Getting to Grips with Software Compliance to Avoid Nasty Surprises

What is software compliance and why is it such a headache for IT departments? In this blog I am going to explores the basic concepts of software compliance and benefits of implementing software controls.

An organization is said to be compliant when it is using software within agreed terms. The definitions of compliance will vary depending on the software publisher and applications in use, but generally speaking it means you have enough licenses to cover installations or you are using the software in the right way according to the contract or license agreement.

Key risks of non-compliance

Non-compliance with software can be costly and time consuming; the main risks can be grouped into four categories:

  • Non-compliance with software may result in unexpected costs of fines from software publishers
  • Dealing with software compliance issues may distract your team from more urgent tasks like delivering core IT services and implementing new projects
  • You can’t make good decisions about your IT estate without good controls and basic visibility of your estate
  • Non-compliance also places an organization at the risk of reputational damage. This is a worst-case scenario, but it is possible that organizations are dragged through the press due to exposure from trade bodies such as the BSA.

The most common reason for a company to fall out of compliance with their software is not deliberate abuse – but lack of simple management controls or awareness of their rights. The constant change in our IT environments means that software license record keeping sometimes might fall through the cracks.

  • We might rebuild a new machine to improve the performance or repair a machine
  • We might deploy new software for a user to satisfy a request
  • Or we may push through that request for change on a server to maintain service

Each one of these day-to-day changes might have a licensing and software compliance impact.

Putting software management controls in place can mitigate the risks of non-compliance. Software is an expensive investment and should be treated like any other valuable asset in the business. 

The business benefit of getting to grips with compliance

The key business benefit of addressing our software compliance issues is lowering risk. Managing our software proactively doesn’t mean we are infallible, but simply means we are less likely to get caught out by nasty surprises and unexpected costs.

Two interesting things happen when organizations put good governance in place around software: they become much more efficient with their IT spend and can make better decisions.

More Efficient IT Spend – When an organization gets a grip on software compliance they usually identify a mixture of license shortfalls and surpluses. For the shortfalls – the organization has the time to address issues in their own time without the publisher breathing down their neck. For the surpluses, organizations can stockpile licenses and save money on new requests (the next time someone requests a piece of software you can offer them a license from your stockpile rather than buying a new license – therefore avoiding additional cost).

Smarter Decision Making – the more we know about an IT environment the easier it is to support. Knowing how things are configured, who is using them and their cost implications allow us to make smarter decisions.

Our service imperative leads us to place restoration of service and satisfying customers demands as the top priority. Whilst keeping licensing records up to date might not seem a high priority – ultimately it will allow us to deliver more efficient services in the longer term.

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Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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