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Possible asset management solutions discussed at round table

FAST Corporate Services : 11 June, 2009  (Technical Article)
Meeting of Software Asset Management experts organised by FAST discuss alternative approaches to gaining compliance in industry
FAST Ltd hosted a CEO roundtable of industry SAM experts at the end of May, the results of which were fascinating. The great and the good gathered together to discuss how best to approach Software Asset Management (SAM) as Vendor audits are on the increase which means that compliance and SAM have become watchwords for savvy companies needing to keep their costs in check.

The benefits of effective management of software assets are not widely appreciated, leaving companies at the mercy of disruptive software audits, the participants in this key discussion forum also concluded. Despite the economic downturn, companies are still struggling to get buy-in from their Board on implementing effective Software Asset Management. Participants reported that many executives still do not understand the risk to organisations' finances and reputation from failing to take action to achieve software compliance, preferring to 'leave it to IT' to sort out. Software as a Service, however, could take away these licensing headaches that are now familiar to customers of software vendors, the roundtable concluded.

There is already evidence to suggest that the compliance landscape is set to change and that vendor audits from software publishers are on the increase. Independent UK research conducted by IDC in October 2008 cited that 52 percent of all companies have been subject to a vendor audit or review in the past 12 months, whilst 23 percent have been subject to three or more audits or review during this timeframe.

The roundtable event, 'Every Penny Counts', part of the CEO Series was hosted by FAST Ltd and included software vendors Microsoft and Staff&Line, together with Microsoft Large Account Reseller, Trustmarque Solutions, Scalable Software, Webroot Software and Bytes Software Services.

A key driver for the discussion was the steep rise in FAST LTD customers requesting the organisation's help in conducting Software Asset Management (SAM) reviews for tier one publishers, where there is deemed to be a high risk of a software compliance failure if an organisation were to find itself subject to an audit.

Sam Bramwell, licensing and anti-piracy manager for Microsoft, said many organisations still have only a basic understanding of their software estate and agreed that it is important to bring greater clarity to the SAM process to empower organisations to make quick positive strides towards achieving software compliance.

"80 percent of companies have got some SAM practices in place, but the maturity of it is very basic. SAM as a job role isn't there in organisations - and there is a lack of authority and executive sponsorship and though we're starting to change that, it doesn't happen overnight. We have got to take ownership of it. SAM optimisation can help companies assess where they are, and organisations need an olive branch from vendors and from the industry. It's about more than simply compliance, though we'd like to make sure all companies are totally compliant. People are very scared of divulging information and Microsoft has devolved its practices to make it easier every step of the way."

And Bramwell admitted that vendors could do more. "Where does the blame lie for not moving forward over the years - is it the vendors fault because we haven't done enough to help our customers? Many customers are overlicensed, and we need to start helping people. Software licensing is so complex people are always fire-fighting, but good governance will help you free up budgets."

Andrew Highland, managing director of Staff&Line, pointed out that the vendors needed to take change of the problem themselves. "Businesses always react and if they find something is too difficult to do, they'll find another way of doing it. That's why they'll do software as a service (SaaS).

Webroot Software's EMEA channel director Ian Moyse told the roundtable that economic reality meant IT departments are themselves having to play a greater role. "We're seeing IT become very interested negotiators. Resellers I've spoken to say IT has never acted like this before. It's like the IT department has read a book on negotiating. One of the issues is that most companies don't have a software asset limit. It's always an expense, not a capital item."

Kevin Trinkwon, a solution specialist for Trustmarque Solutions, said it is key for organisations that they only have to go through the challenge of an audit once.

"If you do audit me because you think I've got a shortfall, then I don't want to be doing an audit again in 2-3 years time. How do we make sure that doesn't happen? Companies have usually passed it down to IT because the CFO still sees SAM as an IT issue. But for the CFO, procurement is their baby. At the point of sale is where everything can be done, because otherwise, someone has to admit a mistake."

Scalable Software's president Mark Cresswell told the roundtable that it isn't easy to get buy-in for SAM. "It is often difficult to get IT to embrace SAM because it implies that they haven't been managing it very well over the last few years. If organisations approached this as a cost-saving measure, saying 'we're going to get compliant', the revenue would fall through floor for the main publishers. There is a guy from Volkswagen Credit, Scott Fuzer, who did a SAM project and he didn't spend a dime on software purchases for two years, simply by reconciling licences."

FAST Ltd managing director Andy Pearce suggested that in difficult times, what companies must get from their IT estate is predictability and reassurance, not unexpected, unbudgeted costs. So SAM and compliance become even more pertinent as organisations attempt to get their costs in check in a recession.

"Getting executive support for SAM is very important," said Pearce. "I don't think the industry has done a good job in communicating the benefits of SAM. The challenge to the industry is for us to partner and to collectively get those benefits across to businesses. Effective SAM is about determining where you are today, and then getting it right and managing those assets on a regular basis. It's estimated that 60 percent of companies are under-licensed and 40 percent are over-licensed," he added.

FAST Ltd recently launched its own software compliance tool, FAST Compliance Manager, to help customers pass the acid test for software compliance and gain a clear view of their entitlement and usage rights. It also offers a wide range of professional, consulting and managed services to UK organisations that want to benefit from smarter IT and software asset management strategies, and ensure they have a legally compliant IT infrastructure.
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