Northumbrian Water, which provides water to 4.4 million people, has saved £250,000 in software licensing costs by introducing a formal software asset management programme.
The group, which operates in the north east and south east of England, expects to save a further £100,000 a year in software support costs as it reduces the number of software packages it supports across the organisation.
"So far we have saved a quarter of a million through better use of software licensing," said Damian Robinson, IT asset manager.
"If you can standardise on one technology you save a lot on cost. You can buy in bulk and its cheaper. You don't need to have 18 different PDF readers across the organisation."
The company, which hired Robinson in January to introduce a software asset magagement programme, has rolled out a system from EMC Ionix, to audit the software it uses across 500 servers and 3,500 PCs, laptops and mobile devices.
It chose the supplier's CMDB discovery tool from a short list of six suppliers after receiving 100 responses from suppliers to a formal tender.
The system, which went live two months ago, is able to map the company's networks and create a database of the software used across the organisation.
"The main surprises were the users. Finding people who had laptops but didn't really need them, or finding people with software who are not really using it," he said.
The system will pay for itself within three years, Robinson predicts.
"Every piece of software required has to come through the team to be authorised. If its not on the application list, you have to have a strong business case why you need it," he said.
"The primary savings are that we don't need to buy as many software licenses. The secondary savings are that we don't need to support as many different pieces of software. That frees up people that we can use elsewhere."
The company has been able to make further savings by cancelling software maintenance contracts for little used pieces of software.
"Maintenance contracts are often renewed by habit. Because we have used software in the past, an invoice comes in and we pay it automatically. But then we find we have not upgraded the software for three years, and have never needed maintenance, so why have a maintenance contract ?"
The company made software asset management the responsibility of its ITIL (IT services management) team within the IT department, because of the similarity between the two approaches. A team of about 20 people worked on the project.
"The idea for introducing software asset management has been rumbling along for five years. Once ITIL was up and running, having seen the benefits of ITIL, it was a lot easier to say software asset management is the next logical step," said Robinson.
One of the key drivers for the project was the desire for Northumbrian Water to meet formally recognised industry standards for software asset management.
The company has achieved a Fast Ltd silver accreditation and aims to achieve gold accreditation by February next year.
The accreditation gave Northumbrian Water a target to aim at, said Robinson. It also gave the project a higher profile within the organisation making it easier to win buy-in from senior executives.
"Software suppliers are less likely to want to audit a company with Fast Ltd accreditation", he said.