Guest Blog: Bring it on

Martin Prendergast

The way we work and the technology we use is constantly evolving. If we look back just a couple of years, we may never have imagined that remote and mobile working would become a business norm, that cloud technology would revolutionise the way we collaborate, share and store our data, or that our mobile devices would become an extension of our lives in such a significant way. Advances in technology continue to deliver many benefits to businesses both large and small, but as with the introduction of any new initiative into a business’ ecosystem, the impact must be fully considered.

For CIOs, their job is no longer solely that of a ‘fixer’, responsible for managing assets and ensuring compliance. CIOs are now more akin to service ‘brokers’; facilitating constant change, ensuring employees have access to the technologies which make them most productive, and increasingly a significant presence in the boardroom. Changes in IT infrastructure have a significant effect on software licensing and asset management (SAM); which if neglected can result in a negative impact on that other key area of a CIO’s role – the budget.

Embracing change and understanding risk

One of the most significant mobility trends of recent years is the prevalence of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD); in fact, it would be more appropriate to say that BYOD is no longer simply a trend but is becoming a fixture of the corporate technology landscape. Organisations have embraced BYOD to different extents, and much of this is down to personal preference of users, and whether there have been issues around areas such as security or governance that have prompted action. What is certain though, is that there has been a cultural shift in enterprises where employees want to be able to use known and familiar technology and will no longer settle for corporate-issued technology. To maintain employee satisfaction and productivity, it is the interests of businesses to embrace BYOD; while at the same time considering the potential pitfalls and the impact in their IT estate.

New technologies and trends add a layer of complexity to the already convoluted world of software asset management and licensing. Software vendors rely on the income stream from non-compliance fines, so it is not in their interests to provide clarity around software licensing models. In fact, as IT architectures become more complicated, so do licensing models. When it comes to BYOD, the complexity is compounded by the ability to deploy software on mobile devices, in some cases by individual users, bypassing the traditional checks and balances of the IT department. The question remains, how can businesses embrace technology and all its benefits without exposing themselves to potential risk? It’s a savvy CIO who looks to embrace these changes while remaining in control of the all-important budget and making sure compliance requirements are met.

Old habits die hard

Given this complexity, traditional Software Asset Management (SAM) approaches are insufficient in dealing with BYOD. It is vital to remember that mobile devices are still software platforms and that vendor levies and non-compliance fines can still be significant. As many businesses find out to their detriment, the correlation of the size of the device to the size of the fine unfortunately does not match. To ensure that control of the IT and software estate remains within the enterprise, a more intelligent and holistic approach is needed.

Modern technology challenges require more modern tactics. The issue of who owns the software or application on a device is going to become more complex in the coming years as mobile continues to proliferate. At a basic level, it is essential to implement a BYOD policy. Setting up a company policy on things which are going to impact on how you licence for mobility can pay dividends further down the line should any issues arise. For instance; understanding when you’re allowed to scan or access a personal device; or when you will begin to provide support for personal devices; or who is allowed to download applications and software via their device.

Fight technology with technology

With BYOD, controlling costs becomes even more complicated. Users are moving away from traditional enterprise software brands and looking at open source and cloud-based apps as alternatives, in some cases bypassing the IT department altogether. This brings further challenges when it comes to managing the costs and risks of software; there are however, methods for dealing with mobile devices which can smooth the path to adoption.

Business Intelligence (BI) can uncover areas within the business where the risk is greatest and can also deliver a holistic picture of the IT environment to assist understanding and decision making. For example, in a large organisation, the number of devices operating can change by 1000s on a month by month basis; if you can collect the BI that can tell you this then you can implement changes where necessary. For instance, you may decide as the number and type of devices changes to implement whitelisting and blacklisting to ensure that you remain in control. Enterprises need business intelligence into their software usage in order to understand how mobile devices might be changing this, and to make informed decisions on purchasing and procurement negotiations to maximise the value from their assets. This kind of usage audit can have significant implications, and helps to ensure that you are being charged, for example, for the correct amount of software used, rather than devices that are connected to the network.

Enterprise and corporate app stores are also growing in popularity and can be a good way of reducing unbudgeted spend and controlling governance; ensuring that any downloaded apps are permitted ones. Furthermore, an investment in a specific corporate app which manages email, contacts and calendar and can be implemented and deactivated remotely can be worthwhile. This allows employees access to important work items when they are on the move or working remotely, while at the same time the control is in the hands of the business who can revoke access should an employee leave.

Predict the future

There is an air of inevitability about BYOD; often it is happening in the businesses even if you think it is not. A generation of tech-savvy workers often find workarounds which circumvent the IT department as they attempt to customise their work environment to their own needs. This needn’t be a negative though, because if you know what’s on the horizon then you can more accurately predict the impact it will have. More and more businesses are doing this by making use of business dashboards which offer real-time information to assist understanding of how the IT infrastructure may be changing and support rapid and confident decision making.

Dashboards can also be smartly implemented to facilitate efficiency modelling and scenario planning to combat the complexity of software licensing and management, and further to demonstrate the viability of different solutions when it comes to mobile devices. Predicting the future and making intelligent decisions through modelling what impact will be brought about by allowing more or less mobile devices on the corporate network can allow businesses to see where they may be at risk or exposure when it comes to licensing. This kind of ‘future-proofing’ gives business information before a surprise vendor audit that can save significant amounts of money through avoiding non-compliance fines.

It is a significant challenge for companies who are managing thousands of desktops, devices, and numerous data centres, not to mention cloud services, to understand how changes to the environment, be it hardware or software, will impact on usage, or alter licensing requirements. It may seem something like chaos, but making using of the solutions available can deliver much-needed clarity. It is those businesses who can embrace movements such as BYOD while understanding exactly how it will affect them who will reap the most rewards at the lowest risk.

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