Less is not more when it comes to software compliance. Most companies want to do right, but many are not in compliance and admit they don't have the time or budget to get there. But if they realized that an initial investment in an automated IT asset management system could save them time and money down the line, more would probably sign up today.

A recent survey by King Research revealed that 60 percent of IT executives and managers believe they have unlicensed software deployed and 73 percent of that same group responded that they are not prepared for a software audit.

Diane Hagglund, senior analyst at King Research, who authored the survey, says that a lot of IT professionals are doing piecemeal work that’s not end-to-end. These piecemeal tools don’t roll up into a report which could show which computers and software are not in compliance. "This survey paints a picture that screams for automated solutions."

The survey was sponsored by KACE, a Mountain View, Calif. company that specializes in IT asset management software solutions through their flagship product, KBOX. Rob Meinhardt, KACE co-founder and CEO says a lot of companies think they’re compliant, but they still feel there’s software out in their system that they don’t know about. He adds that many of them have antiquated inventory protocols that track inventory on the way in, but few companies feel confident that their technology can identify everything. "We find what’s on those machines and give the ability to meter and monitor, so customers are more certain of what they don’t know," Meinhardt says.

Aids negotiating with software vendors

With KBOX, IT managers at a press of a button can slice and dice reports to see which computers have what software program on them and which staff members have been running what specific software program. For example, you may have 75 licenses for Adobe, but a KBOX report shows only 20 people using Adobe at any given time. With this data, you can renegotiate with software vendors.

Michael Heuer, technology solution services customer support manager of Portland Community College and longtime KACE user, knows his records are better than those of his software vendors. "They change hands through acquisitions, which changes the starting point, but we know what our licensing arrangements are," he says. "We can be very candid when negotiating for software and we ask what extra services we can get without spending a lot of money. Also, we proactively do compliance with our software vendors and have a strong partnership with them."

IT asset management helps save time and money

Of those companies that are in compliance, some may not know that they can even save more money through purchasing an automated IT asset management system. These systems can figure out usage, which do not appear in vendor audits, and can show the IT manager which software programs are not being used on a daily basis. With this information, the IT department can better negotiate with software vendors and prevent the overbuying of seat licenses. "Vendors don't care if software is being used," says Kris Barker, CEO of Express Metrix, a Seattle-based software vendor specializing in asset management solutions. "They just care that it's installed. Usage doesn't matter to the vendor, but usage to the company does matter since it affects costs."

Express Metrix’s Express Software Manager Professional program has a control application function that enables companies to follow the concurrent licensing model so they can save money on software licenses. For instance, they may have 150 concurrent licenses, but their vendor requirement states they must only have 50 users running it at same time to meet compliance.

The program lets companies save money, says Bob Ritger, IT Director of Payette Associates, Inc. a Boston-based architectural firm that uses Express Metrix. The company can make sure all employees are using the same version of software, such as Internet Explorer version 7.0 versus 6.0, he says. "The savings are significant since we've cut back on licenses we don't need," Ritger says.

Avoid software noncompliance audits

Peter Beruk, a consultant in compliance marketing with the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a Washington, D.C.-based industry group, notes that IT asset management plans can help stave off an outside audit by software companies or watchdog groups, such as BSA. The easy part is taking the inventory and the hard part is figuring out what the company has done historically when purchasing software licenses, Beruk says. For instance, if the company tracks its assets through expense reports, it will have a harder time finding its software license records, than if it uses an asset management tool.

The BSA offers a large number of free tools available from its website, and it has contracted with several vendors including Express Metrix that will scan new software installations at no charge to track unlicensed software.

"Any business is one phone call away from being reported or having unauthorized software, so it’s really incumbent on the business to know its own compliance with the software it’s using," Beruk says."

Barker agrees that successful IT asset management comes from using a tool along with their planning and processes. "Successful companies understand IT asset management in that it affects everyone across the company and they buy in that it will make a huge difference in a company's bottom line," Barker says.