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How to control your Software Licenses

Posted February 28th, 2010 by Administrator

Introduction

The extent to which computing has become a part of everyday life and day-to-day business has forced a change in the way management approaches how they manage the finances, the tasks and the assets within a business. Computing fast becoming an increasing factor in business.

As technology becomes more widely used within an organisation and takes a more prominent role within the vital processes of that business, it is necessary to make sure that an appropriate level of attention is applied to this computing.

IT capabilities have come a long way over the past few years and are now seen as vital elements of any business. As such, they receive greater budgets but must also be able to deal with a larger amount of responsibility.

But after you have spent a large amount of your budget on developing an IT network and seen the circumstances of your business change, how do you make sure that the systems you are using can keep up with demand?

This is the function by IT management software and procedures.

Every organisation and every situation will have different requirements and will create different issues. To meet these requirements there are a range of different technologies and approaches that can be used to help control the IT assets of your organisation.

Software Asset Management

SAM ( Software Asset Management) is designed to do exactly what it says on the tin – monitoring and managing the deployment and usage of software suites within your company. It is a business process rather than a distinct skill and is becoming a more critical part of the modern business environment, particularly for companies operating in the field of Information Technology. Despite the many benefits of SAM, there are still a great many companies that are not utilising it to its full potential.

SAM is not simply a tool for technicians deploying software across a large company network, but can be a critical tool to help improve performance at many levels of a organisation. The objectives of SAM include monitoring costs of the IT infrastructure within a company, negating legal risks associated with incorrect software license usage and sustaining high levels of productivity by making sure software is up to date and fit for its purpose.

The practice of SAM is often thought of as an unnecessary evil due to the intangible nature of what it is designed to deal with, and the financial case for employing a SAM solution is not always obvious until a broad audit of the software infrastructure of a company has been undertaken. Once existing problems have been identified however, the use of software asset management becomes self evident.

Monetary benefits are still the most motivating business factor when choosing to employ SAM software within a company. Every corporation needs to make money after all and revenue is a very measurable metric. The financial benefits of SAM do certainly exist however.

An increasingly large proportion of a company’s IT bank roll is spent on software licensing so there is a real need to invest to correctly manage this spending. As organisations grow and spread, their software requirements can change radically and equipment and software can swiftly become outdated. There is no requirement to spend money to maintain the licenses on this outdated software, which is where SAM really delivers an advantage.

software asset management is not restricted to simply the technology of your business either. As a management cycle it will often involve many of the departments within a organisation, including Finance Human Resources, to ensure that it runs as cost-effectively as possible. It is a process that does not need to follow regular.

Anybody who was going to ask Centennial resellers exactly what product stands out would get the simple answer SAM.

Why follow a SAM Strategy?

Having heard the various benefits of utilising a SAM solution, how do you know that it would be correct for your business? Every company is different and has its own unique set of challenges and advantages, so any strategy you will use needs to be tailored to these specific characteristics. The benefits of software asset management do cover the basic aspects of software management.

There are more than just financial advantages that can be achieved through the management of licensing and maintenance agreements across an organisations IT network. Productivity can be vastly by ensuring that employees have the latest editions of software available under current licenses held, and communication inside the business is helped when support staff know exactly what is deployed on every workstation under their control. The benefits of SAM are not confined to the technological hardware of your business.

Financial Savings

As discussed previously, perhaps the most convincing reason to implement SAM within your business is the potential cost savings that can be made. The profitability of your company is always going to be the bottom line so any strategy that can help to increase this profitability by reducing costs is one that should be considered.

The most direct way that SAM can help to reduce costs is by identifying any applications running on your corporate network that is no longer necessary. The software might not be being used any longer, it may be too outdated to be of use or it may be duplicated on your system.

By clearing these items of software that are no longer a benefit to the running of your company you are streamlining a large chunk of your IT infrastructure. Paying for unneeded software licenses and support and maintenance contracts means that more finance can be spent on the vital parts of your IT system.

Mitigate Risk Factors

A surprising percentage of software that is actively used in the corporate environment is either licensed incorrectly or not licensed at all. Running any amount of uncontrolled software on your IT network is not advised, because when left unchecked it can become incredibly unpredictable. This is becoming an increasingly annoying factor for network managers.

Rogue software applications can be introduced into an uncontrolled IT system in a number of ways. Software may have been bundled when your IT hardware was originally bought although the original software licenses may have expired. Without the correct security policies in place, users may also be able to install their own software onto the system. Running a corporate IT system in this wild way will almost certainly lead to trouble.

The danger of running unlicensed software on your network is clear. When anything goes wrong with the hardware or software platform behind your critical processes, how do you handle the situation? Operating a complicated software system without the appropriate support can create a metaphorical minefield when it comes to disaster recovery and can seriously limit your responsiveness to unforeseen events. The cost of recovery will always outweigh the cost of mitigation when it comes to data systems.

If your business undertakes an IT infrastructure overhaul, a certified Centennial distributor must be top of your first ports of call.

Implementing Software Asset Management in your Organisation

As previously discussed, there are many potential advantages to using a good software asset management strategy within your company, both monetary and otherwise. It is therefore important to consider which branches of software asset management you should implement first since certain benefits will be realised more speedily than others.

The discovery process can be viewed as three basic phases that have to be undertaken to truly develop an accurate picture of the deployment of IT assets within your company. These are:

Inventory

Inventory is the most fundamental stage of the discovery cycle. It is crucial that an accurate audit of IT assets within your organisation is created to aid your IT managers to maintain baselines for your IT network.
Thankfully, this process can now be made automatic and even the grandest of infrastructures can be searched and analysed in a reasonably short period. Inventory should be able to identify your software assets regardless of their physical location or technological characteristics. Modern inventory processes are capable of this.

Capture

The second step in the discovery process involves the capture of the license entitlements that manage the software programs identified in the inventory. The capture process should gather entitlements regarding all of the software that is installed on your network, even if the software is not currently used.

The factor of human error can be mitigated by using automated tools that are specifically created to create a library of license entitlements. Tools that are currently available are very efficient at capturing accurate data.

Identification & Validation

The next process is to match up the software inventory to the repository of licensing information that were built in the last two stages. Errors may have been made anywhere from the original invoices for software to the most recent audits undertaken on your IT system. These errors can now be rectified.

One critical factor in the validation step is the ability to associate the license entitlements within your network to your organisation’s proof of entitlement. This will be essential if any arguments with software resellers arise as a consequence of the discovery cycle.

After these three steps have been performed you will have built an incredibly detailed image of how your IT network is delivering software assets to its users. It will be a lot easier to identify particular trouble spots on your network, or sections of software use that are no longer of any particular benefit to your operations.

You can now begin a period of reconciliation on your network. You can compare the software programs that are actually installed on your network against the licensing and support entitlements that you are paying for and close any divides between the two.

The software distribution in your system may include many hundreds or perhaps thousands of individual installations, and there are any number of rules that may be associated with the licensing contracts you have in place. It is therefore essential to automate the reconciliation period, using one or more programs to apply smart rules to the process. These rules can be catered to the specific needs of your business

To see how SAM can directly help your company use an available Centennial consultant who can devise a SAM strategy suited to your requirements.

Compliancy and Flexibility with SAM

Many of the fundamental principles of a modern SAM strategy are based upon the principles set out in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL. This library details a number of concepts and best practices that should be adopted for successful management of IT functions. The ITIL can be found online.

This library is a dynamic entity and is often updated with new ideas and policies that cater to the constantly changing IT environment of modern business. A good software asset management strategy should be fluid enough to comply with the guidelines laid out in the ITIL whilst matching the changing needs of the business within which it is actively used. This is an essential requirement of effective software asset management

The International Standard Organisation (ISO) has published a standard that applies directly to software asset management practices. This standard, ISO 19770-1, is an exceptionally comprehensive collection of suggestions that are built to ensure that software asset management is utilised in such a way as to “satisfy corporate governance requirements”. Standards of this kind play an essential part in realising standardisation across an industry.

The ISO standard should certainly be followed when designing a SAM strategy for your own organisation, although the level of detail included within can easily become a daunting prospect. It is vital to remember that no matter what recommendations you follow when planning a software asset management strategy, whatever plan you decide to implement needs to help your business rather than stifle it. Industry standards cannot simply be copied when it comes to applying them to your organisation.

Creating a full and comprehensive software asset management strategy for your own company may actually never come to fruition. Your strategy must be flexible to adapt and grow as your organisation does, and it should allow for updates to your daily tasks, no matter how small or fundamental they might be. This really is the key to a worthwhile SAM plan.

Conclusion

It is clear to see that as the extent and importance of computer systems within your company grow, so does the requirement for correct and efficient monitoring of these systems. Gone are the times when an IT branch was a bonus that would sometimes progress the business. IT networks are now critical to the modern business.

As with other branches of any company, a number of different plans should be evaluated and used in order to ensure the smooth running of day to day activities. SAM should not be the only tactic used to manage technological assets within your organisation, but rather one of a multitude of complimentary policies used to control the system as a whole. software asset management can go a long way toward helping your business but should be helped by other techniques.

So if you think that your organisation is really suffering from a lack of planned monitoring and control over its IT network, or that the possible benefits described in this article could manufacture a critical market advantage over your competitors, then it would be worth investigating how software asset management could be employed within your company. There may be no time to lose.

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