Software licenses and maintenance are big line items in most IT budgets. Upwards of 30% of IT budgets are dedicated to software projects. Software is an asset that improves productivity, builds relationships with customers, and enables companies to move faster than their competition. Applications are downloaded and installed widely across organizations, sometime for short projects, or to solve a specific problem. But once it has served its purpose, and is no longer needed, that software often lays idle on the device consuming a license and being covered under maintenance. For IT organizations looking to reduce spending, this unused or under used software is an easy target and can be a source of tremendous savings.
Harvesting or reclaiming software is the act of reducing the consumption of software licenses in an organisation so that they can be reused when needed. In this blog I review the traditional approach to re-harvesting end user software licenses, its limitations and explain how this must be automated to have the biggest impact on reducing spending.
Traditional Software Re-harvesting
The traditional approach to re-harvesting software involves four basic steps, which I’ve listed below. This approach is often manual and might be taken in the form of a re-harvesting project, where high value applications are targeted for re-harvesting:
Step 1: Measure license consumption
There’s little point in trying to reduce license consumption without a true measure of it. Therefore, the first step is to have an accurate software asset management inventory that tells you where the licenses are being consumed, by whom, and on what devices. Software licensing is complex and vendors have many different ways to license it. For end user software the most common methods are device based or user based. If it’s a device based license, it should be telling you who is the user of that device. If it’s a user based license, on top of knowing the users it should be telling you which devices they’re using it on.
Step 2: Measure Usage
Once you know the devices and users by which the license is consumed you then need to determine which are the best candidates for re-harvesting. First, exclude users that are actively using the software. One of the most common approaches for doing this is to exclude cases where the software was used in the last X number of days. 90 days is a typical threshold, although you might have smaller or greater thresholds depending the application to be re-harvest.
Step 3: Refine the candidates – Ask the user
If you run an authoritarian IT department you might decide to simply uninstall applications from any devices where it’s not in active use. The reality is that for most situations it’s best to consult the end user before uninstalling any software from their device. The simplest way to do this would be to take the list of users that aren’t actively using the software and send them an email pointing out that they’re not using the software and asking whether they need it any longer.
Step 4: Work with deployment administrator to uninstall the software
You should now have a list of devices or users from which you want to re-harvest the software license. At this point you need to share the list with the administrator of your software deployment system to have them configure the applications for removal. This will take time as your administrator will have limited time and his priority is to ensure users are productive.
Step 5: Review the results
At some time later your software asset management system will report that the software license consumption has dropped and you have thus saved your organisation lots of money.
Limitations of the Traditional Approach
On face value, the manual approach, outlined above, is clear and effective and will provide some benefits. However, where it falls down is in the effort required in collating information from users and coordinating with the software deployment teams to have the software removed. It’s also a very task-based approach that requires an IT technician to coordinate. Due to the manual effort involved companies may only re-harvest software on an annual basis, leaving money on the table.
This is where a standalone software asset management system reaches its limits.
To be truly effective in re-harvesting, software asset management cannot be used in isolation. It needs to be part of a broader Software License Optimization program; one that integrates seamlessly with your software deployment systems, automates the interaction with end users and lets you define re-harvesting policies rather than perform re-harvesting tasks, and runs on a continuous basis rather than as a point in time project.
Automated Re-harvesting Campaigns
In essence, automated re-harvesting takes the key aspects of traditional re-harvesting and automates them into campaigns that run continuously. It also shifts the methodology from one that is task-based to a policy based one. Working together FlexNet Manager Suite and App Portal provide an automated solution.
The key features of an automated re-harvesting solution are:
- Automatically lookup devices that are consuming software licenses in your software asset management system and which are not actively being used
- Automatically notify users when they stop using the software and ask them if they still require it
- Provide a simple and easy way for users to respond. Give your users the opportunity to justify why they need the software and control whether or not their software is removed. Ideally, it should also provide them in the future with means to reapply to have that software be reinstalled.
- Automatic uninstall – Where software is to be removed, automatically connect to your software deployment systems, initiate the removal of the software and monitor the result.
- Configure reclamation policy for each application. This includes thresholds for active usage of each application and how often you want users to be reminded.
Software asset management systems provided the foundation for software license re-harvesting. To get the most leverage, you should consider automated software license re-harvesting campaigns as part of your overall software license optimization program. To learn more read these customer success stories:
- Customer Realizes Millions in Savings with App Portal. Over 10,000 installations removed, reclaiming over $4.5M USD worth of unused software licenses
- Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development Canada: Over 4,000 software titles have been reclaimed, saving $1.24 Million in license costs in less than a year.