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How Imperial Brands is taking control of its software licences

Central control gives the tobacco company the data required to manage software licences and ensure it pays only for the assets it needs

Global tobacco company Imperial Brands has deployed a software asset management (SAM) platform from Snow Software to centrally manage licences across its global software estate.

Like many organisations, Imperial Brands has software deployed globally, with each country responsible for managing its own licensing.

Katherine Brough, software asset management project lead at the tobacco firm, says some countries use Excel to manage their software and others run SAM tools, while its head office is responsible for software auditing, covering everything from local software to products from Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, AutoCAD and QAD.

Discussing the challenges the head office faces in keeping track of software use, Brough says it previously had no way to monitor from a central point, which created potential auditing issues and prevented the company from taking advantage of the volume licensing agreements it had in place.

“In the past, we may have had a Microsoft Select agreement, but some countries had their own agreements with Microsoft,” she says.

A two-year Microsoft audit was one of the triggers for Imperial Brands’ decision to select a SAM tool to manage its licences. According to Brough, the audit process dragged on for so long because Imperial pushed back the auditor’s demands every step of the way.

“It’s absolutely within a vendor’s rights to audit, but I always make sure it’s done at our pace,” she says. “We never delay unnecessarily, but we will not be bullied into providing information too quickly. With audits, you just have to be mindful and respectful. They’ve got a job to do, we have a job to do. You shouldn’t be pushed into their timescales.”

Read more about software asset management

Tool selection

Having decided Imperial Brands needed a tool to manage its software licences, Brough says her team first looked at what tools were already being used in the company for software management.

“We were using Excel, and in several countries we were using Snow – it was not fully managed, so we decided in 2016 to put out a tender and looked at what was on the market to see which tool would best fit,” she says.

On the shortlist were Flexera, ServiceNow and Snow. ServiceNow was dropped from the shortlist because the hardware management component of ServiceNow was not required. “I was looking specifically for software management rather than asset management,” says Brough.

This left Flexera and Snow, both of which rate highly in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for software asset management.

Brough says its aim was to find a software asset management tool that would fit its needs and be easy to use. “Ease of use carried a high scoring mark, and cost is always an issue,” she says, but cites the main criteria as the ability for the tool to be deployed globally and its look and feel.

While cost was not the main factor behind the team’s final decision, Brough says it was “neck and neck” between Snow and Flexera, but “there are a lot of add-ons with Flexera, which would have increased the cost”.

She says there were also quite a lot of account management changes at Flexera. As such, Brough felt Imperial would be considered a more valuable customer by Snow. “The right choice was to get the right people involved in our account,” she says, “and to have the knowledge that there was somebody behind you to support you in delivering a successful SAM programme.”

The deployment

Imperial Brands began the Snow deployment in 2017, initially covering desktops and laptops at its head office. Since the company is simultaneously going through a series of business transformations, SAM for server software has not yet been fully deployed.

“We are rolling out region by region, starting with head office as we needed to have a proof of concept to show it could work. By rolling out to the HQ we can see what we need to change in future roll-outs,” says Brough.

At head office, Snow is being used to optimise licensing in the company’s End User Computing Project, which involves an upgrade to Microsoft Office 365. “Our project team has utilised Snow to look at what software we have deployed. Some applications are included in the base Office 365 subscription. We need to understand our position and to decide which of the standard Office 365 packages fit in. We also need to take into account headcount changes,” she says.

The desktop and server deployment of Snow is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Once the global desktop and server deployment has been completed, Brough says her team will gain greater visibility of the software being used across the business.

The company has already seen some benefits from this greater visibility, having identified some licences it is paying for but doesn’t need.

As an example, Brough says Snow has been used to take a look under the hood of Imperial’s global Autodesk licences. Full visibility sheds a light on issues the IT team was not aware of. A report from Snow gave Brough a breakdown of all Autodesk users, and she sent out a request for licences and serial numbers. Some Imperial offices did not know they had Autodesk, while others said their Autodesk licences needed removing because they were installed on redundant machines.

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