Facing the fear: how to learn to (almost) love licence compliance

Licence compliance isn't sexy, but it is increasingly essential
Licence compliance isn't sexy, but it is increasingly essential

Wide-eyed terror or a weary sigh – those are probably the most common reactions from IT managers whenever someone mentions licence compliance. Perhaps that's why in many organisations it's addressed as an afterthought, and managed on an ad hoc basis.

After all, it's not a sexy subject, and getting it wrong can put you on the wrong side of vendors, management and users, all at the same time. Not an enticing prospect!

But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, licence compliance can be transformed from a necessary but isolated and unrewarding operational task, into a holistic organisational process that delivers measureable value. All that's required is a fresh mind-set and the tools to back it up.

The first rule of optimal licence compliance management is to know exactly what you have. It sounds obvious, but organisations often get into trouble during vendor software audits because of a lack of visibility. They simply don't know what their employees are installing on their employer-owned devices – not to mention the personal smartphones and tablets that they also use at work.

Perhaps that isn't surprising when you look at the results of the 2013 BSA Global Software Survey. It revealed that only 35% of companies have written policies requiring the use of authorised software.

How do you establish that transparency in the first place, and then maintain it? The answer is to take a comprehensive approach to asset and lifecycle management that encompasses every device and piece of software within the organisation. This must be supported with a device and software detection infrastructure that can automatically find, scan and report back on device configuration and software installations.

Enabling proactive compliance

If you are certain you have accounted for every device and application being used, you need to ensure that accountability is maintained for the long term. The best way of doing that is to automate licence requests and approvals, and to make licence compliance everyone's responsibility, rather than expect the IT department to manage everything manually.

The most efficient way of achieving this is to implement an enterprise app store through which users can request the devices and software they need, managers can approve the requests, and IT administrators can execute the deployment – all with a few clicks.

Once you have an established a baseline and can record every subsequent deployment within a centralised system, it becomes much easier to track licence usage and expiry, detect unauthorised hardware and software, and take remedial action before any damage is caused.

The value of a holistic approach

On average, organisations that take this kind of integrated approach to licence management see a rapid financial return of up to 30% of their previous licence expenditure.

This is achieved through the elimination or non-renewal of unused, underutilised or unnecessary software. Operational costs are also significantly reduced through the automation of licence management tasks, and IT personnel are freed up to spend time working on more valuable projects that contribute to organisational goals.

When compliance can be achieved more efficiently and accurately, the risk of being penalised by vendors when they conduct audits is also greatly reduced. And finally, because users have more say in which software and devices they are given, they become more productive and less prone to using unauthorised solutions.

Five steps to better licence compliance

So, you're convinced. You finally want to exercise proper control over all your licencing obligations. Where do you start? We believe there are five essential success factors to be aware of, whichever technology licence management solution you choose.

1. Set up the project correctly

Defined goals, senior management buy-in and a project team with clear roles and responsibilities are a fundamental requirement.

2. Get the organisation in tune

Consistently accurate master data is essential for precise licence management, as are well-defined technical and contractual processes, and polices that set out licence compliance responsibilities across the entire workforce.

3. Prepare your technical foundation

Selecting a software management (SAM) tool that is easy to integrate with all the relevant data sources, and setting up data quality gates for all imported and manually entered data, will shorten time to ROI and minimise errors on an ongoing basis.

4. Perform an initial reconciliation

This establishes the foundational benchmark for your licence management infrastructure. From this point on, the technical solution you have implemented should be capable of reconciling licence compliance automatically.

5. Never stop tracking

Keep it up once you've started!


It should now be more straightforward than ever to ensure compliance is maintained as your licencing landscape evolves over time. Regular internal audits to ensure consistency and accuracy are far preferable to lapses being exposed and charged for as the result of a vendor audit!

  • Stuart Power is UK Sales Manager at Matrix42