Interview: Working with software providers to improve licensing Ts&Cs

Managing director Mark Flynn aims to turn Campaign for Clear Licensing into a membership and lobby group for IT users

The new managing director of the Campaign for Clear Licensing is working to turn the organisation into a membership and lobby group for IT users.

"The campaign has a compelling proposition and it captures people's imagination," says managing director Mark Flynn (pictured). "We now want to give it more impetus in terms of turning it into an entity, a lobbying business that represents its members – the end user community."

Flynn, who was previously the managing director of Snow Software, says the Campaign for Clear Licensing (CCL) aims to help users drive down the indirect costs of using commercial software by improving the clarity and usability of software licence terms and developing an industry-wide standard code of conduct for software audits that software publishers, partners and users comply with.

Clear licensing

The need for clear licensing has not gone away, he says: "As the world gets more complicated in terms of how people want to consume software and services, licensing becomes more complex.

"There is a tussle in software companies. Do they go after their users and nail them for as much short-term audit revenue as possible, where there is a risk the customer will go for open source? Or do they work with the customer to adopt the software across the board? What's good for the customer is also good for the software company,” he says.

The CCL will lobby for positive change, providing a professional network for procurement, software asset management (SAM) and licensing specialists to share their insight and opinion.

"There is a big hole when it comes to the representation of users in the software market," says Flynn. "But we're not taking a National Union of Miners, Arthur Scargill or Bob Crowe style of approach."

The organisation is pro-software and aims to work with users and the industry to develop better licensing, he adds. 

"The Campaign for Clear Licensing will work with software publishers, users and the reseller community to reduce the indirect costs of using commercial software by improving the clarity and usability of software licence terms and conditions and developing a code of conduct for use by the industry when resolving disputes, including during audits," says Flynn.

Code of conduct

But there is also a need for businesses to be wary of how they license software, and there is a lack of education among users, says Flynn. 

For instance, when a pilot datacentre project is scaled up, the software licensing can be expensive and licensing terms inflexible, because it does not take account of future scalability or the need to outsource.

He agrees that the software industry needs to bring in absolute clarity on the terms used in software contracts, such as an industry-standard definition for IT assets, such as processor, virtual machine, endpoint or user. 

"We want to work with each software provider to develop a code of conduct," he says.

Along with pressure from large software publishers, another challenge for software asset management staff, according to Flynn, is that the people who control budgets often neglect to take software licensing seriously.

"User organisations need to invest in SAM. The CIO can influence change. What we have to do is give the SAM specialists information they can feed to the CIOs who can make the changes," he says. 

This may involve building a larger SAM team or putting pressure on strategic suppliers. CCL has started working with a few of the major providers. It recently ran a licensing event with Microsoft and is organising another with Oracle in October.

Software licence errors

Not only is software from these companies widely deployed, but Flynn says it is easy to get caught out during software installation. 

The CCL believes software licensing should be an enabler of corporate strategies, not a blocker to progress

Mark Flynn, Campaign for Clear Licensing

For instance, as Computer Weekly previously reported, with Oracle database it is far too easy to install the performance-enhancing utilities (called data packs and management options). 

But these are not free with the default database package, so they need to be licensed before they are installed. A default installation of an Oracle database will also install and call on these utilities unless they are expressly turned off at the point of deployment. And the cost of these tools can amount to tens of thousands of pounds.

The CCL has a three-year business plan. “From day one we have to be a global entity. The UK will be a cornerstone," says Flynn. "In September, we will start in Germany with a partner relationship, and will be in the US just after Christmas."

Licensing can prevent IT from implementing an IT strategy, such as limiting how much a datacentre can grow due to the high costs associated with running VMware with Windows Server, says Flynn. 

"The CCL believes software licensing should be an enabler of corporate strategies, not a blocker to progress," he says. "But, for too long, software publishers have had the mindset that 'where there is mystery and fear, there is money' when engaging with their customers."

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