At first glance, spreadsheets seem like a simple and easy way to record information – they don’t require in-depth specialized training. Like most teams, IT teams use them too. However, their shortcomings greatly hinder Software Asset Management (SAM) and IT Asset Management (ITAM) which also includes management of hardware assets.
Software Asset Management (SAM) is concerned with the control, management and optimization of software assets and their related expenses in an organization. It usually falls under the purview of the CIO (Chief Information Officer) or the IT department.
The problems with using spreadsheets for SAM are:
- No Centralized Storage
Spreadsheets are a fragmented solution and a single centralized spreadsheet is not possible for SAM. For example, software cost could be in your accounting system, the actual physical contract could be in a filing cabinet, and the vendor name could be in a spreadsheet. This fragmented system hardly provides visibility into essential information for compliance and IT decision-making. This is already problematic in small organizations. Spreadsheets are barely up to the task in larger organizations with greater complexity of IT assets. They simply cannot provide a single version of the truth for reference, analysis and insight.
- Inaccurate, Hidden and Static Data
Manual data entry is prone to errors and there is also the possibility of unapproved changes to data resulting in erroneous data. Someone could accidentally delete, modify or move data. When data is not updated at all that is another form of inaccurate data.
Spreadsheets do not provide clear visibility; data must be extracted and analyzed to gauge utilization and software license position, cost and compliance. In other words, the data is hidden and unless manually extracted poor utilization and non-compliance can go unnoticed. In addition, the sheer volume of data makes it easy to miss important information and misinterpret data.
The nature of software deployment is fluid – it is an ongoing process. When employees join or leave organizations or are transferred, their software utilization changes. However, spreadsheets are static and do not correspond to these processes, leaving data static.
- Cloud Subscriptions
Cloud software compounds the difficulty of SAM. While you can list the cloud subscriptions you have, it is virtually impossible to accurately monitor cloud software utilization and compliance with spreadsheets. However, it is still the IT department’s responsibility to manage compliance of cloud subscriptions.
- No Visibility of License Position
Spreadsheets cannot automatically detect license position and notify you of your compliance status. Too many or too few licenses are both undesirable. It takes a great deal of manual effort to extract license position and the data is likely to be error-prone or not up to date.
- Lack of Integration with Employee Directory
A significant aspect of managing software assets is knowledge of who is using them. The lack of integration with a live employee directory makes it difficult to maintain an updated list of who is using which software. A spreadsheet cannot assist in the provisioning and de-provisioning process when an employee joins or leaves an organization. IT must coordinate with HR to deploy or retract software in such cases.
- No Cost Tracking
Spreadsheets cannot integrate with an accounting system to monitor expenditure of the software assets recorded in them. Tracking costs in spreadsheets is at best limited and at worst non-existent.
- Constant Manual Updates
Excel spreadsheets must be constantly manually updated if information is to stay up to date. Given the complexity of IT environments in organizations that are constantly changing, constant updates are necessary.
Asset managers or the IT team spend a great deal of time on spreadsheets that do not provide much visibility of software assets. Without visibility of your software assets, you are unlikely to have good control over them. Cloud-based asset management solutions overcome all these problems. They also require far less manual effort as they automate many of the tasks related to Software Asset Management (SAM).
If you are yet to implement a SAM system in your organization, don’t start with spreadsheets. Take the time to evaluate the SAM systems that are available to find one that best suits your needs. The benefits of such a system are worth the investment as it will keep your organization audit ready, reclaim your IT budget and maximize savings by enabling you to automate many tasks and take control of your software assets for optimal utilization and compliance.
In case you’re not sure where to begin with your Software Asset Management strategy and system, you can always contact one of our experts for a free consultation and advice.