Implementing SAM Change, Turning Organizational Mission into Reality

By Mark Flynn, Snow Software

Harper Macleod is one of Scotland’s leading commercial law firms with a headcount of 300 across four sites. As a professional services firm, reputation is everything and ensuring compliance with software licensing agreements and maintaining the highest levels of governance is a strategic priority. Harper Macleod has an IT Department of 10, who all play a role in the management of software assets, so it was essential to identify a multi-user Software Asset Management (SAM) solution that offered a comprehensive range of capabilities, from inventory management through to advanced software usage metering.

Harper Macleod produces a vast number of written documents and relies on an infrastructure of Windows servers with additional Linux machines for its specialist email encryption solution. Due to its commitment to flexible working, a number of software assurance licenses are in place, which gives staff roaming rights and the ability to use MS Office over a thin client with tablets and mobile devices. Harper Macleod also has license agreements for LexisNexis Solcase (case management), Lawsoft (Thomson Reuters Elite), HP Worksite (document management) and BigHand (digital transcription), amongst others. Marketing specialists have access to Adobe Creative Cloud and Acrobat.

Compliance, security and improving IT service levels were the primary business drivers behind the implementation of a SAM solution. Although the company had previously deployed a tool to inventory software and hardware assets, they identified the need for additional benefits, including removing the need for manual verification and cross-checking against other information sources which had created time inefficiencies. Another commercial tool was chosen and implemented.

Project Results

The change in support to software license management was immediate. According to Richard Harvey, IT Director at Harper Macleod, one of the best features of the new product is the reporting capability: “When you buy a commercial tool, you expect it to work and audit things, but we were impressed with its simple interface and the way the solution gave us the data we needed and ran bespoke reports so quickly.”

He continues: “Microsoft offered us a SAM review and because it’s so important to our firm’s reputation to be fully compliant, we took the opportunity. A couple of minor issues were subsequently found, but this was to do with the intricacies of Microsoft’s licensing rules and they were resolved swiftly. It was impressive to see Microsoft rely upon [the software license management tool’s] inventory report and base calculations on it – it gave us confidence in the choice we’d made.”

Although Microsoft was the primary vendor for the firm, Harper Macleod wished to be compliant for all other applications included in the inventory checks. Since the audit process included hardware and software assets, this was a useful exercise in identifying whether any PCs needed to be upgraded or retired.

From Compliance to License Optimization

Harper Macleod began to realize license optimization benefits from the use of a best in class software license management system during audits. “It was useful to understand the metering functionality, because it allowed us to create reports showing software usage by staff,” says Richard Harvey.

“Having reports which identify software usage at an individual user level enables us to be cost efficient and re-use unused licenses, whereas in the past we would have simply purchased new entitlements.”

With software metering, Harper Macleod was able to immediately identify significant savings. Unused licenses were re-harvested and made available to other employees who required them, without the firm incurring the cost of new licenses.

For a law firm, reputation is everything and this is their primary justification for investing in software asset management. As Richard Harvey explains, “We take governance very seriously and software usage needs to be managed closely.” He continues, “So the focus of our investment is preventative and aimed at managing risk and reputation effectively. We are trusted business advisors and must ensure compliance in all areas, not least in software licensing.”

Looking ahead, Harper Macleod is keen to make greater use of the metering functionality and after identifying software that is under-utilized, automatically un-installing it for re-harvesting to other users. “I would like to get to the position where users are able to see what applications are available and access what they need via a self-service type solution which is integrated with [the software asset management system]. Working in this way would mean IT can drive efficiency and focus more on strategy, thus serving the business better,” says Richard Harvey.

Why the Harper Macleod Experience is Important

Harper Macleod’s experiences are a good example of the impact from software asset management with a best in class software asset management solution. License management relies on being able to access accurate data about the licenses against the deployment in the environment. The reports generated by the software asset management tool are as important as the tool’s capabilities for accurate data representation.

Of course, there is an investment in time, resources and money to develop processes, choose a tool and then implement it, but the payback goes beyond a single Microsoft audit. Like Harper Macleod, the effort leads to a better understanding of the portfolio of software available and how it is used in the organization.

Certainly, Harper Macleod had the advantage of a clear vision for what they wanted to achieve. Commitment from executive management was not in question as the impetus for the project came from their overall organizational mission. While other organizations may not be as clearly focused as Harper Macleod, the opportunity to significantly improve software management is possible with through incremental improvements, particularly through a process and best in class tool approach.

Based on a case study by Snow Software