Software Entitlements – Are You Getting What You Paid For?

By Brett Husselbaugh

Some clients make it a habit to purchase additional entitlements, such as software maintenance or Microsoft’s Software Assurance, when they purchase licenses. We have seen, however, those same clients leaving money on the table as they fail to exercise some, if not many, of those entitlements.

Keeping up with perpetual licenses is challenging enough, and keeping up with additional entitlements is even more so. Additional entitlements usually have a fixed timeframe over which they are valid, and the entitlements they add can differ from publisher to publisher (so the terms differ). An example is Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA), which (as of this writing) perpetually entitles you to any new version that is released while the SA is in force. That means that if you purchased Visio N with one year of SA, and version N+1 is released during the year that your SA is still valid, you may upgrade to N+1 at any time in the future, even after your SA expires. Imagine two years from now when the user of Visio N wishes to finally upgrade to Visio N+1. Are there records somewhere that will alert the purchasing department that an entitlement exists that can support the new request? Generally not. You can quickly see the challenge in keeping track of what you are, and are not, entitled to via the myriad of additional entitlements that typically exist within any given environment. Often what happens is simply another license is purchased at some point down the road, and the entitlement goes unexercised.

This failure to take full advantage of additional entitlements certainly seems to be an issue when such entitlements are optionally purchased on non-core software (meaning software for which an enterprise license and additional entitlement contract has not been negotiated). At first, this may seem non-material as most clients would argue that the bulk of ubiquitous licensing and entitlements are visible and well-managed and therefore maximum benefit is being achieved. However, we have seen in at least one client where we studied purchasing habits that optional additional entitlements were being regularly purchased and seldom, if ever, exercised, and it was happening at a rate that yielded a material financial impact. The problem was that purchasing decisions were up to the requestor (as to whether or not to add optional entitlements when asked), and no tracking system existed to track those entitlements. It was informally left to the requestor of the software to track, and that seldom took place.

To effectively track and extract the most value from optional entitlements, at a minimum your tracking system needs to include the following:

  1. The release date of all versions of the titles for which you have purchased additional entitlements
  2. The terms of the additional entitlements – i.e. to what, exactly, are you entitled? For example, are you perpetually entitled to new versions or must you upgrade while your additional entitlement is active?
  3. The start and end date of the additional entitlements, so you know when they are, and are not, in force
  4. The deployments to which the additional entitlements are applicable. This is especially important if the additional entitlements were optionally purchased (meaning there are some deployments covered and some that are not)
  5. The current version of the title installed on those deployments covered by the additional entitlements
  6. An audit trail of owned licenses that were upgraded due to exercising an additional entitlement, including the specific additional entitlement that was used to perform the upgrade and the date the upgrade was performed
  7. The quantity of additional entitlements purchased (the “owned” position)
Addressing the Entitlements Issue

Tracking and optimizing the use of additional entitlements is a critical capability of a modern Software Asset Management solution. The ordering of additional entitlements needs to be integrated with any self-service Software Request Portal being proposed, allowing such entitlements to be optionally ordered when new software is being requested. In addition, entitlements already owned must be “known” to the Software Request Portal when a user goes to request the next version. The Portal needs to check the eligibility requirements against the known entitlements and decide if the user’s request can be satisfied by existing entitlements. If so, the user is allowed to simply exercise an existing entitlement, resulting in the request being fulfilled without cost to the organization. The solution must take care of creating and maintaining an audit trail of which entitlement was used to upgrade which existing license, as well as the actual upgrading of the license and the pushing of a new install package out to handle the deployed side of the upgrade.

Advanced Shipping Notices directly from your vendors are the most accurate and reliable source from which to automate the capture and management of your “owned” position – both for licenses as well those additional entitlements.

Another feature worth investigating, to make sure you get the most out of your entitlements, is automatic license migration – where the solution will check existing entitlements and automatically keep all of your owned licenses migrated to the highest version level allowed.

In Summary

While many clients are still trying to get on top of tracking their licensing and understanding their compliance, there is yet another dimension that may offer additional cost savings, if addressed. That dimension is the additional entitlements, such as software maintenance, that are optionally added to some license purchases. Those entitlements often go untracked, resulting in new licenses being purchased at some point in the future when the organization was already entitled to those licenses via the additional entitlements. eTelligent Solutions Inc. (ESI) recommends addressing how to best extract the optimal value out of those additional entitlements when starting and/or maturing your Software Asset Management practice.

About the Author

Brett Husselbaugh

Brett Husselbaugh is the President of ETelligent Solutions, Inc.