Why Are Software Audits Necessary?

How to Save Money on Your Software Licensing

There are plenty of things that can be unpleasant about a work week: that annoying coworker, that difficult proposal, bumper to bumper traffic, and chances are that an unpleasant software audit is also thrown into the mix. However, it’s easy to ask why software audits are so necessary; can’t the software vendor just trust your company to be an honest paying customer? You’re already giving them so much of your IT budget and yet, it seems they keep on coming back for more.

At MetrixData 360, we’ve put a lot of time and effort into understanding the auditors and the software vendors who hire them. So today we’re going to discuss what’s going on in the minds of the ones who send out software audits.

Reason #1: Software Vendors Like Making Money

Software audits are big investments that publishers are putting time and resources into. If you are found out of compliance in a software audit, not only will you have to pay for the missing licenses, you will also have to cover the auditing process, which will include compensating the third-party auditors. Your licenses must be purchased at full price, not at your contractual or historical discounted rate, and, in the case of a Microsoft audit, you will also have to pay an additional 5% penalty fee. A poorly conducted software audit could eat an IT department’s annual budget.

For the software vendors this is an effective means of generating revenue because your options are paying out the auditing penalties year after year or finding a different software vendor to support your company’s IT infrastructure. If your software vendor views your software audit as an investment, it would be logical to assume they would prefer safe investments, the type that are certain to yield a profit.

You can therefore lower your risk of incurring a software audit by making yourself appear like a less profitable target. Being prepared is the best defense against audits.

Reason #2: Compliance Audits Mean Software Sales

Not only should software audits be seen as investments, they are also viewed by the software vendors as sales opportunities. Infoworld’s article, Software Audits: How High Tech Plays Hardball, states that software audits usually end the same way, with the customer handing over cash either to pay for missing licenses or to strike up a new deal with the software vendors.

Vendors go into audits to find mistakes, to strike fear into the hearts of their clients, and just when the sweat has glistened the top of the client’s brow, they offer a deal, then the vicious cycle continues. It is important to not rely solely on the advice of the vendor’s sales rep because they will not be interested in ensuring you spend wisely, just that your spending continues to increase.

The sales department of these software vendors have quotas to meet and they will always push their customers to spend more with them. They are trying to drive up their company’s stock, price after all. When your license is up for renewal, this is the sales rep’s chance to offer better maintenance and better products, not necessarily because it can benefit your company in a substantial way but because it was what they were told to sell. However, if you manage to keep your spending with the vendor what it is, or if you manage to even lower your spending with the vendor, then the sale’s team has a problem because now their quota wasn’t met. How else are they going to squeeze that extra cash from you? Simple, the company will send an audit notification and the vendor’s sales team will practice looking surprised in case you ever mention it to them.

Reason #3: Software Licensing Complexity Plays to the Vendor’s Advantage

There are plenty of reasons that software vendors give to explain the over complication of licensing. According to Softchoice, constant updates to technology means that there needs to be constant license updates to accommodate for those changes. A client may also require unique contracts with licensing specifically tailored to their demands, which makes for a complicated licensing system.

While these points may be true, software vendors do very little to remedy this confusion. In 2009, according to PCworld, then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated that there could be no simplification of licenses expected in the near future.

Having a license for a piece of software doesn’t mean that you own it, it means you’re being granted the ability to use it. Software contracts are unique compared to other types of intellectual property since they can be written to include virtually as many agreements as both parties are willing to sign onto. Contracts are still written by the software vendor’s rules. In fact, the language the software publishers use to write up their licensing agreements is vague enough to make it difficult to understand and tempting to skip over.

However, if you don’t have a full understanding of the rules, how are you supposed to follow them? How are you supposed to work the rules to your advantage if they keep changing? You can’t, and that inability to know all the rules, let alone follow them, is the idea. Software Vendors perform audits the same way you would make your rounds checking the mouse traps in your house to see if any of them have been sprung.

Reason #4: Software Audits Aren’t Meant to Save You Money

Software audits or SAM reviews can be presented in a friendly way, as though it is an opportunity to check that products are being used properly and effectively. However, during a software audit, the third-party auditors will take the data from your software estate and come up with their own estimated licensing position.

It’s important to ask why were they hired? They were hired to find your compliance gaps and might even be paid based on how big a compliance gap they can find. There’s nothing to incentivize the auditors to scrutinize the accuracy of their findings.

If there are grey areas, if there’s room to make assumptions in your profile, they’ll always assume that the most expensive case is the reality, and if they’re wrong, then it’s so much the better for them. The only way you can gain an accurate depiction of your data and know what you actually owe the software vendors is by gathering trustworthy data yourself in order to challenge the software auditor’s findings.

The only way you can have trustworthy data at the ready is by having a strong software asset management system already in place long before the auditors arrive. The auditors will also fail to provide you with any information that indicates where you are overspending because that’s not what they were hired for. Even if there are areas where you could save money with the vendor, even if there are ways you could maximize the efficiency of how the software is utilized, those won’t be the talking points during an audit.

MetrixData 360 Makes Software Compliance Easy

Software audits happen; it’s an unfortunate truth that businesses must live with. With software audits only happening more frequently, it’s not a matter of if your business will be audited, but when. It’s important that you have a system in place that can accurately capture your data, which is where software asset management comes in. At MetrixData 360, we know how the software vendors think, and we know how to defend our client’s time and resources throughout the process. By clicking the link below you can head over to our Audit Defense page, where you can learn more about how MetrixData 360 can help you through a software audit.

Make SAM Easier for Everyone

Software asset management, especially when you are just starting out in your SAM journey, can easily prove an overwhelming, exhausting, and discouraging experience. It can be a laborious headache if you take the wrong approach to it, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way – there are things you can do to make software asset management a little easier. At MetrixData 360, our job is to make your job easier regarding your software licensing environment, so today we’ll be discussing ways to work smarter and not harder on your SAM program.

Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations

One of the greatest pitfalls for someone just starting out with software asset management is getting too overwhelmed too quickly. Peeking into your software environment is enough to reveal an endless number of tasks and potential problems you now have to fix. For many companies, they feel it’s better not to look and hope the problem will sort itself out eventually.

While sticking your head in the sand is not an effective way to tackle software asset management, neither is trying to do everything at once. There are varying levels to SAM maturity, each with their own goals and objectives.

Chaos: You have no control and no visibility into your software environment. Your only goal is to merely gain visibility.

Reactive: You know what is in your software environment. A software audit at this stage means mainly performing damage control. Your goal here is to reach compliance.

Compliance Plus: Now that you’ve reached compliance you now have the information you need to defend yourself in an audit and perform the risk management needed to prevent one from reoccurring.

Optimization: Now that you have your software environment officially under control, you can start working towards finding cost-saving opportunities.

Amplified Value: Your software environment is under control. You know what your software environment contains; your compliance issues, if they occur, are handled before they appear in an audit, and you have started to find ways to cut costs. Now your goal is to make sure your hard work is maintained, and this level of organization becomes standard practice.

 

It may not be necessary for you to achieve the highest level of SAM based on what your company is hoping to get out of it, and it’s important to remember that 100% visibility and 100% accuracy will be next to impossible with enterprise-level software environments. 70%-80% would be a more realistic and attainable goal.

Communicate with Staff

Companies are made up of a lot of different people and very few of them will probably take deep enjoyment out of hearing about software asset management, but it’s important that staff are all on the same page with software, especially when it comes to the following pain points.

Comers, Movers, and Leavers

Companies are full of many moving parts; new hires coming in, employees moving from one department to another, and retiring employees all pose the question of what happens to their software licenses? Not having a strong process in place could mean accidentally having to pay for duplicated licenses or active ‘shelfware’ that your company is still paying for even though no one has used it in ages. Where do new hires go to get their new desktops? Where do retirees take their desktops when they’re done? Do people take their licenses with them to new departments? If not, what do you do with them afterward? Making sure that people understand these processes is critical to the success of your software asset management.

Shadow IT

Not knowing what people are downloading can become a serious issue for companies. Especially when seemingly free versions of things become less free when introduced to a corporate setting. An example of this can be seen in our article, The Invisible Risk of Oracle VirtualBox, where Oracle has ended up auditing clients based on their use of the seemingly free application VirtualBox. While it may be impossible and impractical to monitor everyone’s access to every website, especially given that forcing employees to seek permission every time they download free software might bog down productivity, it is nevertheless important to make staff aware of the risk of downloading certain products off of the Internet.

A Single Tool Won’t Save You

The last thing you want to do is put too much faith in your inventory tool. While inventory tools are essential to modern software asset management (unless you’d care to be driven to insanity counting your licenses manually), your job with software asset management is not finished when the tool is done installing. A single tool has the potential to increase your visibility by only 20%. It’s only after the installation of additional SAM tools, and their proper management and upkeep, that companies reach that 70%-80% visibility range.

Be Careful When Buying Bundled Packages

Buying a bunch of software in bundles may seem like it would be more convenient but when trying to organize these bundles, you’ll find that things can become quite a challenge. For one thing, SAM tools are often confused by bundled packages and it could fail to accurately document the bundled software, leaving you with a blind spot in your software asset management that you’ll eventually have to fix, either now or later when you’re in the middle of an audit. It also creates issues because bundles do not always come with sufficient proof of purchase receipts, which are imperative for success in any copyright infringement claims.

Moving to the Cloud also can pose challenges if done incorrectly. We have seen that there is often a spike in software cost when businesses transition to the Cloud due to staff given free rein to spin up Cloud instances, leave projects running, or simply buying more than they need.

It is important to be aware of these issues and the expensive headaches they can cause if your company heads to the Cloud thoughtlessly.

Moving to the Cloud Comes With its Own Challenges

Have a Software Audit Process in Place

The sad reality is that software audits do happen and so it is important to have a standard procedure in place in case one occurs. Instead of panicking, have a series of response emails ready to pick from, have a strategy prepared and in place, and know exactly what to expect out from a software audit. This will keep you from scrambling to get your data and responses together. At MetrixData 360, we’ve designed a Software Audit Defense Process, which can provide you and your company with the insights they need to create a strong, effective software audit procedure.

SAM Makes Everything IT Related Easier

From IT Staff and Security to Procurement, having a strong software asset management process implemented throughout your company will make the lives of your staff easier. IT Security will have a cleaned up, streamlined, and complete picture of the software environment that they monitor. Procurement will have full confidence in knowing what they need to purchase and whether there are licenses that already exist in their software licensing environment that can be recycled. With SAM, the CFO will not have to crunch the numbers to come up with the cash for a massive audit penalty, instead they can harvest saving opportunities for the betterment of the IT department. The IT department will have the data they need to effectively advocate for needed software. While this isn’t necessarily a point in how to make your Software Asset Management challenge a little easier, it does demonstrate how much easier everything else can become when SAM is properly implemented.

Want Easy Software Asset Management? Call MetrixData 360

Software Asset Management is far from an easy task, and it can quickly become complicated and overwhelm you if you try to jump headfirst without looking. However, there are ways to limit this confusion and make your life (and the lives of your IT Staff) that much easier.

At MetrixData 360, we pride ourselves in making your software asset management easier by taking care of the heavy lifting for you. We have had clients with year-long audits who barely put in a few hours of work, and we’ve provided clients with reports on their software environment that would have taken weeks to collect, with barely an hour’s work on their part. The rest of the work was left to us, the SAM experts. If you would like help on your software asset management, you can contact us today and get connected with our Director of Client Success for more information.

5 Key Traits to Winning Contract Negotiations

Contract negotiation is not an exact science, it is an art form and to be successful at contract negotiation it takes the right frame of mind. Personality plays a large role in how your contract negotiation will play out and it is more important than ever that companies walk away from their software contracts with a good deal designed to nurture the long-term growth of their company. At MetrixData360, we have sat through countless negotiations and we know what kind of an attitude it takes to see success from one.

1. Positivity

Even though sometimes contract negotiations feel like you’re bashing your head against a wall, a successful negotiator radiates optimism. No matter how good it will feel to let them know just a fraction of your frustrations, it will not get you anything but stony and uncompromising faces. Instead state how happy you are to see your sales rep when they walk in — bring excitement and enthusiasm into the meeting and hopefully it will be contagious.

Now, that being said, don’t be fake with your smile. It’s important that you come across as sincere and genuine. The last thing you want is for your sales rep to feel as though you are untrustworthy. Build your integrity with the sales rep by keeping your appointments, following the rules (to the best of your ability), and remaining honest.

When confronted with challenges, approach the situation without aggression and instead try to phrase your concerns in the form of questions. Make sure that you ask enough questions to fully understand your contract.

2. Bravery

You will also need to be brave in your software contract negotiation. It may seem intimidating but there’s only one way to become braver: do something that you are afraid of and do it often, then it will steadily become less scary over time. In order to build your confidence, it is important to be prepared. You need to make certain you have a strong stance on what you and your company are aiming to achieve. If you are frustrated by a long drawn out process, make sure that you make this frustration known to the software publisher. You will also not be able to win if you are full of fear and uncertainty. That certainty comes from a firm knowledge of what is in your software licensing environment and that your data is accurate Visibility into your data is gained through the successful implementation of software asset management. If you’d like to learn about how you can get started with software asset management, you can check out our article, Getting Started: Implementing Software Asset Management.

3. Ingenuity

Who says there is no room for creativity in the business world, especially in the seemingly unforgiving realm of software contracts? Software publishers are often willing to hear out creative ideas and will reward you for your outside-of-the-box thinking. Creativity is often required if you are going to get what you want out of your contract negotiations. Benchmark your progress with your contracts against past deals you have made with that vendor and use that to build a creative solution.

4. Generosity

As social animals, we tend to gravitate towards people who offer us both kindness and generosity, same goes with your software vendor. We’re not saying you should throw copious amounts of money at the software vendor for no good reason – quite the opposite. Offer up information and be willing to share details and specifics, something that won’t jeopardize the competitive edge of your company, but your software vendor will still find valuable, such as an introduction to a potential client. Such information will generate trust and create a sense of partnership between the two of you.

Generosity is an active form of both empathy and sympathy. Spending some time to understand the needs, wants, and pressures driving your opposition will give you valuable insight into how to tactfully approach the negotiating table.

5. Humility

If you have ever worked in retail, you know the agony of challenging customers. They made your job so much harder, and you counted the seconds until they would leaveleft the room and doing favors for those people was probably the farthest thing from your mind. The life of a sales rep, regardless of whether they sell coffee or software licenses, is hard enough. Making their day that much more challenging won’t get you the software contract terms you want. In fact, it’s a good way to raise the floor-price that your sales rep is willing to go down to.

Be an ideal customer and treat your sales rep kindly. Take the time to understand the sales rep’s motivation, it will help you through your contract negotiations and it will allow you to phrase your position in just such a way to appeal to their interests. Now, being kind is not the same thing as being a pushover — don’t agree to any deals just because you are afraid of hurting the sales rep’s feelings. Be kind but be clear and assertive about your position. A healthy relationship is one where both parties feel respected and heard and is fertile ground for positive negotiations.

For More Information

Contract Negotiations can be frustrating but it’s important that you enter the meeting with the right frame of mind. It can make all the difference if you want to leave the contract negotiation having fostered a mutually beneficial relationship. Now that you have the right attitude, it’s time to set it to work. At MetrixData 360, we have helped hundreds of clients achieve the contracts they want without damaging the relationship with the vendor. You can learn more about how to get ready for your contract renewal by reading our article, 5 Simple Tips for Software Contract Negotiation.

Microsoft SPLA Contracts Explained

Microsoft SPLA Contracts

Oh, the joys of software licensing, empowering you with the technology your company needs to grow. Of the software licenses out there, at MetrixData360, we have seen many people come to us asking for help regarding their Microsoft SPLA licensing, a delightful jewel in Microsoft’s licensing crown. Is investing in an SPLA license a smart move for your company? What will happen if you are audited on your SPLA? In this article we’ll tackle some of your most pressing questions regarding SPLAs, so that you can make an informed decision that drives your company’s future development instead of hindering it.

 

What is an SPLA

Microsoft’s Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) gives you the ability to play Microsoft’s middleman if your business involves some element of hosting applications, data, or websites. It is the most common license that they offer to their customers who are service providers. When you’re given an SPLA license, you can provide the software you’ve purchased to your end-users and charge them monthly for your software as a service (SaaS).

In turn, Microsoft charges you monthly as well based on your license consumption rate, as opposed to simply paying an upfront fee like perpetual licenses. Unlike other forms of licensing, such as MSPA, where the license merely is transferred through you (Microsoft gives it to you, you give it to your customer and the customer becomes the licensee), with a Microsoft SPLA your name remains on the licenses for the products that your clients use and you report the usage of your licenses back to Microsoft. Being a reseller of Microsoft can be a wonderful business opportunity, creating for you a fruitful income and the option of having a uniquely packaged solution for your customers.

Do I need an SPLA?

Here are the three most common scenarios where an SPLA is required:

  • You host a third-party application with Microsoft’s Infrastructure?
  • You are Hosting as a Service (HaaS), which includes website hosting, data hosting, and file-sharing?
  • You have a Multi-Tenant Cloud platform or have a multi-tenant Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

Benefits of an SPLA

There are many benefits to purchasing a Services Provider License Agreement:

  • The services you provide to your customers are tailored to their needs.
  • You pay-as-you-go, no start up fees, no long-term commitments, it can prove ideal if many of your customers have seasonal work that needs to be adjusted throughout the year.
  • Microsoft will give you and your clients the latest software products.
  • Your services can be offered to anyone in any country that you are legally allowed to sell Microsoft to.
  • You can sample the products yourself before they are offered to your customers and, in return, you can offer sample products to up to 50 of your clients to test the software for a free 60 day trial period.
  • You can sell to academic institutions at specific pricing.
  • You can leverage data center providers for IaaS or outsourcing capabilities.
  • Your Microsoft Business and Service Agreement (MSBA) needs only to be signed once. After that, all smaller and simpler SPLA licensed can be filed under it, which you need to sign every three years.

The VSA and the SPLA Audit

An SPLA audit reveals the treacherous complexity of the software contract that you’ve signed up for. The reason why Microsoft conducts these audits are to both ensure compliance and to confirm that the MBSA (Microsoft Business and Services Agreement) provides them with the right to audit their customers. You may incur the wrath of either Microsoft’s verified self-assessment (VSA) or an SPLA audit.

It can often be tricky to initially tell if you’ve been notified for either a VSA or a SPLA. VSA notifications are done usually through email (make sure to verify its authenticity before handing over sensitive data or clicking any links, there are scammers out there sending emails disguised as legitimate SAM reviews). A full SPLA audit will usually be sent through a formal letter and will usually disclose whether it is an audit or a VSA. You can expect a SPLA audit or VSA to arrive sooner rather than later if you and your company have experienced any of the following recently:

  • You have gone through a merger or acquisition
  • You have missed an SPLA report
  • Your SPLA reporting has increased or decreased
  • Providing a Microsoft Solution to your customers without the SPLA to back it up
  • Your reports only display minimum usage while your business shows signs of growth

A Microsoft SPLA Full Audit

Once you have determined the ifs, whys, and hows, the process is pretty similar for VSAs and SPLAs. You will be asked to retrieve data either at the auditors’ beck and call (in a full audit) or using your own internal resources (VSA). A Microsoft SPLA audit runs a similar course to a regular audit and a more in-depth look of the audit procedure can be found in our articles, Software Audits: The Fundamentals, and Software Audit Preparation. There are a few differences between an SPLA audit and regular audit, including:

  • An SPLA audit will involve looking at data that goes back much farther compared to the data examined in a regular audit, sometimes looking as far back as three years. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a pristine long-term record of your monthly reports, since a lack of this data will mean that the auditors will assume the worst-case (and most expensive case for you) is the reality.
  • Auditors will be interested in data that involves user access to products as opposed to actual usage, since an SPLA has different product use rights compared to perpetual licenses.
  • BYOLs and License Mobility will prove a focal point of the audit, since many hosts will allow end users to bring in licenses from their own EAs, and as such, it is important that you verify compliance in regard to these scenarios.

The Self-Certification Audit or Verified Self-Assessment(VSA)

The latest version of Microsoft’s audit, the self-certification audit or verified self-assessment (VSA), runs a little differently from regular audits since you’ll be able to prove your compliance without having to supply your deployment data, as has been the tradition of to this point. Instead, Microsoft will give you the choice of doing your own internal review. From there, you will affirm that you either have no missing licenses, or that you are missing licenses and will purchase the licenses that are required to make up for any unlicensed usage. You will also likely be required to present a corrective strategy that will decrease the likelihood of this happening again in the future. The process can be concluded quickly since there is no need to present evidence or negotiate over a settlement.

Getting Ready for an SPLA Audit

Sadly, audits are inevitable. While you can lower your risk of an SPLA audit by paying attention to the factors that might incur an audit, it’s difficult to avoid them entirely. So, the best thing you can do is to be prepared (an SPLA audit should be expected once every three years). Here are some tips for how you can prepare for your software audit:

  • Have all the hosted offers that either directly or indirectly deal with Microsoft products organized and ensure they are appropriately licensed, most often through your SPLA.
  • Have a tool that effectively captures the status of your software profile.
  • Keep historical records in order, going back many years. Include information such as the machines and users which contributed to each monthly report.
  • Be prepared to defend any BYOL scenarios since, as the host, you will be responsible.
  • Perform internal audits frequently to assess the health of your software profile and to address any issues before they are brought up in an audit.
  • Have an effective software asset management strategy in place to ensure that your software environment is not only compliant but maximizing value from your software licenses.

For More Information

SPLA’s can prove a fantastic asset for your company if used correctly. Software licensing may be a maze (Microsoft in particular is known for their confusing licensing and merciless auditing), but you can learn to navigate these treacherous waters with the right tool kit at your disposal. At MetrixData360, we have dealt with Microsoft for many, many years now. We know how to maximize the value of your SPLA ,so if you would like more information on how you can partner with MetrixData360 for the benefit of your business, click the link below to learn more about how MetrixData360 can help you negotiate your next SPLA agreement.

How To Increase Value and Lower Cost with Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 are wonderful, although potentially expensive, tools that can boost production and connectivity in your business. Especially with the current situation in which we are living, where businesses are forced to either work from home or temporarily shut down entirely, Office 365 may be critical to your business. But for roughly 44% of businesses with Office 365, their subscriptions are underutilized, or they are buying a more expensive product than they need. At MetrixData 360, we are experts when it comes to the proper management of licenses and subscriptions, so here is a list of tips on how to get the most out of your Office 365 Licenses.

Optimization Through Education

Companies are built through the efforts of a wide variety of people, all with different educations, experience, and expertise. While your company may hold some tech-savvy people who fully harness all their Office 365 license may offer, there may still be employees who only open Office to check an email simply because they don’t know about Office’s amazing features. Accessing the video training that Microsoft offers is a great way to catch everyone up on the value of their own licenses; you can also set mandatory lesson plans and training sessions to encourage participation. What’s the point of having great licenses if no one knows how to use them?

Create a Value Gap

While there may be employees who only open Office to check an email because they don’t know about the value Office offers, other employees might rarely use Office simply because of the type of job they have. Doctors who are on their feet all day and who all share a desktop, or manual laborers who only interact with technology to clock their working hours, are just two examples of workers who don’t need a top-of-the-line Office 365 subscription to get their jobs done. Yet, when companies buy their Office subscriptions, they purchase only thinking about the members of their company who need five screens to get their work done. Those users will rely heavily on the subscription and so will require the most expensive one. It would make no sense to buy an expensive, top-of-the-line license for every employee if not every employee will use it to the same extent, therefore it’s important to make unique profiles with consideration to each employee’s workload and their needs. Perhaps employees who are extreme tech users will need an E5 license, but those who only use their Office 365 to check their emails will only require an E1.

Consider if You Honestly Need an E5 license

The E5 licenses is the most expensive but also offers the most expansive package, including all of Office’s services and products. However, among companies who have purchased the E5 license, 38% have the possibility of downsizing all the way down to the E1, which while it is more basic, it is also far cheaper. They have this possibility simply because they are barely using all the features that come with the E5 license. If you aren’t using it, why have it? Especially when it comes to subscription licenses. Before this current age of subscription licenses in the Cloud, it was considered a smart business move to purchase a software license that was a little bigger than necessary to leave room for any expected growth in the immediate future. As companies are making the transition to the Cloud, that knee-jerk reaction of buying more than you need remains. It’s important that you only buy what you are intending to use, since it is easy to upgrade with Microsoft at any time but far more difficult to downsize.

Track Your Spend and Usage

Knowledge will be your most important tool at your disposal when trying to cut back on your Office 365 spend. You’ll need data and visibility into how much of their subscription your staff actually use on a daily basis or if your employees are allowed to use everything they are using. Many companies have difficulty keeping track or making sense of the data collection that Microsoft offers. This is why at MetrixData 360, we have SLIM 360 our proprietary Office 365 Licensing Tool. Our tool’s prized features include (although not limited to):

Track Your Spend and Usage

Knowledge will be your most important tool at your disposal when trying to cut back on your Office 365 spend. You’ll need data and visibility into how much of their subscription your staff actually use on a daily basis or if your employees are allowed to use everything they are using. Many companies have difficulty keeping track or making sense of the data collection that Microsoft offers. This is why at MetrixData 360, we have SLIM 360 our proprietary Office 365 Licensing Tool. Our tool’s prized features include (although not limited to):

  • Detecting Multiple Subscriptions: Multiple subscriptions for Office 365 can be accidentally repurchased over time and can prove to be a quiet drain on the IT budget.
  • Tracking Consumption of Subscriptions Over Time: You can track how much you owe and what sort of value your company is getting out of these subscriptions.
  • Detecting Blocked Users: Sometimes having a blocked user is intentional, but other times the customer is unaware of these subscribed users, and the user themselves will be unaware since they can’t access the account. By removing their subscriptions, you can save a lot of money.
  • Detecting Last Usage: If an account has not been active in 90 days or longer, it usually means one of two things: either the account has been retired (or at least attempted to be), or it simply belongs to a user who doesn’t need the subscription. Either case justifies the removal of the license.

Download our free PDF on the usage and licensing capabilities of SLIM 360

Start Saving Now!

For More Information

Saving money doesn’t always mean lessening the quality of the product. At MetrixData 360, our goal is cutting away waste, so you get the most out of what you pay for. Given the current global situation, now is not the time to be wasting money on things that your business doesn’t need. If you’d like to learn how you can save on your Office 365 license, or elsewhere in your software environment, feel free to contact us, and our director of client success will get back to you within 24 hours.

Software Asset Management in a Post COVID World

SAM After COVID-19

Right now, it may seem like there’s no end to this COVID-19 madness, but with small glimmers of light at the end of this dark tunnel fast approaching, it’s important to consider what the other side of this pandemic will look like for businesses. According to Research and Market’s book, Software Asset Management – Market Analysis, Trends, and Forecasts, Software Asset Management was expected to grow by USD$2.1 billion worldwide, although that was before the world turned upside-down. While these exact numbers may no longer be the case, in a pandemic, software asset management is still expected to become a major asset for companies wishing to drive down their software costs.

At MetrixData 360, we’ve been demonstrating our knowledge as software asset management experts for seven years now, and we thought we’d share how we expect the software world to change once COVID-19 comes to an end.

For the Short Term

Welcome to the Cloud

Businesses were already packing up and moving to the Cloud to take advantage of the flexibility and the freeing up of resources it provides even before the pandemic struck. However, when COVID-19 swept the global stage, companies either had to figure out a way to keep their employees working remotely, file as an essential service, or essentially shut down. This has left companies scrambling to get into the online Cloud business quickly – on both sides of the aisle. Video Conferencing Channels are booming, Zoom for instance has received more downloads of their product in these past few months than they saw during all of 2019.

With employees still meeting targets at home even without checking in at the office, it offers a great argument for remote work, that you don’t necessarily have to clock your employees’ productivity by the number of hours they sit at their desk. Remote work could very easily pick up in popularity, which raises the question – are you ready for the Cloud?

There can be issues with moving to the Cloud, especially when the transition is rushed. Such issues like improperly sized instances and licensing metric changes can cause an unexpected spike in costs.

What this means for SAM is that monitoring Cloud usage and spending will become a bigger priority as COVID-19 continues into the summer.

At the SAM Summit in Chicago, presenters pointed out that most companies see 35% of wastage when it comes to their Cloud profile. Getting such unneeded spending under control should be the priority for many companies in the upcoming months. This wastage comes from the complexity and variety of Cloud pricing models, the lack of control over provisioning, and the constant stream of system updates.

Related: Moving to the Cloud? 5 Problems You’ll Need to Address

The Short-Lived Generosity of Software Vendors

In this turbulent time, the software vendors have offered generous packages to help businesses adjust to the pandemic. Microsoft announced Teams will be available to everyone for six months, an E1 license available to businesses, and an A1 license for those in academia. These licenses are the minimum level you need to access Teams. Likewise, Adobe has also announced that it will allow students and teachers temporary free access to the Creative Cloud until either the schools reopen or until May 31, 2020.

A Rise in Software Audits

We have all faced some difficulty with COVID-19, and the software vendors are no exception. They’ll be eager to make up for the lost revenue that they experienced while businesses were shut down or weathering the pandemic’s storm. So, we can expect to see an increase in software audits as soon as this crisis is over, if not before. We have already had customers come to us with an audit notice from a software vendor, wondering how they will ever get the information that’s required if they can’t even go to the office!

It’s important that your company is ready, despite the circumstances. Make sure that even seemingly free software is not installed without your knowledge, and be sure you understand whether or not your licenses can be placed on personal devices for remote work. Ignoring these issues now can easily lead to huge problems later.

Related: The Complete Software Audit Defense Manual

For the Long-Term

Software Asset Management Tool Dissatisfaction is on the Rise

This is true, regardless of COVID-19, Smarter with Gartner points out that satisfied customers for SAM tools will only sit at 25% this year, with most SAM customers finding that the product fails to meet expectations. The reason for this can be found in the ever-increasing complexity of SAM, especially with the Cloud coming along to muddy the waters further.

SAM tools also have their limitations, as we discuss in our article, Why Do Software Asset Management Tools Stink at Software Asset Management? Some of the limitations of SAM tools include:

  • Bad inventory data
  • Failure to account for duplicates
  • Failure to identify development and test environments
  • Inability to account for license model changes
  • Virtualization and Cloud models are too complicated
  • OEM and retail box purchase also confuse the SAM tools

These shortcomings that appear in SAM tools will force businesses to either compensate by buying another SAM tool or take up the work themselves by creating spreadsheets and manually counting, which will be increasingly difficult as the pandemic carries on and more impractical as IT infrastructure grows more complex.

API Transactions

What we think will take place in the rest of the year and into 2021, according to our professional opinion at MetrixData 360, is that there will be a surge in microtransactions through APIs. “Microtransaction” is currently only a term used to describe any additional purchases that occur inside a video game, such as paying real money for additional weapons or resources. It can be frustrating for players who have already purchased the game, especially when the additional purchases become necessary as a way to advance through the game (pay-to-win scenarios), and it may become a term that frustrates IT departments in the workplace as well in the coming months.

Few people understand what APIs are or the key role they serve within a company’s IT infrastructure. APIs basically act as messengers between different applications. Applications themselves don’t talk to one another and their interaction is dependent either on some poor intern writing the same information repeatedly in each application, or the APIs doing it.

APIs, therefore, are imperative for the functioning of business, and we think that software vendors are going to begin charging businesses for the use of their APIs. For instance, two years ago, Salesforce purchased Mulesoft, which manages APIs, and is now offering businesses the use of Mulesoft’s technology to connect their applications to one another.

We have already begun seeing it as our clients rack up massive bills because their vendors have begun to charge them a seemingly small fee every time that APIs are used. In the same way that gamers can become frustrated when they are forced to whip out their credit cards for every level they advance, so too will such constant minor charges cause a headache for software asset managers.

Currently, there is no sufficient way to monitor API usage, and if there is no way to know how much you are using, you cannot accurately determine if you are being charged in a manner that reflects what you actually owe.

A New Way to Conduct Software Asset Management

Despite the hardship and tragedy of COVID-19, we will get through this, and it’s important that we work together while the economy recovers. Great tech doesn’t solve a people problem; the new age must be powered by people who are on board with IT investments and willing to gain control of their software environment before such disorganization leaves them exposed to software audits and wasted spending. At MetrixData 360, we pride ourselves in being educators so that our clients understand what we are doing and will be able to improve their SAM practices even after our engagement has closed, providing them with long-lasting value.

If you’d like to learn how you can cut your software expenses down during a Crisis, you can check out our article, How Will Your Software Contracts Be Affected By COVID-19?

Creating a Healthier Vendor Relationship with SAM

How Software Asset Management Can Help Your Vendor Relationship

There are many advantages to software asset management; it can provide you with valuable cost-saving opportunities, and it can make sure that your software environment is both legally sound and safe from security threats. However, many companies hesitate to adopt software asset management solutions because they are afraid it will create tension in their software vendor relationship. They would rather nod their way through a software audit than challenge any of the software vendor’s findings, and they’d rather sign any deal that is offered to them as opposed to going toe-to-toe in negotiations.

The last thing you want to do is make your software vendor angry with you, especially when their software critical to your business. However, software asset management can easily provide benefits to the software vendor as well and can improve your relationship with them. At MetrixData 360, we know all about the relationship between vendor and client and how delicate that relationship can be. We have successfully navigated these treacherous waters for many years, and we have seen companies who implement software asset management and achieve a mutually beneficial relationship with their vendor along the way.

Software Audit Prevention

While software audits are performed by software companies, this doesn’t mean that it is necessarily something they want to undertake. Software audits are an investment for the software vendor, they must hire an auditing firm, or they get their own people to manage the project. The whole reason why they tolerate and perform software audits is because they feel cheated, they suspect you are using software you are not paying for and they want to be justly compensated. It may be an honest mistake on your part but to the software vendor, there is always that tiny doubt in the back of their minds that asks what if it’s not?

We have come across businesses who knew that they had software they didn’t have the licenses for and their strategy to address that issue was ‘we’ll pay when we get caught in the next audit’.

Imagine if you had a roommate who would only clean up their mess if you screamed, threatened to throw them out, and otherwise made a beast of yourself. It would obviously be an unpleasant experience for the roommate, but it would also be an unpleasant experience for you as you fight an uphill battle, straining your relationship beyond repair, just to get them to do what you both had originally agreed to. Software audits are an excellent source of revenue for software vendors, but you know what is better? Not having a compliance issue in the first place by simply following the rules and making the correct payments on time. The vendor gets exactly what they are owed, and you gain the reputation of being an ideal customer. You need software asset management to achieve such results with your software vendor.

Related:  Learn how to prevent, prepare, and control the software audit process.

Provide Them with Useful Feedback

The software vendors want to serve you better, they want to be able to provide you with the software that matches your business needs. However, if you have ever been in a position where you are looking for constructive feedback, one of the most frustrating type to get is just a simple nod and ‘everything’s great!’ While it might make you feel good, there’s nowhere you can really go from there. Being able to have an open dialogue with your vendor concerning the software you need and having that conversation backed by strong data, will give the vendors valuable feedback on how to better provide you with quality customer service. Instead of your conversations with the vendor solely focused on whether you’re in compliance, you can move your relationship forward with control and precision.

SAM Allows You to Frame Win-Win Scenarios

If you don’t know the first thing about your software environment, then the only real strategy you can implement during any upcoming software contract negotiations is how to get a discount. These savings may serve your company well for the short-term, but it may cut down on the quality of the product and it is an arrangement the software vendor would obviously be opposed to. Instead of resorting to strong-arm tactics and tense drawn-out stand offs, knowing what you have in your software environment will allow you to understand the whole picture of your company’s needs. You can then structure your partnership with the vendor over the long-term to ensure equal opportunities for growth and profit. Software asset management gives you the visibility into your data that you need to track the value of the software vendor’s products.

Related: Dominate your next software contract negotiation with our Guide to Negotiating Software Contracts

Where to Get Started?

While software asset management primarily has interests in benefiting your own company, there are ways software asset management can improve your relationship with your software vendor. It is better than having the software vendor frustrated that they are not getting what they are owed and fearing that you may have done that on purpose. Instead, your relationship will be able to flourish with software asset management because it is your chance to prove that you take their software licensing seriously. At MetrixData 360, we also take your software licensing seriously and we want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your software without running into any issues with compliance. If you would like to know more about how you can get started with software asset management, you can check out our article, Implementing Software Asset Management for Beginners.

Getting Ready for a Microsoft True-Up

Your annual Microsoft true-up is approaching. You’ve used Microsoft products throughout the year and now the anniversary of your purchase is drawing near and it’s time to pay for anything that is net-new or to accommodate for any growth that your company has seen. Time to dust off your Microsoft true-up process once again. You do have one of those, right?

 

Your Microsoft True-Up Process

If you’re one of the many businesses with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, then you will need to have everything organized at least 30 to 60 days before your true-up date. But how do you go about gathering all the information you need?

How do you even begin to get ready for your Microsoft True-Up?  

At MetrixData 360, we have helped our clients get through countless Microsoft True-ups in one piece and want to share with you what to expect and how to prepare. 

Table of Contents

 

Don’t forget to fill out the form to download our free Microsoft True-Up guide:



Microsoft Enterprise Agreements: The Basics

Having an Enterprise Agreement (EA) comes with many delightful advantages, namely it provides tempting pricing, discounts, and added benefits for your IT infrastructure.

The agreement also provides flexibility. Instead of grinding your business’s growth to a screeching halt every time you need to buy new licenses, you simply add any changes to your technological landscape to your tab, so to speak, and your true-up is then adjusted to account for any software you’ve used over the previous year.

However, the agreement is not without its faults. For instance, EAs are one of the more complex agreements Microsoft offers. They require high up-front payments and, while it is easy to scale up, you’ll find it will be quite painful to reduce any of your subscriptions.

The EA’s New Look

Recent changes to EA licensing have made things a little bit more difficult for customers who already have an EA in place.

As we covered in our article, Microsoft Changes Minimum Enterprise Agreement Qualified User/Device Count, in 2016 Microsoft changed the minimum number of user/device count customers required in order to qualify for an EA license. The change expanded to a 500 device minimum, with a breathing period for customers with less than 500 devices/users who already had an EA in place prior to July of 2016. For those “breathing room” clients, they could renew their licenses after an additional 36 months.

July 2019 saw the end of that grace period, with customers who had an EA in place but less than 500 users/devices being forced to either pay for 500 licenses (even if they didn‘t need them) in order to meet the minimum or consider alternative licensing options with this upcoming renewal.

Microsoft also announced in October 2018 that the programmatic discounts that were once offered to Level A EA customers (customers with anywhere from 250–2,399 devices/users) have been removed.

Without these discounts in place, the EA no longer offers the most appealing pricing model compared with other volume licenses. Unless, of course, you care to get into a contract negotiation with Microsoft.

What Type of Products are Part of Your Microsoft True-Up?

There are four different types of products that are a part of your EA true-ups. The type of product you have determines your rights and limitations during the true-up.

Enterprise

If the sum of the products in your true-up can be classified as Enterprise, it means that the products fall under the definition for Qualified Device (in the case of Enterprise Products) or Qualified User (In the case of Enterprise Online Services).

For this reason, you need to license all of your Enterprise Products by devices or all your Enterprise Online Services by users as Microsoft defines Qualified Device or Qualified User.

The only way you can get out of licensing your enterprise products this way is by exempting them in a legally sound way. The Enterprise Agreement allows you to purchase products that are counted only at the time that the true-up order is placed, which can be worked to your advantage.

On your Customer Price Sheet (CSP), which is a list of the products that are in your EA along with your discounted prices, if you have any, the Enterprise products will be listed at the top, followed by the Enterprise Online Services.

  • Enterprise Products: More traditional products, such as Office Pro, Core CAL, Windows Desktop OS.
  • Enterprise Online Services: Online services such as Office 365 E1, E3, E5, SCE E3/5, SPE E3/5

Additional Products

This is Microsoft’s little wild card that we have seen clients struggle to compensate for.

The nature of the EA is that you can add additional licenses to your agreement quickly and easily, and you will simply have to pay for any additional licenses that you have acquired over the year at your true-up.

This kind of setup encourages a mindset where you only need to worry about your licensing count when your true-up date approaches. However, when it comes to additional products, you must pay for the maximum number of licenses you have had since the last true-up.

Such a requirement means that to have additional products means that you need to be constantly monitoring them. Even though this only applies to the Additional Products, Microsoft will often play it off as though the true-up for the Enterprise products needs to be paid according to this rule as well, where you pay for the maximum number of products you possessed throughout the year, despite the fact that there is no evidence that you need to do so outlined in your EA.

Your additional products can be found on the second half of your CSP, usually buried down at the bottom, after your Enterprise Products and your Enterprise Online Services.

  • Additional Products: Products that aren’t classified as Enterprise, such as Windows/SQL Server, Project Visio

Online Services

Online services are only slightly more difficult than the additional products to understand. According to your EA, online services provide you with the option to defer payment for your monthly fee up until the point where you’ve installed the product. If you have only been running it for three months upon the approach of the true-up, then you’ll be paying only for those three months and you’ll only see an invoice on the anniversary date if you have a reservation.

How do you know what your reservation is? You can find your reservation report on your Office 365 portal. This will tell you what kind of licenses you have reserved and how many.

 

  • Additional Products Online Services: Online products that do not classify as Enterprise, such as Power BI and Lock Box

Where Do I Find My Counts?

After you have established how you will be expected to license your products, now there is the hurdle of finding the numbers you need to give an accurate report on your usage. To find these numbers, you have a few methods at your disposal:

 

  • Your Active Directory:

    This should be the first place you check on your way to compliance. However, many organizations do not look here. Looking elsewhere will make it difficult to determine things like line or work. By just going off of the raw data that other inventory systems can provide to you, it will be very difficult to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions.

  • Your SCCM or Your SAM Tool (Use for your Qualified Device Count only):

    Whatever tool you have implemented is a great way to monitor and subsequently count what you have in your software environment. However, it is important to ensure that these are accurate numbers that your tools are reporting, as faulty numbers will undermine your whole SAM process and it will fail to provide you with a true reflection of your data.

  • HR Systems and Email Accounts (Use for your Qualified User Count only):

    While it may not be as defendable in a software audit as the count in your Active Directory, the numbers pulled from either your HR systems or simply your email accounts may be enough for your true-up.

  • Guess-timation:

    We have often seen with our customers, when they do not have access to the data, they are forced to simply make a rough guess. If you have 1,000 employees and you know each employee has a desktop, that means you need 1,000 licenses and the job is done, right? Obviously, at MetrixData 360, we do not advocate for such a method.

What Will Happen During a Microsoft True-Up?

There are a few things that you can expect from Microsoft leading up to your True-up.

 

90 Days Before: You can expect to hear from your reseller or your Microsoft Account Team concerning your upcoming true-up. They’ll ask for an update as to how many software licenses you’ve added to your software architecture.

60 Days Before: Microsoft has given you the assignment and now they’re going to check back in with you, asking what you’ve discovered concerning your licensing changes.

30 Days Before: Microsoft’s team will get back to you with a true-up order which reflects changes to your EA. If you complete your true-up past this date, Microsoft will not allow you to do subscription reductions. They will simply bill you automatically based on what your bill was the year before. If you owe them more, Microsoft will never say no to more money, but any reductions will be out of the question at this point.

Immediately Before: You’ll get another call from your account rep to check in on your True-Up process

15 Days After Your True-Up: Your reseller or account rep will review your True-up order and place it with Microsoft.

Consider Your Options: The Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Program

Microsoft has been extremely aggressive in recent years with pushing both its Cloud Platform (Azure) and its many cloud offerings, including its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Program onto its customer-base.

In fact, there’s a good chance that the recent removal of the EA discounts and the increase of its minimum seating has been Microsoft’s attempts to make their Cloud-based solutions more appealing to their customers.

So, what is CSP? Compared to the EA, which is more concerned with standardizing the licenses throughout a company with one large upfront payment, a CSP is the pay-as-you-go, monthly fee model that we’ve seen become the industry standard with Cloud platforms.

Thinking of Reducing Your Subscription?

It’s easy to scale up with Microsoft, they love it; but as you’ll quickly discover, the real challenge comes when you want to reduce your subscriptions or even keep them the same. However, if you look at your EA, you’ll find that there is actually a section that allows for a reduction in subscriptions.

If you have an enterprise-wide purchase, when they say “reduce,” what Microsoft means is that you are allowed to scale your online service subscriptions back to the original number that you started with. So, if I purchased a subscription of a hundred users, regardless of my purchases throughout the year, the lowest number I could ever reduce that subscription to is a hundred users, the original number I purchased.

If the subscription was not a part of an enterprise-wide purchase, you’re free to reduce but only if the initial order minimum requirements are maintained.

With Additional Products that are available as Subscription Licenses, you are allowed to reduce the license count to zero. By utilizing this clause, MetrixData 360 saved one of our past clients $800,000 by reducing two of their Additional Product subscriptions that they weren’t using down to zero!

How to Get Ready for Your Microsoft True-Up

You never want to be left scrambling for things at the last minute, being prepared when it comes to your software is a great rule to live by, whether you are getting ready for an audit, a contract negotiation, or your EA renewal.

So here are some tips that can help you get ready for your EA renewal long before your anniversary date.

 

  • Don’t guess your count. Guessing will either leave your numbers too high, which will be a waste of money, or too low, which will leave you exposed to auditing penalties. You need accuracy to get useful results.
  • Have a clear Asset Life Cycle for licenses and devices that are a part of your EA, including processes around both the deployment and retiring of old assets.
  • Have all the proper and updated documentation in place for everything (devices, servers, and users) that is applied to your EA. Monitor your EA products once a quarter or at least every six months.
  • Make sure you have a full understanding of your enrollment terms (especially regarding the new license changes).
  • Unexpected SQL server consumption fluctuation often proves to be especially troublesome when creating your True-Up Declaration, so make sure that you have a strategy in place to effectively capture this data.
  • Utilize perpetual licenses whenever possible.
  • Have your True-up Declaration or your Zero True-up ready at least 60 days before your anniversary. Don’t put it off until the last minute, now is definitely not the time to procrastinate.
  • Make sure that your Active Directory is cleaned up with a clear count for your users and devices.
  • Repurpose your licenses when you aren’t using them. It beats buying yet another license.
  • Know the language of your contracts.

 Getting Ahead of Your Microsoft Enterprise Agreement True-Up

Having a strong sense of your licensing position will give you the ability to ensure that your EA contract renewal goes as smoothly as possible.

At MetrixData360, we have helped hundreds of our clients successfully navigate a Microsoft true-up so that what they pay actually reflects their usage. If you’d like to learn more about how MetrixData 360 can represent your interests in your next EA renewal, you can check out our contract negotiation page by clicking the link below.