IT managers are faced with tough decisions when it comes to software license compliance. The more diverse the business environment, the more complex the organizational challenges they face as they attempt to implement software asset management policies across an entire organization. The typical organization employs many dozens, if not hundreds, of software titles, and IT is expected to manage all the different license models governing those software deployments. The trouble is that most software asset management tools are designed for much simpler times: they no longer reflect the complexities facing corporate IT departments, and are usually not up to the task of addressing what are now basic asset management requirements.
The CIO-IT manager disconnect
When it comes to software purchasing decisions, IT managers and CIOs share the same overall goals and priorities, but they aren’t always on the same page about how to achieve them. CIOs often make the reasonable assumption that the safest approach is to leverage technology from vendors with whom they are already familiar. This often leads them to rely on the software asset management functionality found within enterprise-focused framework solutions, or “one-stop-shop suites,” that are already implemented for other purposes within the organization such as help desk, software deployment, or network management.
While this line of reasoning is completely reasonable, it can be a big mistake. To understand why, here’s a useful analogy: if you were to perform delicate surgery, would you prefer to use a Swiss army knife (a broad collection of tools with relatively dull edges) or a scalpel (a sharp, specialized instrument)? The same logic applies to “do-it-all” suites vs. dedicated point products.
Using a framework suite to manage software licensing is generally a much less effective, more costly approach to software asset management than using a specialized tool. Here’s why: framework suites generally take extensive effort to deploy, are often invasive to the network, and generally require one or more dedicated staff to manage. Worse, because they weren’t designed from the ground up to be license management solutions, they typically don’t have the depth of functionality needed to truly mitigate compliance risk or allow tasks related to license optimization to be performed efficiently. Reasons for this include incomplete or insufficient software recognition, inadequate or cumbersome reporting, and lack of support for application delivery models such as virtualization. Also, because they are required to support a broader range of functionality (and sometimes an entire portfolio of products), support teams at companies that develop such suites are likely to lack in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of software asset management.
The task of persuading the CIO that a software asset management “point product” is a better fit for the organization inevitably falls to IT. To be successful, you’ll need to provide your CIO with airtight arguments that explain why specialized technology is necessary. (Hint: Speak the CFO’s language—it all has to do with hard- and soft-dollar cost savings.) Here are a few tips that will help you make the business case:
Tip #1: Relate software asset management to reduced software spending
The average organization overspends on software by around 20 percent. A good software asset management tool will allow you to save on licensing and related support costs by identifying unused or underutilized applications, savings that in some cases can even outweigh the initial technology investment. Understanding software usage patterns allows you to make intelligent choices about targeting applications for retirement, re-harvesting or re-allocating licenses to other users, renegotiating software contracts based on actual usage data, and planning wisely for technology migrations.
Tip #2: Relate software asset management to the costs of non-compliance
These days, software publishers are conducting more and more software compliance audits, paying particularly close attention to enterprises with complex and expanding IT environments. Add to this the increasing complexity of software licensing models and you end up with an environment in which it is exceedingly difficult (if not dangerous) to feel comfortable about your overall compliance position. If you don’t have the tools to quickly provide the information auditors demand, undergoing an audit will be disruptive, time-consuming and costly in terms of its likely outcome. More importantly, if your organization is found to be out of compliance with one or more software titles, you will be faced with steep payments to publishers to remedy license shortages, as well as hefty copyright infringement fines or settlements—not to mention the negative impact to your public image and/or brand.
Tip #3: Relate software asset management to operational efficiencies
Dedicated software asset management tools typically have more accurate and comprehensive software recognition, superior license reconciliation capabilities, and license-centric reporting and analysis that many framework suites lack entirely. These are critical features if you want to avoid the countless hours of manually reconciling what’s installed on company desktops and servers with what’s been purchased. Software asset management point products can be deployed far more rapidly and less invasively—and require fewer staff with less specialized knowledge—than their weightier counterparts. Also, such products are generally sold and supported by companies with in-house software asset management expertise and a stronger emphasis on customer service. All these gained efficiencies, as any CIO should understand and appreciate, can free up IT resources to focus on mission-critical operations and more strategic IT initiatives.
Lower costs, fewer risks, greater efficiencies: As arguments for selecting specialized software asset management tools, they should be compelling enough to convince even the most skeptical CIO.