Software Audits During a Pandemic

The letter of the law

Virtually anyone who has worked in IT over a meaningful period of time has experienced a software audit, which is sometimes called a License Verification (or LV) process.  This practice is commonly carried out both internally within an organization (often under the IT Asset Management domain) and by vendors in partnership with customers to ensure compliance of licensing agreements, utilization of software and ultimately optimization of investments made.

Often, however, organizations find they have inadvertently fallen out of compliance with the negotiated terms simply due to the evolution of business – e.g. they made an acquisition and added more users, but the procurement team didn’t sync with the integration team, who didn’t sync with IT, which ultimately results in the software technically being used illegally.  On one hand, this is good news for software providers, because it means more people are using the software and hopefully getting the benefits from it.  On the other hand, it also presents a challenge because now all of that usage has to be reconciled, and from a customer point of view, this likely means multiple teams having to work together to figure out process, requirements and approvals–and as we all know, aligned matrixed teams isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

The spirit of the law

As a large software company with 40+ years of experience and 40K customers, Micro Focus is no stranger to the world of software audits both within our own “four walls” and in partnership with our customers. Never was this more evident than several years ago when we acquired Attachmate–who had a reputation for auditing their customers. But times have moved on, not just for us at Micro Focus, but for the industry as a whole. So what lessons have we learnt, and what do we believe is critical for vendors and customers when dealing with the often prickly topic of software audits?

The Customer Comes First – the Importance of Transparency

Understanding how customers are using the software is important to any business. At Micro Focus, we believe it is critical, as it helps inform our product roadmaps and the solutions we deliver to ensuring that we are focusing our efforts where it matters most for our customers. This in turn means we deliver the software innovations that will have a material impact of our customer’s ability to run, transform and adapt their business vs. providing innovations that are simply “cool”. We believe in style and substance.

This engagement with customers, whether those are internal employees or it’s a customer and a vendor, is especially important when it comes to license verification because it’s not just about how the software is being used but how we, for example, go about the verification process. We recognize that our relationship with our customers is critically important, and they need to know that Micro Focus is doing all we can to remove surprises and drive transparency into the verification process and every engagement that we have with them. The same applies when doing internal audits. Whichever team has the job internally to manage software costs at an aggregate level within an organization will need to ensure they are transparent and offer open communication on what is going to happen and when so that their “customers” aren’t caught off guard.

Why do we believe this is important? So that the process is a collaborative effort and not a one-sided discussion. To that end, in the spirit of transparency, we are fully open with our customers about how we handle audits. So much so that following a recent review we decided to publish our customer License Compliance Charter on our website.  We also standardized our data collection methodology, increased the amount of time we provide customers to take action on any potential findings, materially reduced the involvement of third parties conducting gap analysis on our behalf, trained our go-to-market teams on best practices for collaboration, cut back on audit redundancy, and, took measures to improve value-add audit resolutions. We completed all of this before COVID-19 entered our shared vernacular, and many customers we have engaged since have thanked us – both because we engaged with them appropriately and because of the efforts we made to find a mutually beneficial solution.

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Even Greater Empathy Needed During a Pandemic

While many positive measures were already in the works before the current pandemic affected how and where we work, we strongly believed that even more work was required once our customers’ business operations began to be impacted.  With respect to software audits, Micro Focus took bold action.  We completely stopped new audit activity between March to May, paused audit completions or resolutions at the request of customers impacted by COVID-19, and we provided flexible licensing options at no added cost.

Micro Focus also instituted a number of special offers to help our customers evolve and ensure continuity of business during this period of change.  This included free trials, significantly discounted access to pre-packaged products that are optimized to help customers drive collaboration and security amongst a newly remote workforce, and access to business continuity professional services to help them run, transform, and adapt at the same time.  Many of these offers still are in place, despite the fact that the business world is starting to get back on its feet now, in recognition of the lingering challenges we expect to encounter.

Partnering Leads to Success

Micro Focus is fortunate to work with many of the top, most-innovative companies in the world.  And we regularly see the positive results borne out of our mutual efforts. Can we do more and are there edge cases when it comes to us not living the verification transformation we have enacted at Micro Focus?  Yes for sure. However, we feel that the trend is going in the right direction, but don’t just believe us. At Micro Focus, we want our customers to speak for us and we recently published an eBook highlighting some customer success stories that have come out of the current pandemic period. Take a look, as we are very proud of the work we have done together during such unprecedented times to provide transparency and partnership to our customers.

While operating in stressful circumstances can bring out the worst in some, Micro Focus sees it as an opportunity to deliver even more to our customers.  We call our market approach “High Tech, Low Drama,” and it’s a core element of our corporate DNA.

If you need to contact us, to talk any of this through, please use the details available here .

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