Notes from the ITAM Review USA conference

I recently had the pleasure of attending The ITAM Review USA conference in sunny Florida. It was a great opportunity to meet with both experienced and first-time SAM managers from many organizations across North America as well as to network with industry peers. There were also plenty of interesting presentations and discussions around the state of Software Asset Management in 2019.
 

Here are four key takeaways I learned from my interactions at the event:
 

  • Many SAM tools customers are deep in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’

If you’re familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle, you’ll understand the concept of the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’, sometimes also referred to as the ‘Valley of Despair’.  With regards to SAM tools, it seems to be the time when, 6-24 months after purchasing a tool, the customer reaches the point of utmost frustration. 

At the event last week, I spoke to SAM tools customers that had still not completed their tool implementation nearly two years after purchase, or customers that were facing difficult conversations internally because they were not able to deliver against their SAM program goals because they felt the automation capabilities of the SAM tool had been oversold.

Either way, the SAM program wasn’t delivering and the SAM manager was stuck in a difficult position between their internal stakeholders and the SAM tools vendor.   At Livingstone, we think it’s vitally important to realize that SAM isn’t a single skill, but a collection of disparate abilities that only when combined can deliver against SAM goals.  It seems that organizations hoping to fill their SAM skills gaps with technology often come away dissatisfied.
 

  • SaaS is more important than ever…. And only getting even more important

According to one presentation at the event, SaaS now accounts for 45% of all software spend. Separately, the ‘2019 Annual SaaS Trends’ report from Blissfully now suggests the average company spent $343,000 on SaaS software in 2018 (up from less than $50,000 in 2014).   Whether or not those two figures quite marry, it seems clear that the old thinking that SaaS spend was more like 25% of overall software spend is just that:  old. 

The same report from Blissfully states that 71% of organizations have SaaS spend with no billing owner.  I’d say that’s an understatement based on my personal experience.   And according to research by Zylo, 37% of the overall SaaS spend (if you correlate Zylo’s claim with Blissfully’s research, that equates to $126,910) is wasted.    According to the presentation I attended, the average employee now has access to 13 SaaS apps (I tried counting my own and feel cheated that I only have around ten!).

Although the technology to identify and manage SaaS consumption is still relatively immature, there can be little doubt that it needs to become part of the organization’s SAM program, if it isn’t already.    And this correlates nicely to some early figures shared from The ITAM Review 2019 Skills & Salary survey (sponsored by Livingstone), which shows that ‘Cloud’ was identified by SAM professionals as the #1 area where they needed to further develop their skills.
 

  • SAM is now a C-Level imperative

Another Gartner reference, but one borne out by the research unveiled at the ITAM Review event in Florida.  In 2011, 17% of SAM teams reported into a CxO while 45% reported into Service Management and 24% into Finance. 

In 2018, 37% of SAM teams now report to a CxO, with 35% reporting into Service Management and 12% into Finance.  Not an earth-shattering change, but interesting to see less SAM teams reporting into Finance.  What’s not clear is whether CxO includes CFO (in which case more SAM teams actually do report into Finance).  

Going forward, we at Livingstone expect to see a stronger connection (if not reporting line) between SAM and Finance teams as cloud forces a Mindshift and SAM goal change from compliance to cost containment.  Which leads us neatly into…
 

  • Cost containment is the #1 cloud initiative for 2019

The available research and the conversations I had on-site with end user organizations agrees, the #1 priority for organizations when it comes to the cloud in 2019 is controlling costs.  For sure, more organizations are still moving workloads to the cloud, but most have by now had some form of ‘cloud shock’ moment that has led to demands for increased scrutiny across both SaaS and IaaS spends.

It seems some in the SAM community don’t exactly welcome the addition of this extra responsibility – after all, infrastructure hasn’t typically come under the SAM remit – while others see it is an opportunity to add new value to the organization. 

Unsurprisingly, I’m firmly with the latter camp.  Arguably there is no one in the organization better placed to monitor and help control cloud costs than the ones that have been doing it for on-premises software for years.   And if you haven’t been doing it for years, you’re probably already more focused on the cloud than the legacy on-premises software anyway! 

Thanks to the ITAM Review team for some good presentations and the opportunity to meet North American SAM professionals. And thanks to all those SAM pros that took the time to meet with the Livingstone team on-site.

Related Services