward incorporating SAM into the broader optimization process. In the long run we will also drive more consistency into the Microsoft SAM program by launching this standardized assessment model.