Nov 30 2023

Quantifying Software Use During Agencies’ Digital Transformations with Software Asset Management

Software as a Service sprawl has become all too common as the government moves to the cloud, but there are tools providing improved visibility.

Many agencies suffer from unnecessary IT spending, unused licenses, Software as a Service (SaaS) sprawl and an incomplete picture of their technology posture due to a lack of software asset management visibility.

NASA’s Office of Inspector General reported in January that the agency spent $15 million over five years on unused Oracle licenses because it failed to track use with its “basic” approach to software asset management.

The space agency isn’t alone: More than a quarter of about 800 IT leaders across the U.S. and three other countries surveyed by Snow Software said their organizations overspend on cloud, SaaS and managed services, per the company’s 2024 IT Priorities Report. Lack of visibility without the proper SAM tools plagued organizations, and 67 percent said their business units procure far more cloud and SaaS apps than their IT teams realize.

Three quarters of the respondents said their organizations recognize the risks of having visibility gaps but not the underlying causes. Agencies want to optimize their software portfolios to minimize expenses and reduce potential security vulnerabilities in their systems, and third-party SAM tools and advisory services can help them quantify their usage and the value added.

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With Agencies’ Digital Transformations Comes SaaS Sprawl

For starters, agencies need clear visibility into their IT assets and the software running on those assets, says Srinivas Mukkamala, chief product officer at Ivanti.

“The challenge today is that we don’t have a very clear understanding about what the federal government even has, when it comes to software licenses and who is using them,” he says. “They’re really struggling with the basics.”

Step one is making a complete, continuously updated inventory of software, services and licenses.

“A lot of the time, when you look at asset management, whether it’s software or hardware, people think it’s a one-time thing,” Mukkamala says. “That’s not how it works; people — especially with SaaS and with nimble software — are just buying left, right and center.”

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Subscription models and cloud-based services force the government to play catch-up on digital transformation, which further complicates the situation.

“Your costs are actually going up with a subscription model; as the rates rise year over year, the operational cost is skyrocketing because of the way we consume software,” Mukkamala says. “The feds are still trying to figure out how to budget for this.”

Federal cloud use comes with its own restrictions and complications, says Brian Adler, senior director of cloud market strategy at Flexera.

“They’re not able to use the public cloud infrastructure as we know it; they have to use the GovCloud version of Amazon or Microsoft Azure, and there are more controls on that,” Adler says. “That means, for the software asset management tools and capabilities, you must ensure the tool can work in that more restricted environment."

Jesse Stockall
While SAM can be undeniably complicated, it and ITAM tools give teams the ability to access a reliable, accurate source of truth.”

Jesse Stockall Chief Architect, Snow Software

Software Asset Management (SAM) Is a Source of Truth

Agencies must balance the increased cost of funding their digital transformations with the potential productivity and operational gains within daily workflows, says Jesse Stockall, chief architect at Snow Software.

Unnecessary tech spending can and should be funneled into innovation and digital transformation initiatives with the help of SAM, IT asset management and other tools that can surface opportunities for optimization.

“While SAM can be undeniably complicated, it and ITAM tools give teams the ability to access a reliable, accurate source of truth,” Stockall says. “This offers IT teams automated discovery, inventory and usage data in key areas of the business, including enterprise applications, SaaS applications, cloud infrastructure and hardware.”

From there, the tools move into data normalization and augmentation, where they recognize, categorize and append the information to offer useful analysis, insights and recommendations for IT teams.

“With a fresh, accurate overview of usage, organizations can right-size their technology investments to tactfully minimize costs across a vast IT estate," Stockall says.

DISCOVER: Automated, third-party IT assessments are saving agencies money.

The primary way that SAM tools help streamline spending and identify cost savings is by giving organizations a holistic view of their application environment.

Without visibility into how technology is being used across an organization, redundant or unused software licenses are likely to slip under the radar, silently driving up overall spend.

“By leveraging the insights provided by SAM solutions, organizations can eliminate unnecessary licenses and identify and optimize those that are actually in use,” Stockall says.

The increased visibility that comes with effective SAM practices also plays an important role in pinpointing the most critical vulnerabilities and unsanctioned applications in the IT landscape. Armed with this data, security professionals can help their organizations prioritize where to focus patch management efforts. This can result in smaller attack surfaces and notable reductions in overall security risk. 

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Learn how improved cyber logging gives agencies better network visibility.

Supercharging Software Asset Management with AI

SAM has traditionally been a manual, time-consuming process, but advancements in generative artificial intelligence and machine learning have ushered in a new paradigm of human-computer interaction that embraces the time and cost savings that automation and enhanced decision-making bring.

“Organizations everywhere are harnessing AI/ML algorithms to proactively manage and refine their IT practices with the goal of more efficiently tackling escalating challenges in visibility, complexity, compliance and cost control," Stockall says.

Traditionally, accurate forecasting of asset demand and budget has been nearly impossible, but AI/ML tools can crunch mass quantities of historical data in a fraction of the time that it would take an individual and generate reliable insights into future user behavior and industry trends.

“If federal agencies had the time, money and additional resources that are currently being wasted, they could create better, more informed strategies to optimize operations and ultimately better serve their customer base,” Stockall says.

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