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News

Round table meeting examines Software Asset Management

FAST Corporate Services : 17 June, 2009  (Company News)
Compliance and asset management was the subject of a recent round table meeting of experts in the field held by the commercial arm of the Federation Against Software Theft
FAST Ltd, a UK authority on Software Asset Management and IT Compliance, providing software, education, consulting and managed services, 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) because for savvy companies needing to keep their costs in check, compliance and SAM have become watchwords for regaining control of your licensing estate.

The benefits of effective management of software assets are not widely enough appreciated, the participants in this key discussion forum 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 suggested.

There is already evidence to suggest that the compliance landscape remains challenging for companies. 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 the management 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 many organisations - and there is a lack of authority and executive sponsorship and though we're starting to see changes to that, it doesn't happen overnight. Microsoft's SAM Optimisation model can help companies assess their maturity levels and give them a starting point. With effective SAM, comes compliance. Often we find people are scared to make a start in fear of the consequences, so at Microsoft we are beginning to change our licensing programmes as well as provide more assistance for SAM to make it easier for our customers.

And Bramwell went on to add, "The fast adoption of technology to drive business is one reason we are where we are today. No single organisation, be they customer or vendor, is to blame. However, we must all take equal responsibility to fix it and ensure that customer derive the most value from their software investments.

Andrew Highland, managing director of Staff&Line, pointed out that the vendors needed to take charge 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's EMEA channel director Ian Moyse suggests that economic reality means IT departments are having to play a greater role.

"We're seeing IT become very interesting negotiators. Resellers I've spoken to say they have not seen IT act like this before, far more attuned to the costs and better negotiators of value for their business. One of the issues is that most companies don't have clear financial management around software assets and see it as an expense, not a capital item needing careful management."

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 in terms of cost-reduction. "It is often difficult to get IT to embrace cost-reduction because it can be interpreted as meaning they haven't been diligent in the past. However the opportunities are significant. Volkswagen Credit in the US did a SAM project a few years ago and stopped spending on existing software for two years, simply by recycling licences. If all organisations approached SAM as a cost-saving measure, revenue for the main publishers would be severely impacted in the short-term."

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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