Good management of your organisation’s software life cycle has always been important. After all, your software must meet the needs of your enterprise users and function as intended. Once you’ve chosen the right software, keeping up to date with the latest technologies, best practices, features and functionalities can greatly improve efficiency and productivity across your organisation.
Managing the software life cycle can help you mitigate financial and compliance risk and save costs, as you can identify and eliminate unnecessary or underused features or licences.
You may find you don’t really understand the software licences you have, that you’ve struck the wrong deal or that you are paying something you don’t need. Overspending on software and running into expensive vendor audits are just two of the possible consequences.
Efficient software life cycle management can be a headache for any organisation. Software products lack common standards and keeping an accurate software inventory can be time-consuming and still not provide the visibility your organisation needs to manage licences or negotiate software contracts. But it’s worth investing in – and here’s why.
Software licensing is complex, but it’s important to get to grips with it if your organisation – like so many others – has a complicated estate.
You may have swathes of licences expiring in one location, different versions of software used in another location, unused licences, overuse and many other scenarios. There may be multiple vendors involved, with a range of licence types.
What’s more, your software products may be different life cycles with varying expiry dates. Licences for your gateway hardware, like switches or routers, might even apply to other hardware too.
A software life cycle management strategy for both the short and the long term will take all of the above into account. It will help you reduce licensing complexity and increase visibility and control so you can manage your licensing efficiently.
Compliance isn’t just about meeting vendor requirements or paying your licence renewals on time. This is important, but so is internal compliance.
If you don’t have proper version control or don’t know your expiry dates, you may be relying on software that’s nearing end of life or is no longer supported.
Let’s say you believe all your switches are working on version four, but it turns out some are still on version three. This means the next upgrade might not work properly. This oversight can have serious consequence for the performance of your software – and your organisation.
This scenario can leave you exposed to two kinds of risk. The first is operational: when you have something that’s not supported or is end of life, your business continuity could be affected by a lack of network availability, for example. The second risk relates to the potential for security vulnerabilities that could leave your network compromised.
Of course, there is the matter of keeping on top of your licence fees. You can face large financial penalties if you don’t renew in time.
What’s more, if you’ve been using unlicensed software and want to get back on a clean slate with your vendor, they may impose additional penalties before they will let you renew the licence.
Trying to keep up with your contracts and their ever-changing statuses can mean a lot of effort expended on negotiations and chasing up items.
You may have a batch of 50 licences expiring in one part of your organisation, then panic because you discover another 250 expiring licences elsewhere and no budget to remedy the situation. So, you might confer with the vendor to reach some kind of compromise.
And sure, the negotiations may benefit you, but is sorting out licences the best way to spend your time?
It’s all too easy to end up almost permanently involved in a never-ending cycle of unproductive licence management – and things will inevitably fall through the cracks, leaving you noncompliant. This can be avoided through proper software life cycle management.
A central part of effective software life cycle management is the use of licensing agreements and enterprise agreements. These consolidate many licences into one or more contracts. Your organisation can then buy a number of licences in a block, which means all licences will expire at the same time.
Working in blocks means you don’t have to deal with individual licences. It leaves you with less to manage. That’s a big benefit for organisations, although a possible challenge is that some of these agreements are easier to scale up than down.
You should also understand vendor usage principles such as Cisco’s True Forward, which is based on volume agreements. The volume contract will change yearly, depending on what you’ve used. You won’t be charged for past use if you go beyond what’s set out in your contract, but you will be billed for that discrepancy in your next contract. So, it’s important to settle on an agreement of the right size for your organisation to get a return on investment.
Within a software asset management environment, you can get total visibility and control of all these moving parts, from the number of licences you have to where they are and when they’ll expire.
These insights and analytics can save you a huge amount of time, help you get licence expenses under control once and for all and ensure you’re compliant.
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