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Image: Whose job is it to manage software licensing?

Whose job is it to manage software licensing? This was the title of a blog posted by Brian Von Hatten of Scott & Scott LLP. Brian goes on to say that there has been a large increase in the number of software license audits over the past few years. But the main thrust of the article is about whose responsibility it is to manage software licenses and maintain license compliance.

Brian reports that it seems to vary quite a lot from organization to organization, based on responses to this question on a professional networking site. Then Brian suggests that it is really everyone’s responsibility. While that may be true overall, it is usually a good idea to assign specific individuals or teams to have this type of responsibility, to ensure that someone can be held accountable. The c-suite is going to want someone to be accountable, especially if there is a large unbudgeted audit true-up expense. In some companies, this type of expense must go to the board for review and approval.

It’s true that the people responsible for software asset management and license compliance do vary—from software asset managers to IT procurement personnel. Sometimes it falls under the CIO’s organization and other times the CFO. Sometimes there is a Chief Compliance Officer in larger enterprises who would ultimately be responsible for license compliance, in addition to regulatory and other compliance issues. At Flexera, we have seen a wide variety of job titles and organizational reporting structures for software asset management and license compliance in the companies that we work with.

But beyond assigning this area of responsibility, it’s incumbent on organizations to also invest in software asset management (SAM) processes and tools to better manage software licenses and proactively maintain license compliance—as discussed in the above Software License Optimization blog. Organizations cannot simply throw people at this problem, due to the complexity involved. There are at least three areas of complexity that make license management a difficult problem:

  • License complexity—including complicated volume purchase agreements that vary from vendor to vendor, myriad license models and metrics, and complex software product use rights that must be understood and fully leveraged to minimize license consumption.
  • IT environment complexity—including many flavors of virtualization technology (server, desktop (VDI), application, hard partitioning, …), public and private clouds, SaaS, BYOD, roaming use, etc.
  • Organizational complexity—including globally distributed organizations, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, decentralized procurement, etc.

Furthermore, organizations must go beyond merely maintaining software license compliance and optimize their licensing to reduce ongoing costs. While maintaining license compliance helps ensure that your company won’t have any unbudgeted audit true-up expenses, it does nothing to ensure that you aren’t over spending on licenses and maintenance. This is the added advantage of Software License Optimization—enabling organizations to maintain license compliance and reduce software spend by 5 to 25% per year.