The number of Microsoft products has more than doubled over the past six years, introducing new purchasing programs and requirements in the process. The reality is, a licensing strategy developed even just three years ago is almost certainly no longer optimized for today. Remaining compliant has become a moving target. If you’re not moving with it, you’re putting yourself at risk of increased cost and compliance risk.
Here are five things your License Service Provider (LSP) should be doing to keep you compliant and ensure you only pay for the services you truly need.
1) Conducting regular licensing and technology reviews
When it comes to licensing, organizations are often inundated with information from a variety of sources, making it difficult to know what’s relevant. In April of 2018 alone it was announced that 14 products were ending extended support. Unsupported technology could pose security risks or compel you to upgrade to a different version earlier than you might have planned. Having a regular process to review this information and understanding the direct impact on your business is critical.
Your Licensing Service Provider (LSP) should be meeting with you on a regular basis to highlight any major changes that could affect your environment. Specifically, they should provide you with insights into the following:
- License entitlements
- Current program usage
- Licensing changes and their financial impact
- New product releases/End of support products
- Promotions and incentives
- Upcoming renewal and true-ups
This on-going communication is the cornerstone of efficient license management.
2) Providing options based on actual usage
Regular, structured reviews equip organizations with the information they need to make the right choices, and ensure they’re using what they’re paying for, rather than just what’s installed.
We find that many organizations purchase bundles that include software they don’t necessarily need. When we take a deeper look we often find that many are paying for overlapping technologies. Consolidating these tools is a great opportunity to save money.
Downloading a trial of a premium product for a single use case can result in unintended consequences. So long as that product is installed, the organization is required to pay for licensing. Determining whether an employee is actually using the software is a good indication of whether it’s worth paying for. Or whether it should be reallocated to another individual.
These insights are essential to cutting unnecessary costs and making better use of your licensing investments.
3) Formal, independent audits of your licensing position
The reality is a licensing audit isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Gartner estimates major software vendors such as Microsoft audited 64 percent of organizations in the last year alone. If you’re not doing a formal, independent review of your licensing position, your organization could be subject to an unpleasant surprise.
Rather than having Microsoft interpret your results for you, it’s important to have third-party expertise in your corner. An LSP can advocate on your behalf and make recommendations based on use cases, and inform you of where you might be over-licensed. A software vendor is unlikely to help you cut costs during an audit, making it vital to have a trusted expert on your side.
With the pace of program changes, regular audits can also create positive opportunities as well. Beyond ensuring compliance, this includes right-sizing licensing investments, as well as planning effectively for upgrades and new technologies.
4) Engaging in a renewal conversation 6 months in advance
All licensing contracts have important milestones. Unfortunately, many of those milestones are ignored or forgotten until the last minute. Rushing the process, however, puts you at a significant disadvantage. Your renewal completion target date should be 45 days prior to your expiration date – not when you start evaluating your agreement.
Failing to perform a formal analysis of what’s installed and what’s being used well in advance of your renewal date makes it difficult to evaluate your options strategically. It also puts you in a poor negotiating position. Your provider should be able to build a proper roadmap. This includes appropriate milestones such as when your true-up order should be submitted, when a cost analysis of your renewal configuration should be finalized, as well as assignment planning for any remaining Software Assurance (SA) benefits you have yet to use.
By starting 6-months in advance you and your provider should have enough time to do a formal audit, provide a usage report, analyze it and inform your licensing recommendations using all available options. This ensures you are planning optimally and making effective use of your benefits and entitlements before they expire.
5) Reviewing your software assurance benefits to ensure utilization
Organizations sometimes fail to understand the money left on the table for support, training, and implementation when they don’t have a clear understanding of how to take advantage of their SA benefits. Software Assurance benefits are use-it-or-lose-it, and many do not appreciate the real dollar value attached to them.
These benefits include software and technical support, technical and end-user training, implementation, and planning services. It is therefore important to review your SA benefits to ensure they are being properly utilized.
As the world of licensing continues to change, and more options become available, it also becomes more complicated. Your partner should be proactive in their management of your licenses and continually bring insights into your use and optimization to keep costs in check and maximize the impact of Microsoft technology on your business.