Software License Compliance as a Service
I accept the license terms and conditions
The cost of non-compliance is great. If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance.
Although it was said more than a decade ago, this statement remains indisputably true and aptly describes what software license compliance is about today.
In the current era of ubiquitous digitization it’s not easy to imagine a company which does not rely on third-party software in its core business operations. No matter the scale of the organization or its economic sector, commercial software is an inseparable part of any business.
The terms and conditions which govern its use play an integral role here. It’s not possible to use any software if its license terms and conditions have not been accepted. Note that acceptance does not have to be written at all. The mere fact of downloading, installing, opening, copying or using software in any way whatsoever means that you agree to specific terms and conditions.
Due to its nature, licensing has significant implications as it imposes a very important obligation on organizations, namely to adhere to the license terms and conditions, thus ensure compliance at all times.
A hard thing to do
Ensuring software license compliance is no doubt a tough challenge. Not because the license terms and conditions of each product are overly complex. It’s enough to read them once or twice to understand and get a grasp of their content. Needless to say, there are a number of factors that make this task harder, such as formal language, imprecise wording, poor translation, inconsistencies or even conflicts with other related documents, to name just a few. But these are issues which a person with some SAM experience will deal with easily – it is not them that determine the true gravity of the challenge. The reason why software license compliance tops the list of the toughest IT tasks is the scale of products used as well as the changing license terms and conditions. The average company uses software provided by at least several dozen developers, at least some of whom may be considered its key vendors. Assuming that each of the key vendors delivers about a dozen solutions to the company and the remaining ones a few, we get hundreds if not thousands of products accompanied by their respective terms and conditions. Ones that may be applicable to version x of the product but be entirely remodeled in the case of its next version. And ones that you need to know and comply with.
Enterprises operating on the Polish market are fully aware of that. The number of industry meetings, training sessions and conferences and the number of their participants indicate how important software asset management is to them. Organizations are no longer trying to find an answer to the question of whether they should but instead they are focusing on selecting the most optimum approach to SAM that will not only ensure that they comply with the licensing terms and conditions but that they use software effectively.
The recipe for SAM is not secret. You only need a few ingredients, such as a competent team, a well thought out strategy, properly structured processes as well as supporting technology to process reliable data.
Although they are nothing new, success is not guaranteed and stressing the right components is what really matters here. This is where further questions need to be answered: How many people do we need for effective software asset management and how should responsibilities be shared? Which processes are critical to SAM and who should be their owner? Do we need a high-end tool to manage software in our IT environment? To what extent can the existing solutions be used? Responding to such questions is not easier when we consider budget constraints within the organization, which still perceives SAM as a cost.
From the perspective of risk management SAM is a unique area with very little room for maneuver. As there is an inseparable connection between the license terms and conditions and software use, software compliance risk is impossible to avoid. What is more, the risk may not be accepted given the potentially enormous cost of non-compliance. It may be mitigated, though, which every organization that makes informed SAM investment decision does, with various degrees of success.
A mathematician would say that there are several ways to solve every exercise, where one is the easiest though not necessarily the most obvious. Like in maths, finding an alternative here means that you need to consider the issue from a non-standard perspective. Such reasoning leads you to the latest, though still underestimated approach to the risk inherent in commercial software use: its transfer.
Assignment of responsibility for a part of SAM or even its entirety to a third party may turn out to be a simple, workable and cost-effective solution. SAM as a service helps you confront the most daunting software license compliance challenges, that is the scale and changeability of license terms and conditions, successfully. With a team of specialists cooperating with a wide spectrum of developers and clients, a partner may offer the economies of scale to create unique value which the organization would not be able to deliver on its own. Such an approach is exactly what SAM is about – it focuses on the core objective, which is optimum and compliant software use within the organization. And it lets companies focus on what matters most – development of their core business.
1. Paul McNulty, former United States Deputy Attorney General.