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Alan BainFeb 22, 2024 6:22:36 PM5 min read

People, Process, and Technology in Software Asset Management (and Skiing!)

Alan Skiing

Marc Anthony once echoed Mark Twain's sentiment: "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life." This notion underscores the synergy between our passions and our professional endeavors, suggesting that success blooms where these intersect. It's akin to a reimagining of work-life balance. Moreover, it prompts us to reconsider our perspectives on work by drawing parallels in our personal experiences. Lately, I've found myself reflecting on these ideas extensively.

I work as a consultant specializing in Software Asset Management (SAM), a role that brings me immense satisfaction. Each day, in my role at ISAM, I assist clients facing complex software license challenges, encompassing everything from acquisition strategies to compliance and license optimization. It's truly fulfilling to witness the "ah ha" moments when clients achieve the pricing they desire or when their diligent compliance efforts result in a successful and clean license audit.

Among my many avocations and hobbies, Nordic or Cross-Country Skiing has been on my mind this week. It's particularly prominent because it's Birkie Week, the time when 15,000 enthusiastic Nordic skiers gather in Northern Wisconsin for the annual American Birkebeiner. This challenging 50-kilometer marathon from Cable to Hayward holds special significance this year as it marks the 50th running of the race. I've participated in six Birkies so far, including this year's race. It's a thrilling event that pushes my limits and challenges my endurance in the most enjoyable way possible.

This week, I've been contemplating the convergence of my passions and considering the parallels between Software Asset Management and Nordic skiing. As a seasoned consultant, I habitually analyze situations through the lens of People, Process, and Technology. People encompass the dependable team supporting you and are essential for achieving optimal results. Process involves understanding the critical tasks necessary for success and executing them flawlessly. Meanwhile, Technology entails identifying the tools indispensable for overall success and leveraging them effectively. These principles resonate deeply whether I'm navigating the complexities of software management or gliding through the snow-covered trails.

While technology undoubtedly holds significance, it's crucial to recognize that it's not the ultimate solution. A colleague of mine at ISAM often emphasizes this by likening technology to purchasing a box of Snap-on tools—it doesn't automatically transform him into an auto mechanic. Similarly, investing in a Software Asset Management (SAM) tool doesn't magically resolve all SAM-related issues.

Reflecting on a personal experience from a few years back, I decided to indulge myself with new skis and boots. As an avid skier, I felt justified in the added expense and envisioned myself looking sleek with state-of-the-art equipment. After browsing my local ski store and testing out various models, I settled on Fischer SpeedMax skis and Solomon SLAB Carbon Skate boots—both favorites among Nordic World Cup athletes at the time, thanks to their carbon fiber construction that offered speed and responsiveness.

However, strapping on these elite skis and boots for the first time and gliding through my initial kilometer didn't suddenly elevate me to World Cup athlete status. While they undeniably improved my speed and comfort on the trails, winning in skiing, much like in SAM, demands more than just top-of-the-line equipment.

Success is the culmination of diligent effort, expert coaching, and unparalleled technique. A SAM tool, like high-performance gear, certainly streamlines the process and enhances outcomes when implemented effectively. But it's essential to recognize that it's just the first step—an important decision that must be followed by diligent effort and skillful execution to truly realize its potential.

A process entails the series of actions necessary to achieve consistent results. I've been immersed in Nordic skiing since my eighth-grade days—an era predating PCs and cell phones. Primarily self-taught, I've dabbled in a few lessons over the years in pursuit of improvement. However, a significant setback occurred last year when a fall resulted in a knee injury that lingered due to my poor skiing technique. Despite attempts to soldier on with a brace and copious amounts of Ibuprofen, the season's end brought a sigh of relief and some respite from the pain. But with the impending new season, I realized that without intervention, the pain would return.

Enter an intensive training regimen I enrolled in—a program encompassing running, technique refinement, expert coaching, and weekly progress evaluations. One of the first revelations was discovering my tendency to ski and run with my head down, a habit that surprisingly affected other aspects of my stride and leg usage. Addressing this, along with honing balance techniques to enhance glide and efficiency, brought about significant improvement. Notably, these adjustments facilitated my knee's healing, enabling me to ski without discomfort.

Similarly, Software Asset Management (SAM) operates as a process reliant on both technology and human involvement. Even minor alterations to the process can yield substantial long-term benefits. These dividends may manifest as balanced Effective License Positions, alleviating the need for audits, or optimization techniques ensuring licenses are fully leveraged for their intended purpose. By evaluating and refining processes related to acquisition, deployment, reporting, and audit response, SAM programs can operate smoothly and painlessly, benefiting all involved parties.

The final component of Software Asset Management (SAM) is arguably the most critical: People. Building a high-performing SAM program requires a cohesive team effort, extending beyond those bearing a SAM title. Reflecting on my skiing experiences, I recognized the value of coaching to refine my technique, the support of friends encouraging me along the trail, and the expertise of waxing specialists ensuring optimal performance during races. Similarly, a comprehensive SAM team comprises procurement experts, system administrators, tool specialists, legal advisors, and perhaps a seasoned consultant versed in process optimization and compliance. Collaborating with such a team empowers SAM practitioners to excel.

For those passionate about SAM, it's essential to recognize the pivotal role of the team, the efficacy of the tools at hand, and the refinement of technique. When in need of encouragement, lean on your team; for improved efficiency, leverage your tools and consultants; and to strive for excellence, focus on refining your technique. People, Process, and Technology are the cornerstones of both high-performing Nordic skiing and Software Asset Management.


Alan Bain

Mr. Bain is presently the Vice President of Delivery for Information Systems Asset Management (ISAM). He provides asset management, software portfolio management, and vendor negotiation services to a wide variety of clients ranging from Federal Agencies to State Governments to Fortune 500 companies. He is directly responsible for managing service delivery and product development for ISAM. Mr. Bain has been in the Information Technology sector for more than 35 years and actively involved with Software Asset Management for more than 25 years. He is a Certified Software Asset Manager (CSAM) as well as ITIL Foundation certified.


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