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The mechanism of carrot and stick is long-established and one that involves balance between risks and rewards.
Some might argue the approach in the software compliance world has focused slightly too much on the stick. The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and Microsoft have all garnered headlines in the last two years for cracking down on unlicensed software.
In addition, the law surrounding intellectual property has been strengthened and Trading Standards has the power to make unannounced inspections of business premises to check for compliance.
But on the flipside, the message about software asset management (SAM) is where the carrot comes into it because keeping on top of licences is not just a wise move for legal reasons, but often also has the benefit of helping users cut costs.
There are signs that this year the focus on SAM, and the positive steps that customers can take, are going to be highlighted slightly more than the messages of fines and court cases.
Next month a conference, held by the Software Industry Research Board, will highlight the reasons why customers should adopt SAM. Findings from the same body released last week revealed even those users with a strategy have not got a very coherent one.
“With 38% of companies admitting they have only a basic understanding of their software estate, this lack of transparency can leave businesses open to the threat of both the legal and financial consequences of under- and over-licensing,” says Andy Burton, chairman of the SIRB.
In the past the response to under-licensing might have been to wave writs about and talk about the money companies have paid in out-of-court settlements. But in a recession, that approach is unlikely to win friends.
The messages you are likely to hear now are about controlling the software estate and cutting costs. It is not just about reducing exposure in areas where there is over-licensing but helping customers work out if they use all the applications they pay for.
Matt Fisher, director of corporate marketing at Frontrange, believes there is a real opportunity for resellers with SAM skills to make a positive impact, showing customers just where and how they use software.
“Some people are buying licenses they don’t need, which might have been purchased centrally, and by using SAM and getting advice on volume licensing they can make agreements from a position of strength,” he said.
For software resellers there is a relevance to selling some of the benefits of compliance rather than just the risks. Against the backdrop of the current economic landscape, it is going to be easier to talk about saving money and improving efficiency.