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As Administrators, we often get confused when it comes to Inventory Management Software in Supply Chain Management. However, Software Inventory is related to efficient system administration, making it an essential component of any strong  IT Inventory management program.

The Role of an Administrator

As System Administrators, we are bound to the standard of keeping an inventory of all the IT hardware and software for our organizations. This falls under IT Asset Management. Tracking of IT Assets, such as hardware and software inventory and performing other computer inventory control tasks, can be tedious for any IT Administrator. Tracking the location and condition of each asset in IT inventory and monitoring software installations, updates, and expirations can be time consuming and stressful, as well.

Admins may choose to manage their IT Asset and Software Inventory manually by creating a record in a simple excel spreadsheet, or using an efficient IT Asset Management software tool to manage Software and Hardware Inventory.

Definitions & Differences:

Software Inventory Management is the process of keeping track of all the software and applications called software assets used within an IT environment.

IT Asset Management involves recording the type, size, data, vendor, and other related data of software installations.

Software Inventory keeps a track of number of installations of a particular software, the installation date, number total number of licenses, number of licenses procured, procurement date and vendors of different software, Renewal Dates of licenses, any available updates and systems up-to-date with the latest version and above all, the total monetary worth of the software installed across the organization.


Why Keep Track?

1. Protect your brand proactively from accidental misuse.

Every organization requires certain software solutions to support their machine requirements. These may include custom solutions, as well as certain off-the-shelf or subscription-based software solutions. With more and more adoption of cloud-based and subscription-based software solutions, it has become more complex for small enterprises to keep a track of their software assets. A failure to comply with license agreements of any of the software being used in the organization may even require software audit, and could put the entire organization and its reputation at risk.

2. Industry standards require proper Inventory Management.

ISO/IEC 19770 standards define the key tenets of IT Asset Management, which include Software Inventory. This section states that “IT Asset Management (ITAM) is a process framework to enable an organization to incorporate process and policies sufficient to satisfy corporate governance requirements and ensure effective support for IT service management overall."

The implementation of Software Inventory Management can be accomplished in different stages, including:

    • Control Environment
    • Planning and Implementation
    • Actual Inventory
    • Verification and Compliance
    • Operation Management and Lifecycle

To help you map to best practices, here is a key summary of standards references:

        1. ISO/IEC 19770-5-2015: Overview and Vocabulary provides and overview of the 19770 standards and provides a glossary of definitions and details on terminologies used.
        2. ISO/IEC 19770-2:2015 Details about tagging of software for identification and management. Using the Software ID tags makes software identification simpler and more efficient for administrators as well as software vendors.
        3. ISO/IEC 19770-3:2016 Entitlement Management Schema provides the technical schema used to manage license details like contract information, rights, limitations, order, and billing details etc.
        4. ISO/IEC 19770-4:2017 Resource Utilization Measurement gives an IT Asset Management standard to manage resource utilization


Software Solutions to Automate Software Inventory Management

To reduce the risk of being audited for failing to comply with software license agreements of different software, it makes more sense to invest in a robust and customized inventory management software solution which can help in automating the entire software inventory management and asset tracking. These software solutions can help save a great deal of time and effort by automating the entire process, and should be an integral part of any organization's IT asset management strategy.

There are many IT Asset Management Tools available in Market, which also include IT Software Asset Management. Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection is an endpoint data security solution from Microsoft which also provides Software Inventory Management as a part of the package.


How to Use Inventory Management in Microsoft Defender ATP

In the Software Inventory page under the Microsoft Defender ATP Threat and Vulnerability Management’s discovery capabilities, the Software Inventory will display the Product Name and Vendor, the latest version, and if there were any vulnerabilities detected with that software. This is invaluable information for you to not only check inventory, but protect your organization. Software vulnerabilities are a popular access point for attackers, and you will want to regularly know what you are dealing with, then apply patches or updates to address any vulnerabilities. Having this information at your fingertips in the context of your Software Inventory can help you make key decisions for next steps, as well as having a quick way to view and address potential issues.

a. How to access the Software Inventory:

    • Select Software inventory from the Threat & Vulnerability Management menu in the Microsoft Defender Security Centre.
    • View software on specific machines in the individual machine’s pages from the machines list.

b. What information can you find in the Software Inventory Overview Page?

The Software inventory page gives you a list of software installed in your network, vendor name, vulnerabilities found, threats associated with them, machines at risk, impact to exposure score, and tags. It also allows filter of the software inventory list view based on weaknesses found, as well as threats associated, and whether the software or software versions have reached end-of-support. 

You can select the software that you want to investigate, after which a drop-down menu will open with a more compact view of the information on the page. You can either dive deeper into the investigation and select Open Software Page or flag any technical issues by selecting Report Inaccuracy.


Benefits to Your Organization

Software Asset Management provides many benefits to an organization depending on their Business Goals. An organization can plan the scalability of Software Portfolios based on their expansion plans, IT Infrastructures, availability or resources and short term and long-term business goals. Software Asset Management software or Software Asset Administration can not only balance the procurement, use, service support, and renewal of software licenses, but also ensure that software licensing terms are deftly adhered-to based on the terms and conditions of the software-specific vendor license agreement, minimizing risk of audit and liabilities related to software piracy and non-compliance of software usage license agreement.

Strategically, the Software Inventory Management or Software Asset Management plans should include the basic goals for an organization as mentioned below:

    • Improve user efficiency by deploying the right technology more efficiently.
    • Cut down on software and support costs by working out volume agreements and reducing or reallocating less used software licenses
    • Limit expenses related to managing and supporting software by automating IT processes (such as inventory tracking, software deployment, issue tracking, and patch/update management)
    • Enforce adherence to corporate policies related to desktop/server/mobile standards
    • Work out your organization’s policies and procedures related to the acquisition, documentation, deployment, usage, and retirement of software to recognize long-term benefits


Key Components of a Software Inventory Management Tool

Your Software Inventory Management tool should be able to track software inventory based on certain key information:

a.    Product catalogue

This Captures product specific information such as name, edition, version, and license agreement types, as well as other key top-level information for products used within the business. This information normalizes product naming conventions with the organization and allows mapping between other technologies or tools used in the composite SAM solution.

b.    Software License Management

This maintains the compliance information of each software in use to avoid any non-compliance issues that could lead to a software audit, and avoid any non-compliance fines.

c.    Software License Optimization

You should be able to track number of installations of different assets across the organization.

d.    Total Number of Licenses

Total number of licenses procured for a software asset may also include the date of procurement and the dates when the licenses were last renewed. Although most software vendors try to manage the purchase of additional licenses on prorated basis to minimize confusion related to renewal of subscription and support, it is helpful if this is also recorded and managed on the IT Asset Management end.

e.    License Installation and Activation

The solution should be able to keep a record of date first installed and each subsequent installation of each software asset, as well as the  activation date of each license, associated system, and assigned user information. It should also help to have real time alerts regarding asset installation, removal, recent updates, etc.

f.      Software Product Keys

The solution should also allow us to keep a record of software product keys available for different software assets, allowing single or multiple license activations and track their usage.

g.    Vendor Information

It is possible that the organization has enlisted or empanelled certain IT Solution Vendors for various IT Services, like supply of IT Assets on outright purchase, leasing/renting, subscription, or support services. Maintaining proper vendor information can help generate orders related to services provided by any vendor as per requirement. For example, the Office 365 Services may be subscribed to directly from Microsoft or through a network of its channel partners. In case the organization has purchased some licenses through an authorized partner, the renewal of these licenses would also have to be completed through the same vendor/Partner.  Other organizations may have to procure fresh licenses, which may have additional cost, including asset costs and the cost additional time spent to perform this task

h.    Request Management

Request management allows employees to place requests for specific software products required by them to increase their productivity using a centralized form and process specifically designed to capture and assess specific license requirements as well as to manage and track the procurement and deployment process.


Best Practice for the Foreseeable Future

With Asset management trending among many Cloud Platforms and Software as a Service (SaaS) options, I feel this will be the new standard moving forward, where we will manage security presence within Asset Management–and consolidating all infrastructure devices within one solution. This will present ease of management for IT associates within the organization.


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