Assignment verses Assumption: Why Assumption Falls Short in Software Asset Management

  • Posted by: Allison Hay

In a couple of days I will be taking a cruise to Cozumel. Already, I am dreaming about the warm sun, cool breeze and relaxing rhythm of a boat at sea. Before all of the fun begins however, there are processes that have to occur in order for the ship to push off from the dock. For example, the passengers must muster. This entails all of us assembling on deck and getting an explanation of the boat’s safety procedures but, most importantly, every passenger on board must receive a life jacket.

image_cruise_shipNow it takes quite a bit of staff to send off a ship on a voyage. Workers load the vessel with food and supplies and there is much activity going on during the day of departure. What would happen if, as these workers who are only on the ship for a couple of hours, walked by the safety instructors and were given a life vest? Well, for one, they wouldn’t need one, and might discard it on the way out. Two, the passengers on the boat that did need a life vest would be left without, since there is only a finite number of life vests to distribute. This leads me to the perils that can occur with software licensing, particularly when we don’t engage in the assigning of licenses.

Assumptions about Software Asset Management (SAM)

The vast majority of SAM tools automatically assign licenses to any liability they find. Where ever the software finds an application, or more importantly what they think is an application, boom, there goes a license. This is called an assumption. Treating the assignment as true when there is no proof that it is. The question to ask, especially in the exacting world of limited budgets and vendor audits, is that application finding a “worker” or a “passenger.” Are you giving a life jacket, AKA license, away when there are only so many to go around? It is even conceivable that “someone” doesn’t even need one.

image_men_pointingSoftware environments are dynamic. Especially in larger organizations, change is a constant. Employees onboard and off board, take leave of various kinds, and increasingly, we are seeing the rise of the temporary or contract worker. Therefore, at any given moment, the snapshot of license liability can change. Additionally, companies are looking to assign licenses by budget responsibilities. How do you combat this? The accurate assignment or allocation of licenses can mitigate this risk. What is needed to accomplish this is what I call ‘intelligent’ assignment.

Specifically does the software tool being used let you allocate entitlements to specific machines, users, and or budget areas of your choosing? Happily the company I work for provides tooling that does just this. For example, the laptop that was scanned three weeks ago during implementation, might now be sitting in a closet, turned in by a contact worker who had left the job a week before. Slapping a license on it would be wasting a life jacket. To further illustrate this example, say I have a liability discovered for 2600 applications of Visio Premium. Since they were discovered, 100 contract workers rotated out of their positions, 6 people went on parental leave, and 12 left the company. My real “liability” is 2,482. This discrepancy could be caught in the assignment phase. That leaves 118 extra life jackets that the company can reallocate or save for future employees. In our example that amounts to a little over $70,000 at todays MSRP. And that is just for one application.

The Importance of Assignment versus Assumption

image_man_whirlpoolIn a world of shrinking IT budgets, this type of cost savings is invaluable. We can also use assignment as part of a broader license optimization strategy. Should the licenses be recycled, kept in a pool waiting for other employees to onboard? Perhaps the license is from an older version of software that the IT department is phasing out and the application should be deleted in order to avoid future maintenance costs. There are also legal, geographic and contractual information you may need to take into account. All these factors contribute to the importance of assignment verses assumption in order to make sure you are operating from a position of fact. In the stormy world of audits and excess IT costs, don’t be caught without a tool that can’t properly dispense a life jacket.

Author: Allison Hay

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