Controlling an audit before it controls you: 4 tips for withstanding an audit

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If your organization has never experienced a software audit, consider yourself lucky.

But don’t celebrate just yet. Like death and taxes, audits are another certainty in life. And, eventually, it’s going to happen to you. The question is, will you be ready when it does?

In our experience, a lot of companies aren’t. When that audit letter arrives, they’re ill-equipped to respond. Sometimes, they accidentally run the publisher’s tools in their environment, ultimately handing information over to the auditor before they’ve had time to review it themselves. This is the wrong move – and could leave you facing millions of dollars in compliance assessments.

Audits are inevitable. But they’re also manageable. Here are four tips that will make handling an audit easier.

1. Invest in proper tools

How can you expect to manage a software audit if you have no idea what software employees are using? The simple answer is you can’t.

While some organizations have little visibility into their licenses, others attempt to track them using spreadsheets, another mistake. Relying on spreadsheets to manage license purchases is a time-consuming and high-risk system that quickly becomes outdated and inaccurate.

Instead, invest in the right inventory tools. These tools should offer license management features, automated software discovery, software inventory, software usage, and more. These will help you gain visibility into your environment, so if you’re hit with an audit, you’re not scrambling to find out information like what licenses you own, who they are assigned to, and when they expire.

2. Dedicate resources with licensing knowledge

Every publisher has different terms and conditions around its licenses. Publishers are also continuously changing licensing rules.

Keeping track of all these changes can be extremely demanding – especially if licensing agreements aren’t your area of expertise.

Investing in licensing experts, even specialists focused on single publishers, can pay dividends. They can keep you abreast of any alterations to your original terms and conditions, make recommendations for cost savings, and overall will help ensure your organization remains compliant.

If you can’t afford to hire individual licensing specialists for the major publishers you use, consider finding a partner that can offer that expertise as a service, reducing the costs through economies of scale.

3. Plan ahead

The resources, documentation, and data required to get through an audit are not only extensive, they’re also often well outside of daily operations. This sort of disruption can be hard on your business.

Therefore, plan ahead.

Instead of waiting for an audit, be proactive. Create and maintain a software asset management (SAM) program with defined processes. Make sure you’re self-auditing, correcting any discrepancies, and updating your plan as needed.

This proactive approach could mean the difference between an audit that takes weeks to complete and one that lasts a year. The point is, you want to put yourself in a position so that when a real situation arises, you’re way ahead of the game.

4. Don’t panic

Seems simple enough, right? Hardly. As we said, it’s a common reaction to receiving an audit letter.

But it doesn’t have to be.

If you receive an audit letter, remain calm. Reply to the auditor, acknowledging the receipt of the letter and informing them you’re putting together a response team to investigate the claim.

Let them know you will get back to them with a response shortly.

This course of action gives you breathing room to address the situation, including establishing a response team, determining a point of contact, and gathering the data points you need to collect for the audit.

You don’t have to do it alone

Facing an audit can be stressful, time-consuming, and a drain on company resources.

If, however, you’re taking advantage of asset management tools, investing in licensing knowledge, and self-auditing regularly so you’re prepared for the inevitable, you’ll be better able to respond when the real audit arrives to avoid unnecessary costs and damage to your reputation.

If you have additional questions or want to learn how a third-party partner can help you navigate an audit, contact your SHI account executive.

Jerry Eng contributed to this post.