Paid for, but not used: Why you’re probably not using some software entitlements

keyboard2Many organizations struggle to keep up with more than just the owned versus deployed positions of their software licensing; additional entitlements, such as software maintenance, are often purchased with the license, but go overlooked and unused. These additional entitlements, the terms of which differ from publisher to publisher, are typically valid for a fixed timeframe, and organizations often fail to act on them within that period.

An example is Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA), which (as of this writing) perpetually entitles customers to any new version that is released while the SA is active. That means that if a customer purchased Visio with one year of SA, and the next version of Visio is released during the year that the SA is still valid, that customer may upgrade to the newer version at any time in the future, even after SA expires. Imagine in two years a Visio user wishes to finally upgrade to the new Visio. Are records available that will alert Purchasing that an entitlement exists that can support the new request? Generally not since most companies’ internal ITAM processes aren’t sophisticated enough to handle the workflow of such requests.

You can quickly see the challenge tracking all of the entitlements that exist within any given environment. Too often, organizations simply purchase another license, and the original entitlement goes unexercised.

The failure to take full advantage of additional entitlements is an issue when such entitlements are optionally purchased on non-core software (meaning software for which an enterprise license and additional entitlement contract has not been negotiated). At first this may seem non-material, as most clients would argue the bulk of ubiquitous licensing and entitlements are visible and well managed, and therefore maximum benefit is being achieved.

However, we have studied purchasing habits of customers and found that optional additional entitlements were being regularly purchased yet seldom, if ever, exercised. This occurred at a rate that yielded a material financial impact. The problem stemmed from the requestor holding the purchasing decisions, but no system existed to track those entitlements. Rather, tracking and exercising the benefits of an add-on was informally left to the requestor, and seldom took place.

The must-haves of any licensing tracking program

To effectively track and extract the most value from optional entitlements, your tracking system needs to include the following:

1.  The release date of all versions of the titles for which you have purchased additional entitlements.

2.  The terms of the additional entitlements. For example, are you perpetually entitled to new versions or must you upgrade while your additional entitlement is active?

3.  The start and end date of the additional entitlements.

4.  The deployments to which the additional entitlements are applicable. This is especially important if the additional entitlements were optionally purchased (meaning only some deployments are covered).

5.  The current version of the software installed on those deployments covered by the additional entitlements.

6. An audit trail of owned licenses that were upgraded by exercising an additional entitlement, including the specific additional entitlement that was used to perform the upgrade and the date the upgrade was performed.

7. The quantity of additional entitlements purchased (the “owned” position).

Get help tracking your entitlements

Keeping up with perpetual licenses is challenging enough, but monitoring additional entitlements is even more so. Instead of managing every single license and additional benefit in-house, organizations can opt to pass off license monitoring to a third-party provider that can track and optimize the use of additional entitlements. This third-party provider can also monitor optional add-ons once new software is requested and purchased.

Many organizations are still learning to track licensing and better understand compliance, but additional entitlements, like software maintenance, often go untracked. These entitlements, which are optionally added to some license purchases, are just as important and may offer additional cost savings, if addressed. But when those entitlements go untracked, as is so often the case, organizations end up purchasing new licenses even though they were already entitled to them. Developing a tracking program, or working with a third-party license expert, can extract the optimal value out of those additional entitlements when starting up and maturing your Software Asset Management practice.

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