BSA in Brief – “What I Would Tell a Software Asset Manager”

By Peter Beruk, Business Software Alliance

Information technology is an asset—to businesses, governments and everyday users alike. However, one of the most prevalent mistakes I see among so many organizations in an array of industries is their failure to manage software as the critical asset that it is. Proper software asset management can be a very simple, yet very effective way to reduce costs and risks and ultimately increase IT efficiencies and operations.

Companies that fail to implement SAM practices open the door to a variety of increased risks including software viruses, malware and legal exposure, which all may lead to substantial missed cost-savings opportunities for an organization. Much of the time, such cost savings and other inherent benefits are lost without the company even realizing it.

While some organizations deliberately pirate software and fully recognize their illegal and harmful business practices, others simply have not taken the basic steps needed to ensure proper processes are in place to effectively manage their software assets and make certain they are accounted for, licensed and operating efficiently. This oversight is something we at the Business Software Alliance see time and time again.

That is why it is so important for companies to treat their software as the critical asset it is and appropriately manage it from the day it is purchased. Getting it right at the outset is smarter and less expensive than waiting for a system failure, lawsuit or debilitating virus to motivate you to change your IT ways. As I always tell our members: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

But getting it right is not as hard as you may think. There are cost-effective best practices to implement and readily available tools to help. In addition to the SAM Advantage training, there are plenty of useful tips and industry resources on the BSA website to help you better manage your software assets.

A Q&A with Peter Beruk

The BSA mission and programs are well known. Does the BSA have any special campaigns or programs planned for 2011?

BSA conducts education and enforcement efforts in nearly 100 markets around the world. All of our efforts are tailored for the local market and local laws. In the US and Canada, you will see stepped-up activities in a number of areas. The first is centered on helping people through Software Asset Management. Tools and resources to implement SAM, including SAM Advantage, are more widely available than ever before. From an enforcement perspective, you will see a renewed effort by BSA to pursue infringers – whether it is corporate or Internet-based. It is the organization that needs to decide, or not, to manage its assets.

Has the reward program been successful for the BSA in identifying serious non-compliance issues?

The BSA reward program has been successful in getting people to contact us to report alleged cases of piracy. However, we find that less than 50% of those filing a report of piracy actually request the reward. When we speak to our sources, we are often told that they are making the report simply because they want to uphold their industry’s reputation, as well as their own, in reporting suspected software theft.

Based on the BSA’s experience, what are some of the issues that you find over and over again in organizations? Are there terms and conditions or license types that are particularly misused or misunderstood?

We find it disappointing that organizations continue to use illegal software. While progress has been made, the use of illegal software is still much too high. The US has a 20% piracy rate, while worldwide that number jumps to 43%. How many press releases detailing settlements need to be released each year? How many reports clearly detailing the business benefits that come from a well implemented SAM program need to be written before all companies appreciate the many benefits associated with SAM?

The good news is that we are now finding fewer and fewer organizations who license one copy and then use that one licensed copy on all of their machines. However, we still receive reports that indicate only half of the software installed is actually licensed – or worse, that organizations only license product from those vendors known to do software audits. This clearly demonstrates an absence of SAM.

In particular, the manufacturing, sales/distribution and service sectors tend to produce the highest number of reports made to www.nopiracy.org. Why these are reported the most would simply be a guess. However, these organizations have perhaps the most to gain from a robust SAM program so that their non-compliance risk is turned into a bottom line, cost saving, increased productivity and decreased risk activity.

When the BSA team is going to perform an audit, what mistakes are organizations making in their preparations for the audit?

There are generally two areas where organizations contacted make a mistake. The first is not to answer our written communications. Failure here may result in litigation – a far more expensive and public way to address our concerns. The second is the company, knowing it has a problem, runs out and acquires software licenses which do not resolve the issue. Remember, this is the same organization that does not have a SAM program in place. As a result of this panic buying, the organization either over-licenses what it needs or licenses product it does not need. The more cooperative and transparent the organization is with BSA, the equally cooperative we will be given the nature of our communications to the organization.