Over the past several years, organizations have become more reliant on software solutions for their core business functions and activities. Software licensing use rights and programs are constantly increasing in their complexity. If technical implementations of software solutions do not consider the license or program rights to that software, it may cause significant financial consequences, especially during an unexpected audit. As a result of these trends, many organizations find themselves struggling to take control of their software license management when their IT budgets are required to “do more with less.” The surge in software publisher and BSA (formerly the Business Software Alliance) audits over the last 18 to 24 months has greatly increased the associated financial risks. Simply put, “doing nothing” about SAM is no longer an option.
An effective SAM program that can protect an organization from the unplanned time, resource and financial costs associated with a software audit must involve the following components: people, processes, and tools. Without all three in place and working efficiently together, the success of an organization’s SAM program is greatly diminished.
This can be one person or many individuals depending on the size and complexity of your organization. The roles and responsibilities of the person(s) must be defined and supported by the organization in order to be effective. They must implement and enforce the processes and tools as well as become instrumental by improving and refining the SAM program as it changes and matures.
Well-defined and updated processes that involve all key business units and stakeholders will ultimately be the most successful. The processes need to be clearly understood and followed by the person(s) involved with managing and monitoring the success of the SAM program. These processes should have executive level support. They must be updated on an on-going basis to ensure that they keep up with your organization’s business needs.
A fully deployed and updated discovery tool is certainly a key component of a SAM program, but, in today’s software landscape, tools need to do more. Tools should be customizable in order to change as your organization’s environment and business goals change. It must be easy to understand and use. Tools that are too complex or require significant manual intervention increase the chance for human error and subsequently lose effectiveness. Financial and repository functionality within your tool(s) can offer additional cost and management benefits beyond audit protection. Ideally, a tool that can integrate several of these functions (as well as the people and processes as defined in your organization’s SAM program) will be the most effective.
An established SAM practice that successfully implements the people, processes and tools as defined above can help an organization understand the software they have licensed, deployed and are currently using in their environment. If and when a software audit does occur, an organization will be prepared to easily and effectively respond in a way that minimizes time, resources, and financial costs.
Additional SAM Benefits
Additional benefits from a SAM program come from cost optimization, improvements in security, a reduction in the need for IT support and better understanding of the complexities of software licensing.
Cost Optimization: Software is an increasingly significant component of the spend on IT. Organizations may actually be over-licensed and be paying maintenance costs for software that is not being used. Tracking the license cost of software implementations over the budget year will allow you to effectively use the organization’s budget. With this approach, there are no more true-up surprises.
Improved Security: Without the ability to monitor the inventory and control the software installed on hardware, organizations make their systems more vulnerable to security threats. Unapproved or un-tested software may contain viruses or malware.
Reduced IT Support: A SAM program can limit IT support costs by reducing the need for staff to manage software issues. Additionally, maintenance and hot fix support can be reduced by ensuring that the correct software versions are installed.
Software Licensing Complexity: Emerging technologies (like virtualization and the cloud) can complicate the ability to track software and a SAM program is needed to adjust processes to handle technology changes. Complexity from changes in product use rights (potentially with every new version or release) requires SAM processes. With the typical organization’s portfolio of 50+ software vendors and hundreds of contracts to manage, success across all vendors is unlikely without SAM.
With software audits on the rise and licenses becoming more complex, an effective SAM program is essential. The SAM program can protect an organization from the unplanned time, resource and financial costs associated with a software audit by involving people, processes, and tools. A SAM program offers additional benefits beyond audit resilience to the organization that deliver to the organization’s bottom line.