Strategy for compliance

Both the private and public sector require a robust approach to cost control as well as a firm handle on their risk exposure and overall compliance situation in order to deliver predictability and reassurance in an uncertain world. One of the main areas that organisations need to ensure is under control, and ensure quickly, is their IT estate.
   
It is difficult to find a central government department or a local council whose business operations and communications do not depend on technology. So the smooth running of IT is critically important to the ongoing success of an organisation. However, in an ever-changing world, maintaining control is not as easy as it might sound.
   
Public sector organisations have an obligation to ensure that their software is properly licensed, and that the IT environment is managed effectively. Especially with the recent government budget cuts, which have affected the majority of the public sector departments, this means wasting nothing, allocating scarce funds with due care and attention, and ruthlessly tracking budget spend. This includes money spent on software licences, particularly in respect of virtualisation, where vendors’ licensing strategies can be hard to handle and understand.

Why SAM Is So Important

In order to take control of costs, organisations need to take a hard look at doing the essentials such as software asset management (SAM) in a more efficient way. Effective SAM can save huge amounts of money, both in the short and longer term, for government and public sector organisations, as it can highlight where there are overspends on software licences.
   
However, despite the public sector’s obligation to be frugal with budgets, organisations still have a propensity to overspend on software licences. When FAST Ltd has undertaken a gap analysis on local government organisations, it has found huge areas of overspend because of a lack of even the basic principles of management of software. Some organisations simply do not understand what assets they have, where they are and who is using them.
   
This is important for software compliance because organisations have an obligation to ensure that it is not using licences incorrectly, either through naiveté or through a deliberate desire not to do anything about it.
   
The overall message to public sector organisations is that efficient management of hardware and software assets, including software licences, will not only create a benchmark for efficiency and governance within the organisation, it will also prevent organisations from getting caught short when a vendor decides to do a software audit.
   
SAM involves managing and optimising the procurement, deployment, maintenance, utilisation, and disposal of software within an organisation. Fundamentally intended to be part of an organisation’s information technology business strategy, the goals of SAM are to reduce information technology costs and limit operational, financial and legal risk within the business related to the ownership and use of software.

SAM – Some Cases In Point
The business needs for SAM are well-documented, and cover compliance, legislation, regulation and contractual obligation, good corporate governance for software assets, vulnerability and patch management, incident management and risk management – all essential disciplines of any good best practice framework.
   
The business benefits include giving the organisation a better negotiating position, improved and strategic infrastructure planning, prevention of the over-deployment of software, reduced hardware costs, improved software purchasing agreements, reduced costs of internal support for licensing, reduction in process and direct infrastructure costs, and a reduction in problem resolution costs. In addition, having good sound SAM processes in place tends to mean an improvement in the time to market in delivering products and services. Given the current state of both the economy and government finances, any improved time to market in the provision of services will be more than welcome.
   
FAST Ltd’s Professional Services team offer expert professional, consultancy and managed services which can assist organisations that have a lack of resource or in-house skills to execute software asset management plans. FAST Ltd works with organisations that want to benefit from smarter software and hardware management. Our MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) accredited SAM team ensure that organisations have a legally compliant IT infrastructure that protects their business, minimises risk around compliance, optimises their use of IT assets, and reduces costs.
   
Take a look at West Sussex County Council which has used our services to help them take control of their SAM and licence estate.
   
“One of the main benefits of embarking on the FAST Programme is cost avoidance, which right now is probably a key driver for many organisations. Getting a better handle on asset management and, in particular, licence management will be a great help in cutting costs now and in the future,” says Roland Mezulis, the Council’s IT Policy and Planning manager.
    
Remaining compliant
Pat Lodwick, Procurement and Operations Support Team leader at Essex Shared Services Agency (ESSA) stated: “It was quite a steep learning curve, getting to grips with software licensing. But it was an imperative for the organisation that we became and remain compliant. After all, we are responsible for the use of thousands of PCs in different NHS trusts in the Essex region. And although we always had that driver to ensure we were legal in our adoption of software within the organisation, the challenge was actually being able to do it.”
   
In today’s challenging market and uncertain times, both public and private sector organisations are looking for certainty and cost control. FAST Compliance Manager, a tool introduced in 2009 as a benefit of the FAST compliance programme exclusively for FAST Ltd customers, can help companies ascertain their software compliance position to ensure firstly, that there is no overspend on software licensing and secondly, that the risk of licensing shortfalls is mitigated, preventing any budgetary shocks. That’s good for companies, reputations and careers.
   
So, I put the question to you. Are you in control of your software assets?

To find out more about what you should do if you receive a letter from a vendor, download a copy of our new FAST SOS Survival Guide to Software Audits from the FAST Ltd website (www.fast-compliance.co.uk/sos ).

The Guide is a step by step document which explains what you should do to protect your organisation – and suggests ways of avoiding future audits.

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