Sometimes in life, things go wrong. The portents of doom and gloom can be so subtle you miss them and as a result, fall flat on your backside. But stuff happens right. You can’t predict everything can you? True you can’t.
More often than not, the signs of a gathering storm start small but they are there. Little grey clouds pop up on the horizon. A gentle breeze morphs slowly into a wind. The air starts to feel close, almost claustrophobic. All very real signs of the atmospheric mayhem to come.
It can be the same in IT. Little signs of pending problems spring up telling us that we might have an issue or two. In 2015, IDC (International Data Corp) estimated close to 39% of software installed is incorrectly licenced, underused, overused or plain abused. Even in regulated industries (banks, insurance etc.) it is a sizeable 25%. For some CIOs, that means there is probably a bad moon rising sometime soon.
Tony Spruyt, SAM Services Manager COMPAREX UK
#1 – Computer Says No
But how do you know you have licence problems? Which little sign is going to tap you on the shoulder first? What is going to give you a clue about whether you’ve got a grip on those pesky software licences?
Often a good sign is when a newbie arrives in the business: AD account – check, Office software – check, phone number – check, internet access – check, CRM software installed? A silly message appears saying something about insufficient licences. Now you might ask why can’t business units plan better? Surely someone must have put this in their budget. There’s the irritation of an unhappy user followed by a hasty call to a vendor. When the computer says no, you need to start paying attention to your licence management processes.
#2 – "I think we’ve sprung a leak, Captain..."
Then there is the murky world of Shadow IT. Can you be expected to police every single device and anyway, whose idea was it to implement BYOD? Perhaps that malware or virus that sneaked in behind the corporate firewall was a one off. Or maybe, someone sneaked in unlicensed software that they’ve been happily using for the past year without anyone noticing.
Unlicensed shadow software is growing at an alarming rate. The software alliance, BSA, believes 26% of employees put unapproved software on the various devices they use in the course of their business. If software isn’t aligned to a proper licence agreement, then the chances are it’s hiding something you really could do without. Sadly data leaks initiated by the use of unlicensed software are a reality. Malware and spyware found inside corporate walls is telling you something other than some people are a little lax.
#3 – It Just Stopped
Another big hint is when something just stops working. The user is bemused if not a tad unhappy. After all, they’ve been using this little Access based application since before dragons roamed the earth. Normally old Jack kept all the plates spinning but he left a while back and now…well they really need it working. It’s a critical part of their job. But you knew that right?
Support roll up, take a peek and suck air through gritted teeth. The problem is that a licence key has expired. Old Jack kept it going because he had been buying a bunch of them all these years from his own budget. Who knew? Seems no one did and now the CFO is spitting mad that his accounts department are saying they have a problem. If only someone had known perhaps it could’ve been avoided.
#4 – Sounds Expensive
However, some signs that we haven’t got a handle on our software licences are a little more obvious. An unexpected audit from SAP, IBM, Microsoft or whoever you’ve got into bed with throws up a few irritating facts. That can mean minor, if not irritating, meetings laced with compromise or the start of full-on in-your-face war games.
So you bought ‘x’ number of licence types ‘A’ but you are using way more. A few hundred thousand and they won’t go all medieval however, they insist you switch on automatic auditing going forward. There is an awful lot of money in support and licence costs. If it was your business selling software, you’d want to be sure everyone paid their dues.
It can all prove a bit embarrassing when you haven’t quite budgeted for what they say you are using. But it’s a sign to get managing your licences more effectively. What licence types do you actually have? And what exactly did that contract say about their re-use? Perhaps, you assumed it was per seat not per server core and why is it different for this particular software anyway? Bottom line is that vendors don’t mind if you don’t read the small print so long as the revenue keeps coming in. Unfortunately for you, your CFO might.
#5 – Something Unexpected on the Doormat
Of course, you may feel you’ve avoided this type of angst by outsourcing most of your IT. Someone else is rolling out applications and managing your systems for you. It makes life easier and it works just fine. Business user numbers expand and contract. People get assigned stuff and it gets taken back when they leave. It’s the natural cycle of working life and everyone seems happy. Until that bill comes through to accounts. Were you aware that your licence costs shot up during the last financial? No? Who exactly has been on the case? Can you answer that with a degree of honesty or was it out of sight, out of mind?
The larger an organisation gets the easier it is to lose track of who is doing what and why. Support staff haven’t always got the time to chase down licence agreements. Getting that unexpected bill for extra licence use is kind of a wake-up call to start managing your software usage with a little more precision.
Read the Runes
Signs, sometimes we spot them and sometimes we don’t. Often they are there if we take the time to look. Would you check that weather app before you plan your picnic, make sure you are not going to end up standing under a tree with the rain seeping through that linen summer jacket. Or maybe you like the thrill of playing Russian roulette.
Software licencing is important. Shadow IT, inadequate licencing and under-used licences can cost you money, reputation and a whole lot more. It is important you understand what you have, what you are using and what really shouldn’t be there.
And if you don’t know then pulling everyone in a room and asking who exactly is responsible can be a tad pointless because the answer is pretty clear, you are.
We understand that on the great virtual to-do list, software licensing naturally falls under the category of ‘importance’ rather than ‘urgent’; which is why it so often trips over into the next day.
Read the runes, plan to protect your organisation; it’s a lot less precarious than playing virtual Russian roulette.
And the good news is you can start here – Join me on our webinar on Tuesday 30th August where I’ll be talking through how to put your Software Licensing concerns to bed by operating a ‘No Surprises’ policy.