Licensing for today's world

Getting a grip on software licensing complexity is a challenge that IT users and their suppliers cannot afford to shirk.

Getting a grip on software licensing complexity is a challenge that IT users and their suppliers cannot afford to shirk.

The Computer Weekly CIO Index highlights IT leaders' frustration with the amount of management time taken up by software licensing and the value for money of their software investments.

Sharp practices are far less common than when Computer Weekly launched a successful campaign on the issue almost a decade ago (Who are the winners), though inevitably there remain some examples of bad practice by both suppliers and users.

The challenge today is how to develop licensing and business models that are fair, predictable, flexible and transparent.

IT users and suppliers face a range of technical innovations, such as multicore chips and virtualisation, that challenge traditional software licence models.

Users also face the suppliers' drive to alter licensing regimes to deliver more predictable income streams, and the changes thrown up by the spate of mergers between enterprise software giants.

Add to this mix the pace of change in user organisations and it is little wonder that licensing remains a headache.

Translating this complexity into licensing regimes that deliver value to users and fair reward to suppliers will require a determined effort by both sides to understand the operational concerns and commercial needs of the other.

The sudden imposition of new licensing regimes by suppliers will be as damaging as the obdurate refusal of user organisations to understand suppliers' need to evolve their business models in line with technical change.

We need dialogue to find mutually acceptable methods for charging for software. This will be a major investment, but done right it will pay off for all parties.

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