Software asset management has become a concern for most companies in the last past few years with the kick-start from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and ISO / IEC 19770-1, followed by well-publicized software audit results performed by publishers or affiliated organizations. The fear factor of a software audit is a substantial driver to start a software asset management initiative to lower corporate liability and ensure software license compliancy. Beyond traditional software asset management, companies are now looking for Software License Optimization to provide major benefits, such as, providing key data for renegotiating contracts with software resellers or publishers, inserting intelligence into software procurement decisions, and improving license allocation and usage.
Software License Optimization goes well beyond inventorying applications and collecting software usage data. A typical optimized license management program consists of 5 distinct steps that are usually completed in sequence:
1. Inventory of all devices to list software installations and collect application usage data,
2. Application Recognition to scrub the raw inventory data and provide a comprehensive list of software titles for each managed device,
3. Purchased versus Installed Reconciliation to match inventory and usage against purchase orders and contracts,
4. License Compliancy to apply terms and conditions and check if they are met,
5. License Optimization that will allocate licenses according to the needs of the organization, preventing over licensing or unused licenses.
Each of these steps has their own challenges. The most daunting ones are not in inventorying applications or collecting software usage. They are usually found when:
- bringing non-homogeneous data (inventory, human resources, purchase orders…) into a single repository to organize, reconcile and maintain data integrity and accuracy over time,
- adhering to complex publisher licensing models coupled with terms and conditions that are not fully understood and or applied properly.
A quick illustration can be found in the reconciliation between inventory and purchase order data. This is where many software asset management projects fail as this task is extremely time consuming and difficult for the license manager if performed manually. Tools that provide a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) library used to match purchase orders to inventory data as well as to provide details on the license purchased help overcome this challenge. Another example is the difficulty of staying up to date on terms and conditions; licensing rules and Product Use Rights are modified on a regular basis by the publishers. Microsoft, for one, publishes their Product Use Rights guide each quarter and it is generally more than 120 pages long. Accurately applying these rules may change the compliancy status of licenses or achieve some of the optimization goals.
As a result, tools used for software asset management and Software License Optimization must automate data reconciliation across data sources as well as maintain continuously updated embedded knowledge on SKUs, publishers, license agreements, and associated terms and conditions.