Eliminate Over-Licensing Software – Case Study: Arup Saved More than a Million Pounds

By Jelle Wijndelts

Engineers from one of the world’s leading independent architectural design firms, Arup, are behind some of the most famous and iconic urban landmarks ever built. In addition to the Sydney Opera House, Arup’s global team of designers and engineers have helped create Olympic designs such as the Beijing Bird’s Nest and London’s 2012 Aquatics Centre.

Arup runs an estate of 14,000 devices – Window’s based desktops, laptops and servers – used by more than 11,000 staff members located across the globe. Although Arup has made a significant investment in its hardware and software infrastructure, software asset management is a relatively new discipline.

Arup invested in software management to put an organization-wide SAM strategy in place to optimize the software spend. The company was using a variety of tools to maintain an asset register and relied on spreadsheets and an Access database to store purchasing records. Microsoft’s SCCM was used to monitor the software installed. Arup’s newly hired Software Asset Manager began implementing an integrated SAM strategy with the objective of reducing software license costs.

Without a firm-wide SAM program to build on, Arup’s team first worked on uniting the asset management practices with a main license repository to act as the hub for the overall SAM platform. Automation was used to compile an accurate record of software installations and associated usage information, which was correlated with the organization’s licensing entitlements.

According to the Arup team, prior to this project, it was difficult to be sure that they had the most up-to-date picture because you they could never be totally confident when working from a spreadsheet. “Using a collection of tools also meant it was difficult for System Managers to have easy access to comprehensive and flexible reports giving accurate usage levels,” stated an Arup team member.

Arup had traditionally maintained Global Enterprise Licensing Agreements with Microsoft and Adobe and would true up after receiving its annual report from each vendor. Prior to implementing an automated license management system, there was no way to easily track the actual usage of installed software across its estate. To fix this problem, Arup’s team implemented an ongoing process of internal software audits against primary vendors to ascertain actual software usage levels for future purchases. The team’s conclusion was: “Conducting regular software audits [using automation] allowed us to reduce the number of inactive licenses. We could also ensure Arup was maximizing its current license position, with the potential to remove software no longer required and re-harvest it for other users.”

The result has been on-going savings, plus better control and visibility of software assets through internal auditing, thus ensuring that only people who need and use specific software at Arup have access to it. Savings estimated at over £1million were achieved within 11 months across the company’s Enterprise Agreements for multiple vendors, demonstrating a very rapid return on investment. The status report stated: “We have improved software management and saved a lot of money by ensuring that only people who need and use the software have access to it. Over a series of vendors and agreements this has amounted to more than a million pounds.”

When approached by Microsoft and Adobe for its most recent annual true up, Arup presented usage reports generated to verify actual software requirements. In addition to showing the excellent relationship Arup has fostered with their software vendors, it is a testament to the accuracy of automated license management.

Purchasing processes have now been revised at Arup to take account of the new data, with the first port of call being availability and usage reports, to ascertain whether there might be an opportunity to re-harvest a license from another user.

A central element of achieving cost savings at this level has been to develop organizational buy-in to SAM from users. Implementing a strategic SAM program is similar to any other change program, in that communication is an essential aspect. Arup has invested time educating users to appreciate why SAM is beneficial, with online workshops and articles on the company intranet.

Now, when users are asked whether they need access to software, they understand the wider objective to utilize existing company resources efficiently. The SAM team offered the following feedback about how the relationship with users has changed: “Users often don’t realise the cost of software or might request the Pro version or a full Suite when actually, looking at the usage information, their requirements would be met with a less costly alternative. When we explain the cost difference they immediately appreciate it’s an unnecessary expense – we’ve eliminated any ‘them and us’ mentality.”

In addition to identifying cost savings, the changes have enabled others within Arup’s wider IT team to become more involved with SAM and have greater accountability for asset management. Using the data, software installations and hardware specifications are now monitored routinely by local IT country teams to identify compliance issues or requirements for an upgrade. “We’ve encouraged local IT teams to be responsible for their own licensing queries and usage in the first instance and then once other avenues have been explored, to approach the central SAM function if they need to purchase additional licenses,” the SAM team explained.


The development of an accurate, real-time inventory of all the assets employed that can be correlated against licensing entitlements and actual usage levels uncovered opportunities for cost savings such as harvesting software for other users. Within 11 months, Arup had realized large cost savings by adjusting the licensing agreement spend. As a result of the success of this project, Arup is now looking to expand its use of the software.

About the Author

Jelle Wijndelts is the Senior SAM Consultant for Snow Software Inc.