To start, organizations should realize the benefits of a licence management strategy, like cost-avoidance. Businesses will have planned budgets and expenditures, "and by then getting tapped on the shoulder by a vendor can mean you now have got to buy licences at list price that you had not planned on," said Jansen.
Risk reduction and good vendor relations is a benefit, too, because a licensing agreement, essentially a legal relationship with responsibilities that must be adhered to, can render penalties for non-compliance, said Paul Asseff, director of software marketing at Softchoice. The actions taken by software publishers vary, like losing a corporate rate or having to pay a fine, said Asseff, but in most cases vendors are willing to arrive at an amicable solution if the customer shows an eagerness to get compliant.
Dealing with non-compliance can take precious time away from core responsibilities, said Jansen, especially when the chief financial officer and legal department are preoccupied with "looking through the licensing situation in panic mode."
Beware the nuances
Most often, counting and measuring software utilization entails IT staff "walking around or counting by post-it note," said Ross Chevalier, president and chief technology officer of Toronto-based software vendor Novell Canada Ltd.
The process is not only tedious, but fraught will peril because the likelihood of making an error is quite high, he said. While some software publishers provide a tool to track their products, the method of counting software may vary. This makes it important to decipher the nuances of a licence agreement, warned Chevalier. But the lack of a standard format for end user licensing agreements (EULAs) can mean a customer's responsibility can range from specific to broad. EULAs are tedious and boring and seldom get read, he said, so while customers are aware they have engendered some liability, they don't know exactly how. So it's important to align the EULA with the number of software instances installed and the manner they are being used, said Chevalier.
Depending on the EULA, software may be counted by device, user, or full-time equivalent. Software publishers try to minimize misunderstandings by making EULAs accessible for customers to easily print and store in a binder, or download and save as a file.
But because IT environments are heterogeneous by nature, Chevalier recommends a tool that tracks software installs and utilization regardless of brand. It's useful, too, for licence renewal so an organization can "get levels of entitlement (from the vendor) that are just right for their business," he said. "Well, you can't know what's right if you can't count it."