Recently I got a call from my IT Department telling me that I had not used a piece of software for 90 days and they were removing it and harvesting the license. At first, I was a little annoyed by the message, but then thinking about the situation I realized that since I had not been using the product for a while -- why not! Upon speaking to the local IT team they told me that the harvesting of licenses saves the organization money by reusing software entitlements and avoiding unnecessary purchases.
Managing software entitlements and measuring license compliance is a real challenge to asset managers due to the large numbers of vendors, lack of standards, ever changing license models, and the limitation and plethora of discovery tools. Many organizations don't fully understand the complexity and implications until faced with an audit. One organization I recently met with was hit with an audit, and following the completion of the vendor scan of the environment, they were suddenly faced with an unbudgeted charge approaching $1 Million USD. Conversely, another organization I met with that had also recently gone through an audit found out that they were significantly over licensed and were paying significant amounts in maintenance for licenses that were not being used.
Given the challenge of the lack of standards, all contracts are unique with differing terms and conditions. Additionally, the simple act of effectively identifying software titles has been a major issue. Recognizing these challenges, I have been involved in the development of the ISO/IEC 19770 standards that includes the identification of standards for software tagging (ISO\IEC 19770-2).
Software Tagging can help organizations more effectively identify vendors and software titles as well as version numbers to allow these to be easily matched against the contract vehicles that support their use. Couple this with simple monitoring of actual usage against the contract and the organization can quickly make decisions on licensed software, its state, use or non-use.
The current challenge with ISO\IEC 19770 is the lack of adoption. Even with the standard being in place for a few years, the adoption by vendors remains slow, although it should accelerate in the next few years since a number of major vendors (Adobe and most recently Microsoft) are adopting this standard. Adopting this standard brings many benefits to those managing entitlements and measuring compliance - for example, as more and more organizations feel the pressure to reduce costs and invest in innovation to remain competitive having a better understanding on your licenses and usage can help identify funding that could be directed to other projects.
My guidance here is that in order to bring software license costs under control they need to be effectively managed. Processes need to be in place to ensure that you understand your contract terms and conditions for use, deployment and calculation. With proactive management you can avoid simply buying an "all you can drink" license and license exactly what you need. One of the advantages of using software asset management is that when the audit comes you can prove your license situation, saving significant pain and heartache and that manual count, which never really works! Avoid the "guilty until proven innocent" situation with your vendors and become a champion within your organization by leading a proactive software asset management program.