Understanding software bill of materials with example

One of the more recent developments in the tech industry that has seen an increase in adoption is the use of a bill of material as seen in the supply chains and manufacturing industry to detail all of the constituent components that go into the making of software. 

In this article, we will examine this practice as it is in tech and try to answer some questions you may have about the use of software bill of materials as best as we can. 

What is a software bill of material? 

Without much ado, a software bill of material is a list that contains and details everything that goes into the making of software. 

We refer to all of the open source projects, proprietary codes, APIs, and third-party frameworks or libraries that were used in producing the software as “everything” here.

Just as a bill of materials in the manufacturing industry lists all the raw materials and parts needed to build a product, in tech, an SBOM lists all the software components required to create and run a piece of software.

The purpose and importance 

The purpose of this involves how it enables transparency, traceability, and security in the software development and deployment processes.

Before its introduction, the increasing complexity of software programs had meant that the software supply chain — which includes all of the components used to build such software as mentioned earlier, was one of the most significant sources of vulnerabilities and breaches of said software due to the popularity of the culture of reusing code from third-party packages in several different applications. 

The importance of the use of SBOMs also includes:

  1. How it helps to better organize and comply with various regulations by having a list of all depending components and their relevant characteristics
  1. How it helps organizations spend less time and resources to detect vulnerabilities in parts of a software 
  1. How it helps to better manage the software supply chain risks. 

What a software bill of material Includes

Now you know how the use of software bill of material could be helpful in your business, you may already be wondering what it typically looks like. 

What follows are the details of important SBOM data fields including the seven minimum required fields according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) which is the body that standardizes and promotes the use of SBOMs across the software industry. 

The Seven Fields
  • Supplier Name: An SBOM typically includes the name of the individual or organization that manufactured a software component.
  • Component Name: SBOMs identify software components by their name because they are a comprehensive list of software components ranging from libraries and frameworks to third-party modules, open-source code, proprietary code, and even system components.
  • Version Information: SBOMs track which specific version of a component is being used by including version information for each of the components listed above. This is important because different versions may have different features, bug fixes, or security vulnerabilities.
  • Dependencies: SBOMs indicate the dependency relations between different software components because this can help developers manage updates and other potential issues.
  • Licensing Information: Many software components come with specific licenses, dictatating how they can be used and distributed. An SBOM can include information about the licenses associated with each component to help ensure compliance with these licensing agreements.
  • Security and Vulnerability Analysis: SBOMs play a significant role in identifying security vulnerabilities within a software system. By maintaining a vulnerability analysis field, development teams can quickly assess whether any of the components they use have known security issues and take appropriate actions to mitigate those risks.
  • Other Unique Identifiers: Identifiers like Software Identification (SWID) Tags, Package Uniform Resource Locators (PURL), Common Platform Enumeration (CPE), or similar that would help SBOM consumers find components in key databases can also be included as an SBOM field.
  • Author of SBOM Data: The entity that generates the SBOM metadata is responsible for filling out the Author of SBOM Data field. This could be the software developer, or it could be another individual or group.
  • Timestamp: The author assembles the software bill of materials and indicates the timestamp.

Use software bill of material to enhance your business

It should be obvious already how adopting the use of a bill of material should help enhance productivity in your tech startup business. 

As you can see from the previous section and as well as according to the NTIA, these fields are enough “to enable sufficient identification of [redacted] components [and] to track them across the software supply chain and map them to other beneficial sources of data, such as vulnerability databases or license databases.”

These properties allow for quicker and smoother resolution of issues relating to your product or service and should ultimately boost productivity. 

How to create a software bill of materials

An example of a Bill of Materials generated using Revenera

Moving on to the question of how to generate or create a bill of software materials; you can generate an SBOM using either a manual or automated approach. 

The manual approach involves the use of a spreadsheet to list all of the components and their details in appropriate columns. Bigger and more complex software often require a different approach.

Unlike the manual approach, the automated approach is the most popular way to generate an SBOM for the obvious reason that it is less prone to human error, especially for enterprise-level software which usually has hundreds of dependencies. 

There are several tools for the automatic generation of SBOMs you can look them up on the internet.

Most integrate with CI/CD tooling and would typically scan your software projects, listing both proprietary and open-source software components and other important attributes like licenses and third-party library dependencies such as in the image above.  


In summary, an SBOM provides a comprehensive inventory of all software components used in an application and there are a number of industry initiatives and standards that promote their adoption including the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Software Transparency Initiative which provides guidelines and best practices for creating and using SBOMs. 

I hope this article helps shed some light on the use of a bill of materials for you and that you find the motivation to start to use them to your advantage in your business as soon as you can. 

Reach out to our team to learn about how we can help build your product ideas or request a callback by dropping a message on the contact form below.


Need to scale your software development efforts?

Download our SMART Framework Guide