Everything you need to know about software asset inventory

So you want to buy new software….

  • “We need a new software tool to do that”
  • “There is already a tool that does something similar”
  • “I need this so much I bought my own license”

I hear the audible chuckle or groan from those of you that are in Enablement, Operations, or the broader go-to-market (GTM) team.  How many times within a week or even DAY do we have these types of conversations around the need for tools?

Technology is essential to the success of any GTM program for consistent, repeatable performance. You know you need it; the reps or other individual contributors demand it. But is a new purchase the only way to go?  Without a clear picture of all the tech currently in play, companies can fall into the trap of accumulating tools on the shelf – like a once favorite toy pushed to the back of a closet to collect dust.

No matter the business size, we all experience tech stack sprawl and frustration. It ranges from well-intended individual contributors who snap up on-demand “freemium” tools to go faster, to business units that launch a new tool for a specific, siloed need.  IT and Operations are then often left to play catch-up as they try to drive compliance, adoption, and cost containment across the company.  

“Go clean your room!”

How do we reconcile an organization’s seemingly disparate software needs and use cases? One way is to conduct and maintain a software asset inventory. I know, I know – that sounds about as appealing as being told to go clean your room. But an inventory can yield huge benefits that make it worth the effort: 

  1. Alignment: visibility to current tools across all teams
  2. Reduce friction: clarity for what tools are used where in the business and why
  3. Accelerate Roll Out: speed up program roll out and adoption by leveraging existing tools vs. going through a new purchase
  4. Identify gaps: understand where there are gaps and lack of technology
  5. Savings: reduce risk and cost of duplicative tools

“Ok, fine, but where do I start?”

Creating your inventory will be a team sport. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Steering Committee: Bring together a cross-functional group to get all of your technology cards on the table.  This should involve internal customers, administrators, and facilitators of your tech stack like IT business systems, operations, program management, enablement, sales and services leadership, and of course users. Try to keep your crew to about a dozen and identify roles for everyone involved, especially the role of a committee driver to keep momentum.
  • Gather User Feedback: Next, you’ll want to hear from your end users.  One way to gather that is by an anonymous survey to increase the likelihood of candid feedback.  Ask questions about the most / least used tools, favorite tools, challenging tools, and wish list. “Ride alongs” or shadowing are also great ways to understand what the team is using.  
  • Data, Data, Data: In addition to anecdotal input, you’ll want to gather objective data from the tools you are using today. Most tools in your tech stack will have a way to run reports to show usage, adoption, and activity to help you determine utilization.  Your vendor success manager can also assist here.
  • Renewals: Last but not least, you’ll want to capture contractual data on the tools in your tech stack.  This should include the tool, owner, renewal date, seat count, term, and cost.

Categories on your inventory artifact or spreadsheet will likely end up looking something like this:

Tool  | Owner |  User Rating  | Industry Rating |  Seats Allotted / Used  |  Adoption Rate  |  Renewal Date  |  Annual Cost  

“Great! Now what?”

Once your inventory is complete, you can breathe a little sigh of relief and take a victory lap. The output of this exercise will provide a clear view of what is currently in the tech stack, highlighting gaps or overlaps.

Now, the hard part. Keeping the inventory current! The key here is making it an active resource for your business.  Identify an owner, share it across the organization, leverage it in your software decision-making process, and add or remove tools needed. This will require discipline but will help you maintain momentum toward attaining those benefits previously mentioned.

Good luck with your inventory journey! Let us know how it goes!