Firstly I’m sorry it’s been so long since I posted. I have been incredibly busy over the last few months, and will be just as busy between now and the new year, so the lack of posts is likely to continue for a good few months yet!
However, I have recently gained the ISEB SAM Essentials and SAM Practitioner Qualifications and I thought I would write a short review of the course book, the ITIL V3 Guide to Software Asset Management,as well as a review of both courses.
Taken together, the SAM Essentials and SAM Practitioner courses are an excellent foundation for Software Asset Management and are probably the best choice for SAM professionals wishing to seek a qualification in the UK, particularly if they are like me and not particularly good at ‘distance learning’. If you’re better at distance learning than I am, or can to travel to the US to attend a course, the IAITAM series of courses may be of interest. The BSA has recently announced a series of SAM Courses – SAM Advantage, but given their origin it must be suspected that their focus will be very much on license management rather than true Software Asset Management, a suspicion which is confirmed by looking at the sample SAM Policy and SAM Memo on the BSA Website!
Guide To Software Asset Management
The course book for both courses is ITIL V3 Guide to Software Asset Management. The book was recently updated to ensure its first chapter is aligned to the latest iteration of ITIL, however the balance of the text is the same as the original guide, published in September 2003 (!). Although the book is really showing its age, with barely any mention of the internet, let alone virtualisation, cloud computing, or mobile device applications, it is still adequate for the job of teaching Software Asset Management. Unfortunately, there is also nothing in the book about SAM maturity models or how to conduct a SAM maturity assessment, which I suspect is another symptom of its age.
Although the book is an official ITIL publication, some of the terminology isn’t consistent with ITIL, and there is never any real explanation of the link between configuration management and SAM. However, to be fair, my experience is that ITIL itself is unclear on the relationship between asset management and configuration management, so to be expecting otherwise is a bit unrealistic!
Even though it pre-dates to ISO 19770 standard by several years, the common ITIL background of both means that the alignment between the two is more than adequate to allow this book to support efforts at implementing SAM in alignment with the ISO standard in an organisation.
The SAM Essentials course is held over three days, with a 1 hour multiple choice exam at the end, which if passed will grant the SAM Essentials qualification. I personally found the course excellent – it codified and structured my existing knowledge, while providing plenty of scope for discussion of more detailed areas of SAM than were covered by the course.
I would definitely recommend this course for both experienced software asset managers and those who have been thrown in at the deep end and are struggling to get their heads around what it is all about.
The SAM Practitioner course is held over 5 days with a 3 hour written exam on the final day. The SAM Essentials course is a pre-requisite for attending the SAM Practitioner course and sitting the exam.
The material covered is essentially the same as that for the SAM Essentials course, although the practitioner course extends students’ knowledge by teaching the basics of writing a project business case, writing SAM policies, and doing a risk analysis. All good stuff.
However, the course is unashamedly focused on the establishment and implementation of SAM as a project, and I’m not really sure why. Implementing SAM as a project may be the ideal, but it is just that – an ideal. The majority of Software Asset Managers operate in an environment where SAM of some sort is carried out, and where more often than not the task is to understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of SAM in the organisation so that an effective remediation programme can be put in place.
The course also tends to assume that SAM is (or should be) a high priority for organisations. Unfortunately, this is just a pipe dream – as I have explained in a previous post - and it was an aspect of the course I found quite frustrating. In reality, the fact that SAM is generally quite a low priority for organisations reinforces the importance of building a business case for SAM, but there is nothing in the course to help students model and assess the maturity levels of different aspects of SAM in their organisation so they can target their business justification efforts more effectively.
I have off-handedly offered ISEB my services in re-writing the course – I doubt they will take me up on the offer, but it would be fun!
The exam is a 3 hour written paper. Sadly, I failed it first time around and had to resit. Unfortunately the course does NOT prepare students well for the exam, as there is no guidance on how to answer scenario-based questions and the sample answers to the mock exam are skeletal. I feel very strongly that as it stands, passing or failing this exam is a matter of luck, and I urge ISEB to provide better sample answers for the mock exam and ensure that training providers are required to provide a session on answering scenario based questions.
For the resit, I made time to research answering scenario based exam questions. This boosted my achievement between the two exams by 12 marks, the difference between a narrow fail and a very respectable pass. For those of you who may be planning to sit the exam, the David Chevin’s Scenario Based Questions slide deck was extremely helpful, as was this uncredited document on the Chartered Secretaries Southern Africa website.
I would recommend the SAM Practitioners course for those who want help with the implementation of SAM in their organisations. The practical aspects of the course – creating a business case, writing SAM policies and doing risk assessments – will be very helpful for those who have been asked to become SAM leaders for their organisations, although the course would benefit from the addition of a basic SAM maturity model and an understanding of how to assess the maturity of different aspects of SAM so that activity can be prioritised.
However those who already have experience and skills at a strategic level in other disciplines won’t get as much out of the course as those who may find they need to do a business justification for the first time. Middle managers and those with project management experience will probably find that the SAM Essentials provides them with sufficient basic knowledge to implement and / or improve SAM in their organisations.
If you want or need to do the Practitioner exam because you need the qualification, beware that preparation for the exam in the course as it stands is very poor and take advantage of the two resources I have provided above to try and get you through the exam first time! Good luck!