Notes from the Road 12 – SAM Competency: Mission Accomplished

Achieving SAM competency by Microsoft is an important milestone for RES Software, and marks the first time a vendor within the user environment management space has received this official recognition from Microsoft.

SAM I am and I do not like green…

It’s not often that I get to step to the mountain top and proclaim such a unique achievement in a software company, but today is not like any ordinary day. Today marks the day that RES Software has announced achieving the Microsoft SAM (Software Asset Management) competency. I am beside myself with pride at this particular accomplishment because, unlike any other, it truly exemplifies the spirit of a united organization. This is nothing short of brilliance in how the entirety of RES came together from Exec to Dev to Test to Support and to the field in order to identify a target and steer a strategic mindset towards that goal and fire the wrath of Orange and Gray upon it. Like a well systematized army, we united and attacked not only ugly untruths spread by some, but we did it in a positive and very constructive manner. We did not sling mud. We did not approach with an eye for an eye mob mentality. Instead we achieved a new competency with Microsoft and turned a negative into an unmatched positive. Here unfolds the long and sometimes sordid story of RES and the SAM competency and the incompetent.

The SAM competency goes far beyond simple license validation by making sure that the software an organization acquires is used properly, is safe, and comes from legitimate and trusted suppliers. Because software is a strategic asset for an organization, it is critical that it is acquired from legitimate resources and retired accurately, using effective inventory techniques. Microsoft and RES Software customers are using tools such as RES Baseline Desktop Analyzer and RES Workspace Manager as part of their best practices, incorporating proven processes for managing and optimizing their organizations’ software investments.

“So what” you say? There are hundreds of companies that are listed with the SAM competency on Pinpoint.Microsoft.com, what makes RES so unique? It is simple. SAM is a practice. SAM is a defined set of processes and models companies use to ensure that the software they acquire and use and even retire is done in a systematic process with controls and policies defined from acquisition to retirement. It is a practice. It is a service that companies, consulting partners offer as part of their on-prem practice management. What is not typical is a software company with no services arm to be SAM certified. This is because it means that our software, RES Workspace Manager and RES Baseline Desktop Analyzer, is actually used by Microsoft customers as part of their SAM process and solutions framework. Software? That’s it? That’s all you offer to someone conducting a SAM project? Yes, I say with a sly smile, that’s all.

Think of it this way. You hire a contractor to build a garage on your house. They have the knowledge, the experience and even the defined process for scoping the garage, acquiring the materials and even building the walls and roof. In this analogy the contractor is the Consulting Partner for SAM. Let me ask you this. Would you hire a contractor who did not have a nail gun? Who did not have a miter saw, a tape measure, a framing square?? Knowledge in these projects is nothing without the tools. Without the tools, you have someone who can only speak colorful language on the concept of a project, like a marketing person. This is why RES achieving the SAM competency is so powerful. We provide the tools necessary for the consultants to manage a SAM project. Without the tools, the project would be nothing but theory.

So, what was required of RES to close this accreditation? We had to have 3 joint customers with Microsoft who actually used RES Workspace Manager in their SAM process model. Well, it is a bit more complex than that. You see, it is not just having 3 joint customers; we needed 3 customers who would actually testify and go public that they used RES in their SAM competency. If you have been affiliated with the software industry for any period of time you know that not all customers are willing to make public statements about their software usage. In fact certain verticals are naturally resistant to such verbose claims, like legal, medical and banking. So finding even 3 customers in the thousands of RES customers who would stand on a soap box and evangelize this work proved to be challenging, but I am elated to say that they came forward and testified to Microsoft that RES played an integral role in their SAM programs.

Next we needed to have at least 2 Microsoft Certified Professionals take and pass the Microsoft Certified SAM exam. This is not your standard Windows exam. This exam required extensive knowledge of not only the SAM process and maturity models, but it also required extensive knowledge of volume licensing. But if it were that easy, any Dr. Seuss character, even the Lorax, would be able to pass it. In the eyes of Microsoft, several of the System Center products play a significant role in the SAM model. So to pass this exam you need to have extensive knowledge of at least System Center Configuration Manager, System Center Operations Manager, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and beyond. To me, these are the easy pieces compared to navigating the murky waters of Microsoft volume licensing. Even though I worked with these teams for 5 years, it is still a mystery to me and many more. Maybe to me, but not to Bas van Goor and Marc van der Wijst, two of RES’ first SAM certified MCPs. Hats off to my colleagues for their hard work and study to pass the exam.

Again, why did we need people to pass an exam to achieve a competency for Microsoft? Because this is a certification common to services companies, not Software companies. So those services companies need to prove their knowledge and expertise in SAM because they are assumed to be going and putting into place these practices at customers, like many of you. RES is not a services company, has no services org and does not try to compete with our services partners who make their living implementing RES within their SAM practice.

The unanswered question right now may be, “Sean, why did RES pursue this SAM competency in the first place?”

Well to be blunt, we knew the importance of it. We knew our products were instrumental in accomplishing a successful SAM practice but we never preached it. We are a humble company who relies on our technical merits, not our hot air. Hot Air is for balloons, a great technology at the turn of the 1900s. Unfortunately there are software companies that are green with envy and let their hot air get the best of them. They publish false claims and even stoop so low as to secure a quote from a low level field person who will parrot whatever the buyer of their steak dinner dictates. Hell, when I was at Microsoft, I would give quotes to my partners making the boldest of statements. Were they vetted? Hell no. They were worth the steak dinner that was purchased to secure them in the first place. Unfortunately it is a necessary evil that when this FUD is slung those that are on the receiving end must break out our “pooper scooper” and clean up other’s messes.

I am proud, nay, honored to work with such a professional organization that chose, yet again, to ride the high road. Instead of immediately fighting fire with fire, we methodically approached the SAM requirements as a challenge and rallied our troops around a common goal. We attacked this like Sherman did his most infamous battles. Much like our approach to software development, it was well-thought, analyzed, and above all, focused on our customers. RES can lay claim its SAM achievement in the best possible way: we earned it. If you want false claims filled with broken links, I would rather a double helping of green eggs and green ham.

Stay virtual, my friends.

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