Software can be a big expense for organizations and thus its effective management can make a big difference to what gets spent on it each and every year. But software license management isn’t just about saving money, it's also about compliance - having the ability to ensure that the software used within your organization is both licensed and used in an optimized way.
To help, this blog offers some practical tips, across three areas, on how to get a better handle on your software licensing obligations.
1. Decide and Communicate Your Initial and Future Software License Management Capabilities – “This Is What We Will Be Doing”
When setting the scope for software license management, or a software asset management (SAM) process, our favorite thing to bear in mind is a quote from productivity and time management guru David Allen – “You can do anything, but not everything.” In other words, focus on what’s important rather than trying to fix everything all in one go.
So target your efforts. This will be one or more of: picking your biggest risk areas, your top five software vendors, or the software that you spend the most on.
For each software vendor or supplier, define what applications your organization uses, version numbers, and agreed proof of licence. Ensure that your SAM scope is documented, approved, and agreed on so that there’s no confusion or potential for error.
2. Supercharge Your SAM Policies, Processes, and Documentation
Software licensing and SAM live and die on policy and process documentation.
Your policy sets out the rules that everyone from senior management to a new employee, on their first day, need to follow. And things to cover in your SAM policy could include:
- Criteria for requesting software
- How PCs and laptops are locked down
- Provisions for mobile devices
- Cloud-based software usage
- What happens if unused software is discovered on a PC – can it be reused or reharvested?
- How long does software have to be unused before it’s reclaimed by the purchasing department or SAM team?
- Rules for the cross charging of software cost between departments or lines of business.
One you have your policy in place, look at your SAM process(es) and how software is managed across your organization. And when setting up your SAM process(es), ensure that the following are covered:
- How to request new software
- The process for checking existing license availability
- Approval for purchasing new software
- Software ordering
- Goods in, i.e. receipt of the software post purchase
Ensure that your processes support other functions to avoid duplication. For example, requests for new software could come under the request fulfilment process, so check with your IT service desk to see what’s already in place. Work with the purchasing/procurement teams to ensure audit trails exist for requests through to retirement/disposal. Work with IT security to ensure that your usage policies are in sync. For example, does SAM need its own software-usage policy, or will it be part of the overall IT security management policy?
Finally, when mapping out your SAM process, don’t forget to include change and release management as major points of control. Change management can be used to ensure any licensing needs are taken into consideration at the approval stage and release management ensures that only authorized licensed software is installed from a central installation point or definitive media library (DML).
3. Leverage Fit-For-Purpose Technology
Once your organization gets to a certain size you’ll need a toolset to underpin your SAM process and procedures.
Start with what you already have in place. If your IT service desk has an IT service management (ITSM) tool, does it include a configuration management database (CMDB) or configuration management system (CMS)? The configuration manager (or equivalent role) will be able to support your SAM process and provide you with relevant information from the CMDB/CMS.
If your SAM database and CMDB/CMS are separate databases, then you will need to establish a process for sharing information such that you can ensure the relationship between licensed software and the hardware it’s installed on remains correct and up to date both for compliance reasons and for day to day support queries.
In terms of the SAM technology bigger picture, the next step is looking at dedicated tools for managing your software license obligations. Elements to consider include:
- Discovery – understanding what software exists in your environment
- Reconciliation – the ability to reconcile the software installs in your environment against the licenses purchased from the supplier
- Metering – capturing what software is used and how often, which helps with software optimization, i.e. ensuring optimal value, or even an acceptable level of value, is garnered from software assets
- Contract management – to store, manage, and reference your contracts and user agreements, plus the ability to leverage usage data to optimize renewals
- Maintenance and automated software deployment – the ability to deploy small changes or maintenance patches plus, if required, an automated software deployment capability
- Workflow management – the ability to automate your SAM process, minimizing manual effort wherever possible
- Reporting – the ability to provide licensing information to those that need it, when they need it, and in the format they want it.
Ultimately, this is about leveraging technology to optimize SAM activities. To help ensure that license records can be captured accurately, with that accuracy maintained over time, and records easily updated when new software is bought (or changes made). Plus, the ability to optimize software asset use and for records to be checked and verified for future vendor audits.
What do you think of these three tips? What would you add for people starting out with SAM? Please let us know in the comments!