Microsoft’s volume licensing transformation: Here’s everything you need to know about MPSA

Late last year, Richard Smith, GM at Microsoft Worldwide Licensing & Pricing, revealed it would be introducing a “next-generation approach to commercial licensing” to provide customers a more flexible and simplified purchasing experience across all solutions. Dubbed by Microsoft as Next Generation of Volume Licensing (NGVL) or transformation of volume licensing, the initiative takes a multi-phased approach, which began and will continue to be driven by feedback from the different licensing communities–partners, customers, and Microsoft field.

NGVL then entered the pilot phase, for which SHI was proud to be one of the handful of participating partners across the globe. On Dec. 1, 2013 the initiative reached its current phase, a controlled, but broader, launch. This current phase is not the final product. We will likely see the transformation continue for some time to come.

Today’s offering, the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA), is simple but clearly displays the three primary tenets of the transformation. (more…)

3 tech megatrends that will redefine business in 2014

Gartner identified 10 strategic technology trends for 2014 at a symposium last fall, including mobile, the Internet of Everything, and cloud technology. As we enter 2014, several megatrends stand out from the rest, shaping the way we do business and accelerating the transformation of IT. It’s important to understand these trends beyond the buzzwords and marketing lingo. The key to preparing for tech’s imminent shift is recognizing the business drivers behind these changes and acknowledging their impact on the future of business.

Here are the megatrends that should be top of mind for IT departments and business owners alike:

Software-defined anything (SDx)

The traditional datacenter landscape has changed forever, leaving infrastructure abstracted and virtualized, delivered as a service. We’re seeing virtualization extend well beyond just computing, with storage and network virtualization quickly becoming the norm for most organizations.

This model holds true regardless of whether the infrastructure resides internally or in the cloud. Dependency on physical hardware is being eliminated as software manages everything, increasing flexibility and agility. As infrastructure becomes highly virtualized and moves toward the private cloud, traditional IT resources need to evolve or risk becoming irrelevant.

As businesses begin to consume infrastructure as a service, the skills required to architect and support these environments must evolve as well. Once infrastructure is fully abstracted and optimized, organizations can shift their focus to developing applications to support business outcomes. (more…)

Putting the value in value added reseller: Why both manufacturers and customers rely on VARs

Many organizations struggle to keep tabs on their IT assets. The number of products, manufacturers, and licensing agreements is enough to make any person’s head spin. That’s why most companies use some sort of IT asset management (ITAM) to keep track of the various renewal dates and understand what licenses they have on hand. But even then they have little strategic direction for their licensing.

Software manufacturers too have their work cut out for them. They can’t afford to spend the time and money to find every potential customer for their software. In order to earn a reasonable profit on their products, they need a base of customers and a dedicated sales force.

To make the landscape more manageable for both the manufacturers and their ultimate customers, value-added resellers (VARs) serve as a liaison, helping manufacturers get their software in users’ hands while offering customers a range of manufacturer and software options that best fit their business objectives.

It’s too difficult for one customer to attain knowledge about every manufacturer, product, and licensing option on the market, just as it’s nearly impossible for manufacturers to gain clear insight into customer markets and needs. Since both spheres are so vast, VARs meet in the middle to fill the gap.

Value add for customers

No organization looking to license software or hardware has the time or resources to research every potential manufacturer’s products and compare the costs and benefits. VARs, on the other hand, have staffs devoted to staying up to date on the products available, as well as the nuances of every agreement. When customers work with VARs, they receive advice on which manufacturers and products can best support their goals, as well as guidance on manufacturer pricing. (more…)

3 reasons external software asset management services prevail over in-house solutions

There’s no denying that software asset management (SAM) is important. It prevents overspending and compliance breaches, and helps organizations anticipate IT needs. But how to actually handle SAM is a different story. Should an organization build an in-house software asset management (SAM) solution or outsource those services?

I recently received an email from a customer asking me just that. I should say up front that as an employee of a company that offers outsourced SAM services, I might be a little biased, but after ruminating on the question, I can only conclude that outsourced SAM services are the way to go for most organizations.

Granted, customers that opt for a tool-based, in-house SAM solution do gain greater control and retain privacy over their assets, but the costs quickly outweigh the benefits. These solutions take up the valuable time of existing IT workers and are difficult to manage without the right training and expertise. The only organizations capable of balancing these tasks are ones large enough to sustain and balance a licensing team, and not all companies have that luxury.

The instant a customer purchases a piece of hardware or software title, it’s bombarded by additional support needs, including:

  • Solution software (the direct cost of the software)
  • Deployments for production, test, backup, and other uses
  • Hardware dependencies
  • Supporting software (operating systems, virtual machine licenses, database licenses, etc.)
  • Software maintenance (for solution and supporting software)
  • Implementation (consulting support for installation, customization, integration, and training)
  • System administrators (primary and backup administrators, training, turnover, etc.)

To save the headache, customers can opt for an outsourced and integrated SAM solution that manages all of their critical software assets without wasting valuable time and resources. Here are three reasons why it’s well worth a customer’s time and money to choose an SAM service to manage its software assets: (more…)

How to get your maintenance renewals under control

If your organization always wants the latest and greatest products and most up-to-date support, chances are you buy your software and hardware maintenance from various manufacturers. The question is: How do you manage all of your purchases while ensuring you’re not overspending?

Renewal management can be complicated, involving a kaleidoscope of factors that can turn a simple process into a field full of potential land mines, including overspending and non-compliance. Here are some of the challenges IT organizations face while managing renewals and how to solve them.

1. Myriad buying programs. Every business unit has its own unique mix of hardware and software needs. When it comes to licensing Microsoft products, for example, some organizations excel with an Enterprise Agreement (EA) to license a particular number of seats at any time for any product. Other organizations utilize a Select Agreement to buy what they need when they need it. With other publishers, some parts of your organization might still rely on perpetual licenses while others need options like the subscription-based Adobe Creative Cloud. The range of potential ongoing agreements in any company is vast, and renewal dates are unlikely to align, creating the potential for under-licensing or budgetary “gotchas” if the various renewal dates aren’t closely tracked.

2. Multiple employees managing buying programs. Larger organizations have licenses with more manufacturers and for more products than any one person can manage alone. Of course splitting the workload, whether by division or manufacturer, reduces visibility into organization-wide renewal dates. Having employees manage licensing in a silo also limits potential cost-savings and cost-avoidance advantages for future licensing, as employees might not be aware that their combined purchases qualify them for the next level (price break) of cost-savings. (more…)

Recommended Reading: Cloud services help SHI redefine the buyer-seller dynamic for huge efficiency gains

Earlier this summer at the Ariba Live Conference in Washington, D.C., SHI’s John D’Aquila met with Dana Gardner, analyst at Interarbor Solutions, to talk about how the cloud, BYOD, and other technology trends are changing IT asset management and how SHI is utilizing e-commerce to help customers simplify and streamline the process.

John shared the example of SHI customer AGCO, an American agricultural equipment manufacturer. SHI developed a customized online catalog of the products and solutions that meet AGCO’s IT requirements in order to give end users plenty of approved tech options that they can obtain with a simple click while centralizing procurement and creating a more transparent process for easy reporting and oversight.

Dana’s complete Q&A with John is published on ZDNet in “Cloud services help SHI redefine the buyer-seller dynamic for huge efficiency gains.” I encourage you to read through it to learn more about how SHI’s e-commerce offering can streamline your IT product discovery and purchasing processes.

ZDNet Cloud Services SHI

The biggest IT security threats and how to prevent them

If the news is any indication, IT security (or the lack thereof) is a growing concern among companies of all sizes. In the wake of reports that Chinese hackers are engaging in commercial cyber-espionage, some companies are calling for a go-ahead to hack right back when they fall victim to such security threats. Breaches by hackers from Syria, Iran, and other countries around the world signal the need for a new approach to guarding IT infrastructure.

But even beyond hackers, there are a number of threats to corporate IT systems that can disrupt business and gouge bottom lines. Let’s look at some of the major threats and how companies of all sizes can mount a defense to keep their systems secure.

Top four IT security threats

From outsiders to your own employees, here are definitions for four of the most common vulnerabilities in corporate networks:

  • Hackers. One of the oldest and most commonly understood threats, hackers work as individuals or groups to leverage weaknesses in an organization’s IT infrastructure to gain access to its systems. Through the years this access has dramatically evolved from young pranksters seeking little more than bragging rights to today’s organized groups of cyber criminals stealing financial and proprietary information for financial or political gain. Today’s hackers use both manual and automated processes to break into an organization’s IT infrastructure.
  • Malware. Malware refers to any type of malicious software used to infiltrate private computers or networks in order to gain access to sensitive data. Malware is also used to slow down system performance by utilizing memory, CPU, and other system resources. Wikipedia offers a comprehensive list of the different types of malware, including computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, rootkits, keyloggers, dialers, spyware, adware, malicious browser plug-ins, and rogue security software. (more…)

Announcing complete mobility solutions, from SHI Mobility Services

Today marks the official launch of SHI Mobility Services. I say “official” because much of SHI Mobility Services is based on work we’ve been doing for our customers for several years, and now we’ve brought together the complete suite of hardware, software, and services needed to create an integrated and customized mobility solution that meets any need. This is a big move for both SHI and our customers.

The way people look at mobility has changed drastically and quickly. Four years ago, BlackBerry was growing by leaps and bounds, as it fit the need for a tightly controlled enterprise mobile strategy centered on email. Then we gradually started to see companies buying more and more Apple iOS devices, followed by an explosion of interest in Android devices. Email is still important, but mobile is now more about apps and access to information.

SHI Mobility Services reflects this change. SHI still offers BlackBerry, because we think that they remain an important player, but SHI Mobility Services goes across platform – Apple iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry – to provide a completely customized mobility offering for our customers. And it’s not just mobile devices, but also the hardware, software, and services needed to plan, implement, and manage mobile in any size organization. (more…)

SHI simplifies Microsoft True-up for Mid America Computer Corporation

Properly licensing software in a virtual environment can be a challenge for many organizations, and I’ve heard the process described as everything from a “minefield” to “a ticking time bomb.”

However, an experienced IT Asset Management (ITAM) partner can help you navigate the virtual terrain. Take this customer case study, for example.

THE PROBLEM

Billing and software solutions provider Mid America Computer Corporation (MACC) was approaching its annual True-up reconciliation for its Microsoft software. To make sure the company’s license inventory was in compliance with its contract prior to renewal, MACC needed an accurate, comprehensive look at exactly what software was being used on what devices.

Kourt Jensen, Network Supervisor at MACC, faced three challenges:

  1. He didn’t have the time to collect a complete inventory himself.
  2. He lacked the confidence in the software inventory tools MACC had in place to provide up-to-date licensing information necessary for an accurate True-up.
  3. And he needed help understanding the licensing requirements for a virtual server environment. (more…)

How SHI manages printing services in the office and on the go

Pity the lowly printer! No one thinks about it until it stops printing, and then everyone goes ballistic. It seems pretty simple to the average user — he clicks print and the paper comes out. Well, printing is actually an integral part of an IT organization’s infrastructure, and is becoming more complex each year.

Printing services have undergone some major changes in the past few years. There are more ways than ever for organizations to maintain a healthy printing ecosystem and optimize their printing services to go mobile, while still saving money. So today, I’ll be going over SHI’s approach to maximizing the benefits of printing services, and how customers can take their printing on-the-go.

Up until three years ago, SHI sold printing services through a transactional sale: Customer cuts a PO, we process the order for the device, include some extra toner cartridges, maybe a grade-six warranty uplift, and then it on its way. Now, with managed print solutions, we’re able to work with our customers to help them manage their printer fleets in today’s ever-changing and mobile environments.

When we first meet with a customer that needs printing services, our first step is to perform an in-depth assessment of their environment. We provide a virtual assessment or head on-site and actually walk the floors. Then, we’ll take the floor plans with us and study those to make sure we know where all the printers are located, and what models they are using. After taking a look at their current suite, we come up with what we believe is an accurate projection of the total cost it will take to implement managed printing services at their current level in their current environment.

(more…)