True belief and knowledge
When it comes to successfully answering a vendor audit, it’s what you know that is important. You may believe you have a grasp of the licenses your organization purchased, and those beliefs may even turn out to be correct, but in an audit you will need to prove that you know what your organization’s software licensing entitlement is. This is the crucial difference between belief and knowledge: It’s all about what you can prove.
So, how do you go about making sure that you have knowledge of your license entitlement? Just like so much in the realm of software asset management, a lot of it comes down to your data.
Essential software licensing data and where to find it
In order to establish a knowledgeable position on your license holding, you will need to ensure you have collected the software licensing data that proves, in detail, all the purchases you’ve made from a given vendor. It’s also important that you locate any contracts or other documentation relating to license purchases made from a vendor – as these may be crucial in translating your purchases into an entitlement.
There are a few places you can get license purchase information and it’s always a good idea to review your data sources sooner, rather than later. Starting the search for purchase data when an audit arrives on your doorstep can often prove painful! If you have a procurement team, or better yet a procurement team using a dedicated procurement application, then you can start by consulting them. Sadly, experience has taught me that, more often than not, you’ll find that the information held in the procurement system does not contain sufficient detail to prove specific license purchases (although it is often a good first step in hunting that detailed information down).
There are pieces of software licensing data that we as SAM professionals require in order to accurately record a specific purchase. How about information on the type of license purchased? Maybe an SKU number? The agreement number or contract under which the licenses were purchased? The start and end dates of any support? The number of licenses that have been purchased?
Now be honest with yourself, do procurement need those pieces of data to do their job? To successfully complete and record a transaction? Most probably the answer is no.
Entrenching SAM best practice
There is a wider discussion point here about entrenching SAM best practice within your software procurement processes (you can take a look at some tips here). For the time being simply be aware that unless you already have an established relationship between the procurement and SAM teams, you may need to look further afield for the detailed information you will require in order to prove a license purchase.
So, if all of the information you need is not available in-house, it’s time to think about other parties who may be able to help. Do you have a reseller who may keep records of your transactions? Are you willing to request a purchase history from the vendor themselves?
Turning to your software licensing vendor
On this point, many companies shy away from requesting purchase details directly from the vendor. While it should be your last port of call for such information, and I’d advise discretion when doing so, there are ways to go about requesting this information that will not result in an increase in the chances of an audit being aimed at your business. More to the point though, if you need to prove your license purchases and have not found another way of doing it, there may be no other option available to you than to turn to the vendor.
Before you approach a vendor, make sure you search out all of the agreement numbers under which you have made purchases from them, and when you find evidence of these make sure you record them in a sensible place. Often a business may have a number of different purchase agreements in place with a vendor, so don’t assume if you find one agreement that your search is over.
It should go without saying, but once you have proof of license purchases make sure you save it, and that it is all stored together in one secure place. Whether that is done physically or digitally depends on the requirements of your own business, but you’ll need to ensure that you have all these records to hand. It is these records that will allow you to prove you license purchases under audit conditions, and once you have managed to track them all down, you won’t want to lose sight of any of them.
If you need help with the hunt for license purchases, then maybe License Dashboard can help?
As a side note, don’t forget that there is a crucial difference between your license purchases and your license entitlement. License purchases will show you the products your business has bought. License entitlement is the licensed software products your business is legally entitled to use as a result of these purchases. To understand the license entitlement, you will need to spend some time analyzing the license purchases, and that’s not always a straightforward process.