The SAM Specialists

Refusing to rest on its LAR laurels, ASAP Software makes a name for itself in software asset management.

The year is 1984, and PCs are just starting to creep into the workplace. Most organizations buy software from one of a few big retailers, but Scott Wald recognizes that that model isn't the optimum one. He sees a need for business-to-business and business-to-government purchasing channels that can provide a more effective, efficient and accurate way to fulfill software purchase orders. So he launches ASAP Software to meet that need.

Fast forward to 2001 when -- largely through its dealings with Microsoft -- ASAP posits that it's becoming increasingly important for organizations in almost every industry to accurately determine not only what software they own, but also what they're actively using. The company launches its eSmart Asset Management Suite to help companies do exactly that. The solution proves so successful that the company promptly wins a string of awards, the most recent being the 2005 Microsoft Partner of the Year Award honor in the Licensing Solutions, Software Asset Management Specialization category.

"We have a good track record of looking ahead to what customers and partners will need and building solutions in advance of that," says Harry Zoberman, senior vice president of marketing and operations for ASAP, which is based just outside Chicago in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

ASAP's Evolution
It's hard to argue with Zoberman's assessment, given that ASAP has delivered 15 percent growth in each of the last five years and pulls in more than $1 billion in revenue annually. The company employs about 425 people in 40 locations in North America and Europe and is a Microsoft Certified Partner. ASAP also has about 100 members of its own partner program, ASAPartner Net.

Harry Zoberman
"We were thrilled to see Microsoft put a spotlight on software asset management. We think it's a great endorsement of the value that the LAR channel can bring."
-- Harry Zoberman, Senior Vice President, ASAP Software

Much has changed since 1984, of course, including the company's ownership. In 1996, Wald sold ASAP to Broomfield, Colo.-based Corporate Express Inc. and left the firm not long after. But ASAP remains one of only a handful of Microsoft large account resellers (LARs) in the United States. It also sells software and hardware from other major vendors. These days, though, ASAP's corporate identity centers largely on what the company calls its "technology management ecosystem."

At the foundation of that ecosystem is Tracker, a proprietary purchasing database that stores software license contract and purchasing activity for ASAP customers. ASAP E-Way is a portal that provides access into Tracker, enabling customers to purchase software, track their software and hardware assets, and run reports.

The final piece, eSmart, adds the ability for customers to see what they've actually deployed and compare that to what they've purchased. It also provides software usage level data and licensing compliance reports.

eSmart requires only a small software agent to run on each client system that it monitors. At a predefined interval -- say, once a week -- the agent ships an update to the ASAP network operations center on the activity for that client machine, which can be anything from a desktop to a BlackBerry device. If the client is running Microsoft Project for the first time, the customer's profile gets nicked for one additional copy of Project. Customers can check on their usage profiles at any time and be assured that they're always up-to-date.

ASAP Software Inc.

Headquarters: Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Web Site: www.asap.com

President: Paul Jarvie. Leadership also includes Harry Zoberman, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Operations

Founded: 1984

Line of Business: Software and hardware sales, IT asset management, license management services, managed services

Microsoft Partner Level: Certified

Microsoft Competencies: Licensing Solutions

Annual Revenue: More than $1 billion

Growth Rate: About 15 percent annual growth, 2000-2005

Employees: 425 worldwide

Customer Base: SMB and enterprise markets, all industries; government and education, all levels

Awards: Microsoft Partner of the Year Award, 2002, 2005; North American Finalist, 2004; Microsoft Canada Northern Lights and Impact Awards, 2002, 2003, 2004; SIIA Codie Award, 2002; Finalist, 2005

Seven-Figure Shelfware
eSmart came about after ASAP recognized, along with Microsoft, an opportunity to help clients get a better return on their software investments by making sure they're actually using what they bought. There's an ulterior motive at work as well: "We can demonstrate to Microsoft -- and [the company] knows this to be true as well -- that customers who have purchased Microsoft products under a major volume licensing agreement are much more likely to renew when they're actively using what they bought," Zoberman says. Conversely, if customers never deploy the software they buy -- and many don't, without ever realizing it -- they naturally won't see the value in it.

In its role as a LAR, ASAP already provided customers with an understanding of the purchasing and licensing side of software management. "We thought we could provide a higher-touch relationship," Zoberman says, by getting into the software asset management (SAM) and deployment business.

SAM, which involves determining what software you've got and who's running it, is hardly a new endeavor. But it has taken on a new degree of urgency as companies seek to comply with various government regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and to avoid the cost and embarrassment of being caught with illegal software (for more on the practice, read "Meet SAM," RCP, March 2006). Another difference, Zoberman says, is that today's SAM tools are much easier to use than their predecessors.

"Asset management historically was an intimidating project to tackle," he says. The agent required with eSmart is easy to push out to clients by, for instance, using login scripts. Says Zoberman: "We have examples where we've deployed eSmart to more than 4,000 desktops in 10 countries within 48 hours."

The Many Faces of SAM
SAM starts with simply making sure software gets deployed, which leads to increased productivity and decreased waste. Accurate SAM data also enable help desks to more quickly resolve problems and can play a large role in improving security by helping to ensure that the proper tools are deployed.

SAM also helps customers -- and their value-added resellers (VARs) -- prepare for software upgrades, Zoberman adds. When the time comes to implement Office 2007, for example, eSmart will instantaneously provide a simple profile of each target client machine, indicating whether it can run the new software immediately, requires an upgrade or needs replacement.

Microsoft apparently agrees about the importance of SAM's role. Late last year, the company launched its Licensing Solutions competency and included a SAM specialization, which ASAP quickly jumped on. ASAP is participating in a number of pilots, championed by Microsoft, either on its own or with another VAR partner, aimed at helping clients conduct internal audits using eSmart.

ASAP's partners are happy to be working with a LAR that actually brings them some business, says Andrew Peters, president of Peters and Associates, a 25-year-old, 50-person service provider in Elmhurst, Ill. When Peters was looking for a SAM solution, Microsoft got him talking to ASAP. The two companies were involved in a handful of deals within the next six months.

"We're bringing them into accounts that we work with for volume licensing. In turn, they're bringing us into accounts to help with planning and deployment," Peters says.

The give-and-take attitude is no accident, Zoberman says. ASAP recognizes that it serves two constituencies: its partner community, which consists of software publishers and specialized VAR partners like Peters, and its customers, Zoberman says: "The role of the channel is to always understand the needs of those constituencies and build practical tools to allow each to achieve its goals."

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