Making SAM a Dream – Stop Living the Nightmare by Optimizing Software Licenses

By Amelia Collins

The IT asset management challenge can present a nightmare scenario for companies unable to identify what software is used and by whom. This question of usage is important, it’s not just who has software installed but whether they are using it or not. If not, this inevitably results in unnecessary overspending. The biggest headache for asset managers is to ensure that their companies can adhere to strict compliance and licensing agreements. This job can become a dream to manage with the right tools and policies.

Managing all the hundreds – if not thousands – of different applications bought by any large company today is not the easiest of challenges. With multiple buyers in the guise of procurement departments, ICT departments, and users themselves, there is a disconnect with those responsible for managing the software licensing. So when a vendor comes knocking at your door for an audit or true-up, it’s a long and hard task – without the right tools – to discover what the true figures are.

Today, many software asset managers deploy software that balances the number of software licenses purchased with the number of actual copies installed. This task still requires quite a lot of manual input and research. What it doesn’t tell you though is the amount of licenses you actually need nor can it identify the waste – where applications are no longer being opened and used – and where you could be saving money. Reconciling the number of licenses owned with usage can be a huge eye opener. Research shows that unused software is a significant drain on IT budgets, on average costing organizations $414.50 per PC.

Add to this drain the increasing number of software audits by ever more vigilant vendors. Many organizations react by overspending on software to ensure compliance. In these times of restraint, this policy opens up huge liabilities and damages the bottom line.

It’s One Heck of a Headache

Chaos reigns as organizations use the wrong tools to manage their IT assets, relying on spreadsheets or off-the-shelf software asset management (SAM) tools that have limitations. Vendors add to the chaos by not necessarily knowing all the licenses you have as you may have bought some independently, via a reseller, from a computer store or online. It’s a pragmatic reality that you will have software languishing on users’ computers that is not used or not licensed. But what will you do to ensure you are compliant?

In order to fully protect yourself against software audit liability, you absolutely need to reconcile two things; what you own and what’s deployed. Any solution that doesn’t do this will only ever be able to say “You’ve got 20,000 Microsoft Visio out there,” rather than: “You’ve got a liability of 1,500 copies of unlicensed Visio.” One result causes panic or at best uncertainty; the other provides clarity. Reconciling the licenses you own with those that you are using gives you an idea of where to focus your waste reduction program that in turn will minimize license liability and give true cost reduction.

Another revelation is how users view the software they have installed on their computers. Traditionally, users claim “ownership” of the software on their computers as if it truly belongs to them and not to the organization. Similarly, business units identify certain applications as theirs. This means the business is not optimizing its inventory of software assets and that the business will continue to overspend due to such tribalism. “Part of the problem is that the software cost was associated with one department and then, once it’s reclaimed and reused in another department, that cost also needs reconciling,” says Michael Gillan Senior Support Analyst, IT Services at Midlothian Council.

Also, there’s added complexity with different software suites that vendors supply. Right sizing suite deployment is a key way to save money. All too often, application users have a professional edition when they may actually only need standard version. Many applications have free alternatives that work equally well for users who have never needed all the bells and whistles that a professional edition offers.

Continual Process

All these factors contribute to the asset management challenge. Taking a one-time snapshot of the assets means that the information quickly goes out of date. Asset management needs to be a continual process.

Software Asset Management tools present a rationalized inventory of installed applications and license costs as well as identify the software languishing unused on users’ computers. Each installation of software is categorized according to utilization because utilization rates will determine what license managers do. High utilization software is not considered as a source of potential savings, while low utilization and unused software (not used over a three month period) can be considered for automated license reclaim.

License managers then have the option to schedule a mandatory uninstall, removing applications silently. The other option is to notify users, via a fully-customizable company message, which tells the users when the unused software was last used, giving them the choice to opt in or out of the reclaim process. This is the right way forward.

Where are the Savings?

If a product is under-licensed, the reclaim will reduce the liability by taking out the unused licenses and give you immediate savings by avoiding the purchase of extra (and unnecessary) licenses. If there’s no license liability, then the license can be reclaimed for use at some point in the future. If many licenses have been reclaimed, there may be room for you to renegotiate your maintenance contract to one that better reflects actual usage. “With our software asset management tool…we can quickly identify the chinks in our armor [because] we have a much better idea of what’s installed (and where), what’s used and not, which gives us accurate information to hand to a vendor,” says Michael Gillan.

Using such software takes away the headache of spreadsheets and the time spent preparing for an audit. Reports can be run in seconds and remedial action to any license liability instigated just as quickly. “The immediacy with which utilization measurement in our software asset management tool shows us where we can make savings is a stand-out feature. Previously, it was a real challenge for us to identify where unused software was, let alone if we even had any or take steps to eliminate it and reclaim the license,” comments Mark Scott, senior IT engineer, SEA.

Traditional approaches have been failing enterprises – isn’t it time to embrace software license optimization to get a true picture of license usage across the business and enjoy immediate savings and make the dream a reality?