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Create and Maintain a Supported Software Catalog

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Written by Rory Canavan, SAM Charter

If, like me, you are a nerd for all things SAM/ITAM, you might recently have noticed that the ISO Standard for SAM processes (ISO 19770-1: 2017) has gone through something of an overhaul.

Some of the considerable changes include:

  • The Standard no longer prescribes which processes are to be applied or to which level of maturity.
  • The Standard now looks to encapsulate the creation of ITAM processes, not merely SAM processes (hurrah!)
  • The Standard no longer leans on Service Management for its structure or objectives, rather the paper has been re-written under the umbrella of ISO 55000, the ISO Standard for (generic) Asset Management.

But most importantly perhaps, the new Standard has been written as a Management Systems Standard – so the output of any initiative based on the Standard will be a Software/ IT Asset Management System, not a SAM plan. The advantage of following this new revised structure, is that it will hopefully make the new revision more attractive to end users to use ISO 19770-1 as a means of managing IT assets; also, that the new revision will attract a Sponsor to approach the ISO to take up the management of training and certification to allow end companies a means of gaining an ISO certificate in SAM/IT Asset Management.

Why am I introducing you to the new Standard? One of the cornerstone principles of any ISO-based Management System is that you form a boundary or scope to your efforts; without it, the changes that a business experiences could have you never achieving progress and becoming very frustrated with your job. At first glance, you might perceive that your SAM scope should be all the software on all of your IT estate, and if you have the people, processes and technology in place to take this on, then good luck to you! Equally, you could recently have experienced a painful audit by a particular software vendor, and so wish to manage expectations by gradually introducing software vendors into your management system. Alternatively, you could be looking at a specific area of your business to get in order, prior to taking in a wider element of the business (e.g. US first, followed by the UK, then France and next Germany). Whatever your path is to SAM domination, at some point you will find great benefit in creating a Supported Software Catalog.

If you have been through a service management discipline like ITIL, it might well be that you already have such a list of software in place – but from a SAM perspective, this will give you a tangible reach of titles and vendors which you are aiming to get compliant (or as close as possible to compliant). 

A process to create and maintain a Supported Software Catalog will offer the following plusses:

  • The opportunity to rationalize numerous versions and editions of software titles
  • The opportunity to consolidate the number of titles of software that appear to do the same job (just how many PDF readers does your IT estate really need?)

By running this process, you will also help the business in highlighting which titles are reaching their technological “end of life” and so won’t be offered technical support after a certain date. This could result in their removal, or a downgrading of their acceptability within the business.

We are all familiar with whitelists, and blacklists, but I am a firm believer in taking a RAG (Red/Amber/Green) approach to software classification:

  • Green: Preferred Title
  • Amber: Accepted Title (but a Green title is preferred)
  • Red: Not accepted/Should be removed

By classifying software in such a fashion, your Supported Software Catalog can then be used at the Request Process step, guiding the users, as green titles will be given greater prominence in the selection section of a screen. A point worth noting here, is that if you have user roles defined, you could be in a position to leverage views of acceptable software titles based on a user’s role.

While change may be perceived as the enemy, your Supported Software Catalog should not be viewed as being set in stone. Your software request portal should accommodate the option of allowing users to request new titles, which, if not on the Supported Software Catalog, can then be passed to another process and go through the tests required to ensure that the software title can be added as a green title. If a new title passes the tests you set, then the new title can be appended to the Catalog.

Keeping the Supported Software Catalog manageable will also offer benefits to your Service Desk:

  • A rationalization of software titles will mean that support staff won’t have to know every tip and trick for versions and editions of the same software title
  • A reduced software-set will also help improve the technical learning curve for staff for those titles that remain on the IT estate
  • An at-a-glance comparison of a call raised in support of a title versus the supported software catalog will help determine whether the software title is supported or not.
  • By having this process, a communications policy with end users will grant them sufficient time to upgrade to a new title when its predecessor reaches a red status, so expectations are reasonably set and help avoid culture-shock.

Additionally, if the review criteria for inclusion/exclusion of software titles incorporates Information Security, then you have a proactive mechanism to help reinforce security through your software stack.

This approach is not a panacea, as you will have to account for the program/project office whose standards of IT due-diligence might not be in line with your own (please see “The Bermuda Triangle of SAM”).

Finally, the data columns that you include in your Supported Software Catalog should support your SAM Stakeholder use-cases; don’t be afraid to include data that might help IT operations, or procurement.

Axios is pleased to offer a template Supported Software Catalog which has been crafted with SAM in mind. Much of this data might be sitting in numerous data stores, but pulling it all together in a single location will serve your SAM function well. It might be that much of this data is already a sub-set of your CMDB; the final resting place is a subjective one – the most important thing though, is that you have a qualified list you can use as a spine to your SAM program. 

 

How mature are your Software Asset Management operations? Find out for yourself with our complimentary assessment survey.

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