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Good IT managers are always on the prowl for cost savings. But how much can you wring out of your IT budget without sacrificing service levels? The answer largely depends on the information you have about your IT environment and related business requirements. No one wants to lose sleep at night and be forced to make across-the-board budget cuts, but unless you can pinpoint areas for intelligent savings, you may be left to slash and burn. Intelligent cost savings involve techniques that eliminate waste and redundancies or increase productivity, without adversely impacting service levels and months of planning and implementation.

Of course, there are many areas to evaluate when searching for cost-reduction opportunities. This article focuses on savings you can identify and measure through an understanding of how desktop and server software is installed and used (or not used) in your organization. In addition to cost-saving benefits, we discuss other advantages associated with software usage analysis.

Percentage of Fortune 1000 companies that have implemented usage = < 2 percent
Average first year savings based on software spend of $50 million = $2.5 million
Average cost to implement as a percentage of savings = < 3 percent
Payback = 3 months
(Source: Gartner analyst Patricia Adams, Web seminar: "The Role of Inventory and Usage Data in IT Asset Management," May 2006)

Software Usage Analysis Defined
According to best practice guides, such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Software Asset Management Guide and many industry analysts, software usage is a key part of a software management program. Although distinct from software inventory, which identities installed applications, software usage is a logical extension of the inventory and asset-tracking process. In fact, using a tightly integrated inventory and usage tool is the best way to identify and carry out cost-saving initiatives.

Software usage analysis is focused on usage trends and generally tracks:

  • application run time (both active and idle)
  • computer and user information associated with application usage
  • aggregated views of usage levels across departments, sites and business units
  • patterns of application use over time.

With this data, software usage tools can help you answer the following questions:

  • Which applications are underutilized or not used at all?
  • How often are applications used and by whom?
  • How many employees are using particular applications?
  • Which individuals are using nonstandard applications?

Reduce Software License Costs: Stop Buying, Upgrading and Supporting Unused

Avoiding unnecessary software license, upgrade and support costs makes sense, right? You just have to know what software is installed and if it is actually being used. Constant technology turnover and reassignment, organizational changes, and mergers and acquisitions, make this level of tracking difficult.

Unnecessary Functionality
A combination of inventory (what is installed) and usage (what is used) highlights software assets that don't require upgrade or continued support. You'll likely find users who never touch a spreadsheet, database, presentation or graphics package and be able to avoid buying unnecessary software and maintenance in the future.

Vendor Negotiations
Bringing these usage statistics into vendor negotiations puts you in the driver's seat and translates into better deals.

Re-allocate Unused Licenses
By tracking usage patterns, you can also identify unused software that can be re-allocated to other employees. This was the case with a mid-sized manufacturing firm using Novell ZENworks Asset Management to track software usage. According to the IT manager, "Hundreds of machines had Microsoft Office installed, but they weren't using it and they didn't need it. People had also loaded other programs that showed no usage. When we asked them about it, they said,'Oh, I haven't used that thing in years!'"

Minimize Upgrade Costs
Microsoft's Software Assurance plan (and similar programs from many enterprise vendors), forces organizations to take a hard look at software upgrade requirements. With software usage information, you can be sure to purchase upgrade plans for only the number of applications in use. You'll also be smart about buying the right edition of products or suites based on real usage patterns rather than anecdotal evidence. Why purchase the upgrade plan for Microsoft Office Professional for all users when only a fraction of them use a database? You could save up to 20 percent by upgrading to the Standard edition for employees who don't need database functionality. The only way for you to know how many (and which) employees run Access on a regular basis is to monitor application usage.

For example, in a report from ZENworks Asset Management, we see Office XP Professional is under licensed, but we also see that not all the installations are used. Not only does this report highlight this situation but it allows you to drill down even further. For example, if you click Unused Installations, you can see which workstations aren't using the applications installed on them. (See Figure 1.)

You can drill down even more and see the usage of each suite component. Once you have this information, you can make the necessary adjustments, so your actual usage and licenses match. (See Figure 2.)

Why Purchase Upgrades and Maintenance for Unused Software?

Don't Overbuy to Assure Software License Compliance
Microsoft, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and others continue to beat the antipiracy drum. Out of fear or desperation, many organizations overspend on licenses so they can sleep better at night. These organizations are not only wasting money on the initial licenses, but also will likely spend more than necessary on upgrades and support renewals down the road.

According to Gartner, "Many enterprise software purchasing strategies revolve around software license management—i.e., overbuying to ensure compliance. Installing a software usage tracking process can help enterprises optimize software license allocation and contain maverick overbuying." IT Asset Management: Reduce Costs and Minimize Risks, Patricia Adams, Gartner Senior Analyst, Gartner, Inc., October 2001

When you conduct a license audit, you will likely find some under-licensed software applications. You can either purchase additional licenses or uninstall the applications on workstations not using it to achieve compliance but without software usage information, you have no reasonable way to identify unused installations that could be deleted to solve the compliance discrepancy. Your only option is to write a check to ensure compliance.

Implement Desktop Standards and Reduce Support Costs
The more applications used within an organization, the higher the support burden. Implementing desktop standards is a common way to reduce support costs—but it is rarely achieved in most organizations. One of the big hurdles in establishing desktop standards is striking the right balance between meeting business requirements and reducing costs.

You can't define a desktop standard without a clear picture of what is installed and used across the enterprise. For instance, before deciding which Web publishing application to include in the standard, you need to know what applications users have and which are used most often. (See Figure 3.) A combined software inventory and usage tool performs this analysis for all classes of software, allowing you to construct a set of sensible desktop standards.

Improve Desktop Security with Inventory Information
Despite your best efforts, users will download, copy and install nonstandard and unauthorized applications. Some of these applications may pose a threat to network security, hog network bandwidth or expose your organization to legal liability. To understand how big this problem is, you need to identify the existence of the software and understand the extent of usage. When presented with a potential security threat, senior managers are likely to ask questions like:

  • Are people using these applications every day?
  • Is this impacting our network performance?
  • How big of a security risk does the rogue software present?
  • Could these applications adversely affect productivity?

With application usage information, you can proactively answer these questions. For example, let's say that Microsoft issues a security patch for Internet Explorer (IE). Although you may have rolled out a new version of IE in your standard image, you know from your software usage reports that some employees still use the old version. With this information, you could quickly determine which individuals still use the outdated software and either send them the patch or make sure they uninstall the applications.

ZENworks Asset Management provides a complete picture of software usage by tracking all of these types of usage:

  • applications run locally
  • software files (executable) files run locally
  • software executed from server share
  • software run through Windows Terminal Server
Coming Soon
  • software run through Citrix Presentation Server
  • web applications run locally

The ZENworks Asset Management Approach
ZENworks Asset Management offers integrated, comprehensive software inventory and software usage and license compliance functionality. The usage module can be run to monitor and report application usage and conduct software inventories from a single console. You can configure usage monitoring to collect information on applications included in the ZENworks Asset Management product recognition database as well as your in-house applications. The usage module employs desktop agent technology to track which software applications are running on each desktop, both active and in the background. Application usage information is sent back to a single asset tracking database when the PC inventory occurs. A host of canned and unlimited custom reports are available in the ZENworks Asset Management Web Console.

So when you are struggling to figure out how much to spend making sure you are in compliance, let ZENworks Asset Management save you a load of money. It will help you ensure you are using what you have installed and not paying for unused licenses, all the while keeping you in compliance with the law. What more could you ask for? A better night's sleep? With ZENworks Asset Management managing your software inventory, you'll get just that. red N

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