Top tips to tackle software waste

Waste is a very significant problem in all aspects of IT. Recently, a survey took a long hard look at software waste in corporate environments and what it found was astounding. In the UK alone, there is over £1.7 billion worth of preventable and ongoing cost associated with unused software and shelfware.

The research shows that when managing software licences and assets, most organisations focus on compliance, rather than on controlling costs. Organisations are simply buying more software than they use. Driven by the very real anxiety that a sudden software vendor audit could result in heavy fines or lengthy litigation, many organisations simply over licence, buying more and more software just in case.

Like Goldilocks and her porridge, when it comes to software governance and compliance, every organisation needs to get things ‘just right’. Spend too much and you risk making too big a dent in your budget and therefore limit your ability to invest in strategic projects. By contrast, spend too little and when software vendors approach you about your installed software base you run the risk of non-compliance, fines and legal action.

You would think that CIOs and IT managers would want to do something about this waste, but 1E’s research reveals that just 8% are actively trying to manage the problem by regularly identifying and reclaiming unused software across their organisations.

This is due in part to the fact that over 80% of the CIOs and IT Managers polled during the study felt that software asset management was overly complex. Forrester Research agrees, stating in April 2011 that businesses face ever-more complex licensing rules, increased licence audit activity and proliferating commercial models. Even detecting unused software and shelfware across a myriad of systems, locations, PCs and servers presents a very real challenge for most, never mind reclaiming and reusing those licences.

So how can businesses go about controlling software costs? A simple way to get started is to follow this five step process:

Step one – what do I have installed?

The first step to compliance is getting control of what has been installed in your enterprise. While this may sound an obvious first step, the unfortunate truth for many organisations is that it will boil down to an approximation based on some raw data because of the uncontrolled manner in which software is installed and inventoried. Let’s assume you’ve been able to identify what you have installed, the next step is to identify how much of it is actually yours.

Step two – what do I own?

Research would suggest that nearly half of enterprises still use spreadsheets to record software licenses, with almost 9% still using a paper-based filing system and a staggering 14% using nothing whatsoever. You must be able to identify what you own. Once you can accurately identify what software you have installed and how much of it you own, the next step is to understand how much of what you have is actually needed.

Step three – what do I actually need?

A review of your software estate may well determine how many copies of applications are installed on your systems and whether or not you have paid for those licenses, but you also need to determine which of these software applications are actually being used, by whom and how often. Without usage data, you may be purchasing software based on perceived requirements or user requests, not actual need.

Once you know what software you have, how often you’re are using it, and how much your organisation has purchased, you have the information you need to make informed business decisions. Once you can make informed business decisions, you can put software in place to automate these and keep your environment in an optimal state.

Step four – manage liability and control

If you can find out what you have, how often you’re using it and how much you’re paying for it, how do you manage your liability and control your risk? The key point here is that license management tools need to be “plugged-in” to the active software estate to consistently present compliance status to the IT department.

Rather than simply identifying what has, or has not, been purchased, sophisticated tools can manage centralised deployment and removal of applications, auto-reclaim unused software on one client machine and deploy to another and even ‘rent’ applications to users on a temporary basis for only as long as they need them. They can also reduce ‘shelfware’, from the business. It is these elements of advanced control that set some software license tools apart.

Step five – get it just right!

Making sense of what software you have, why you have it, and where and how it is being used, can allow you to make informed strategic and operational decisions, putting you in a much stronger negotiating position when renewing maintenance or purchasing additional licenses. As Mama Bear proved when preparing the ill-fated three bears’ porridge, getting it ‘just right’ is possible; you just have to know what to do.

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Geoff Collins is a Product Manager at 1E. Reporting to the VP of Software, he is a key member of the innovations team. His primary focus is to help end user customers drive greater efficiencies by identifying, financially quantifying and eliminating software waste from their organisations. In his role, Geoff is a member of the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM) and the Federation Against Sofwtare Theft Investors in Software (FAST IiS). Part of the team since 2004, Geoff has held a number of roles within the company, initially as a Solutions Engineer across the full gamut of 1E software, working with organisations of all sizes across 1E’s key territories in Europe and the United States. Prior to his role at 1E, Geoff worked in IT Operations for Cumbria Police. Geoff is an enthusiastic sailor and has a boat called Jendor, which is moored in the Stockholm Archipelago in Sweden.