Don't dread your next software audit: look at proactive licence management

Don't let an audit turn into a nightmare
Don't let an audit turn into a nightmare

"Vendor software audit" – those three words are guaranteed to make any IT manager nervous. Because once you have Microsoft, Oracle, or any other large software provider on the phone asking you to prove you have the licences your usage requires, they want the numbers, and they want them fast – often within days or weeks.

Get them right, and you'll be saving your organisation a lot of money, proving your competence and perhaps making future audits less frequent. Get them wrong, and you're looking at potentially significant unplanned costs, a very unhappy boss and more intense scrutiny in the future.

The rise and rise of the software audit

It's an issue that's increasingly important because vendor audits are becoming more widespread. Leading industry analysts estimate that the proportion of organisations being audited, either by industry groups or vendors themselves, has increased from around 30% five years ago to 60% now.

From the vendors' perspective, that's understandable, given that the commercial value of unlicensed software on PCs alone amounted to over US$62 billion (around £40 billion, AU$80 billion), according to the 2013 BSA Global Software Survey.

And yet, despite the increasing likelihood of an audit, many organisations remain underprepared to respond effectively and efficiently. Fulfilling audit requirements manually on demand is extremely complex and time-consuming. It usually sees IT admins flitting between spreadsheets, paper filing systems and purchasing records in an attempt to piece together a single version of the truth.

As a result, headaches and late nights are pretty much guaranteed. And all the while resources are tied up checking licences, they can't be used to deal with other tasks, including the higher value projects, such as app development, that contribute directly to business goals. So, is there a better alternative to this kind of reactive approach? Yes!

And the reasons for grasping it with both hands extend far beyond the initial fulfilment of vendor licensing requirements.

SAM to the rescue

Software Asset Management (SAM) software promises to dramatically reduce the complexity and effort required in meeting software audit requirements. By integrating easily with existing systems, it enables organisations to create a central record of all the software being used, reconcile it against licences held, and automatically track ongoing usage and licence expiration – all within an automated system.

With this kind of solution in place, the fear factor that usually kicks in when a vendor requests an audit evaporates. Audit fulfilment becomes fast and straightforward. And resources are freed up to focus on more important tasks. But the benefits don't stop there.

It's not all about the vendor

An audit is carried out from the vendor's perspective and focuses on identifying missing or expired licences, and recovering the associated revenue. But what about the customer's own interests?

Can every licence actually be linked to an installed instance? Is money being wasted on applications that are hardly ever used? In fact, industry research, backed up by our own experience, suggests that more than 20% of software bought by organisations never gets used, and that the total value of unused installed software averages out at US$400 (around £260, AU$515) per computer!

When you multiply that figure by the number of seats in your organisation, couldn't that money be spent more usefully elsewhere?

Software audits? I can't wait for the next one!

SAM solutions give organisations a way of automatically preventing unnecessary software spending. When used as part of a holistic IT Asset Management program, savings of 10-20% of total IT costs are more than possible within the first year. And that's on top of the time, money and effort saved by automating and simplifying the licence compliance fulfilment process.

So, the chances are that transitioning from an ad hoc, reactive approach, to a centralised, automated and proactive one will pay for itself within a very short timeframe. And in that context, software audits might even become something you can look forward to.

  • Stuart Power is UK Sales Manager at Matrix42