Software asset compliance is achieved by legally acquiring and consuming a genuine copy of a software product according to copyright in accordance with the licensed term and conditions specified by the software publisher.
Making sure such compliance remains active relies on:
- documenting and implementing a strict acquisition process that requires approval and monitoring;
- being able to assess consumption/usage;
- processing these major sets of data in order to visualize the compliance position.
In a way, software asset compliance is similar to preparing corporate tax return documents in order to maintain tax compliance and, therefore, avoid penalties. When was the last time you handed your corporate tax returns to someone with no experience of local and international government policies, no understanding of tax regulations, and no insight into your corporate operations, balance sheet and financial obligations? I hope the answer is never.
Performing effective Software Asset Management (SAM) should follow the same approach. Unfortunately, this is not the case in several corporations. Why wouldn’t a company hire someone with years of experience on software contracts, product rights and negotiation skills in order to help manage software licenses, maintain compliance, avoid penalties, suggest better ways to use software and even save money? There can be several answers to this question:
1. “We can do it ourselves because it is easy”: I have yet to see resources in mining, energy or telecom companies where software license management is the only goal in their careers. They do not have extensive network relationships with suppliers, publishers, experts, etc., and do not receive the most up-to-date training possible.
I am sure energy companies invest heavily on training for their engineers so they are up-to-date on new technologies around drilling. I am sure several other corporations invest with the same rigor on training resources that will impact positively main lines of business. The same is done at software license management service providers for their specialists.
2. “Tools are not ready yet, so we should not invest”: I hate to break it to you but using a spreadsheet for software license management will not help either. Currently, there is not a tool that will do everything, but a tool can help make at least 50-60 percent of the work automated, which is a big help.
3. “Cloud is coming and Software Asset Management is not needed anymore”: I wonder whether the software publishers will make everything free on the cloud with no restrictions whatsoever on using their software? I wonder whether corporations will use only one cloud provider? I wonder whether all clouds will be public? Corporations made investments of millions of dollars on software over the years and I find it odd that they will not be able to take anything with them to the cloud and re-use it. If they can, there will need to be a way to monitor compliance/usage.
4. “It is not costing us anything, so why bother investing”: Usually after a small analysis of such statement, we find some cost savings opportunities. If not, we at least find a lot of cost avoidance that could be achieved, some even coming from non-compliance situations. Of course, cost avoidance is not as attractive as savings to corporations, but living with a risk of unexpected costs is not something attractive either.
Software Asset Management is evolving with cloud, more aggressive audits, more companies taking the first step towards implementing programs and capabilities, and more providers stepping in to offer services. It should be adapting as a concept, too. Software Asset Management should be considered as a risk management exercise. What products really impact the bottom-line? The corporation should be focused on controlling them first. Is there a need to control all software from all publishers?
The future of Software Asset Management is being able to quantify and manage risk effectively and to prioritize investment. It is moving to the “as a service” model, where we realize results faster, and have a model that enables rapid on-boarding of products to better control mechanisms.