UK organisations are looking to ramp up software audits and licence management, says Matt Fisher, Director at FrontRange Solutions.

Despite rumours that the worst of the recession is now behind us, many would still expect organisations to remain hesitant over substantial investment in their IT function.

However, it seems that research suggests otherwise. The reality is that enterprises are actually looking beyond the obvious obstacles of costs and resources, to show a stronger commitment to evolving their infrastructures.

A recent survey commissioned by FrontRange Solutions polled over 250 enterprises in the UK and the US1 and revealed a third of all respondents are now looking to adopt ITIL, despite ongoing budget constraints. In the UK, specifically, this figure rises to over half (52 per cent), demonstrating a clear desire to evolve IT management maturity and deliver greater value back to the business.

But despite this enthusiasm, many organisations are still struggling in related areas of IT operations, such as IT asset management. Nearly two thirds of respondents (62 per cent) cite budget constraints as the main barrier to this investment, while almost a third (31 per cent) blamed existing embedded legacy asset management systems, and one in four (23 per cent) pinpointed resource constraints.

However, there is encouraging news from research published by the Software Industry Research Board (SIRB), which highlighted that as much as 20 per cent of an organisation’s current software spend can be saved by investing in software asset management (SAM) - a major component of IT asset management and ITIL.

While this naturally doesn’t eliminate all up-front investment, it does strengthen the business case for making a short-term investment to deliver equally fast returns.

The FrontRange study also reinforced the perceived added benefits of SAM. Seventy per cent of respondents highlighted visibility and control of IT assets as crucial to ensuring organisations are able to call on all information from within their IT assets and demonstrate compliance should they face any kind of audit.

In addition, over half of businesses questioned cite how an IT asset management strategy can improve utilisation of assets (57 per cent) and reduce software and hardware costs (54 per cent).

While these savings can be significant in their own right, the true value of SAM and ITSM as part of an ITIL strategy can be much broader. The simple fact is that automating many labour-intensive tasks enables IT teams to stop worrying about tracking current assets and instead devote more of their time to proactive IT initiatives that drive a tangible benefit to the end users in the organisation.

From a service desk point of view, for example, having a complete component-by-component breakdown and software audit of every PC on the network can reduce average help desk call times by 40 per cent and on-site engineer visits by 80 per cent.
While software license compliance has become something of a hot topic, the FrontRange research found that only a third of respondents saw it as a main benefit to implementing an IT asset management strategy.

However, despite this response, it should be noted that companies must not become complacent and let compliance slide during the current fragile economy as the associated fines can be significant. It is difficult to financially recognise ‘cost avoidance’, but it is nonetheless very important.

A startling outcome of the findings revolved around where the responsibility lies for asset management within their respective organisations - nearly one in five (18 per cent) confirmed that this fell to the network manager and not the CTO or IT director.

A surprising result, seeing as IT is the backbone of global enterprises. It suggests that asset tracking should be a senior responsibility. The risks of getting it wrong are sufficiently high enough to mean that it definitively should not be delegated too far.

This is also echoed in this year’s UK Software Asset Management Maturity report from IDC2, which suggested that licence gathering is an important area to address for senior management rather than other IT roles.

These findings revealed that 34 per cent of those that actually knew their organisation’s status said they were not gathering software licences for reuse when disposing of hardware assets - highlighting the opportunity for organisations to save considerable resources by running regular software licence audits.

But as we look forward to the next 12 months, the study actually highlighted that for many organisations, process management and standardising software and upgrades are being considered as key areas to address. This is driven by the fact that many firms will be upgrading to Windows 7 in the next year and will therefore need full visibility of current assets to ensure migration is performed quickly and efficiently.

IT managers will need to have the tools in place to ascertain what hardware needs memory upgrades. In addition, the ability to use automation as a method to test and deploy the new operating system will also ensure for a cost effective roll-out.
The research is perhaps a good indicator of some of the key IT initiatives for 2011. While it is promising to hear organisations are taking ITSM seriously and are realising the advantages of adopting an ITIL approach, it is equally important to ensure that the basics of IT asset management are not neglected.

Additionally, the research highlighted the risk of software licence management and ITSM strategy being delegated too far down the enterprise. Both of these are crucial components to a cost-effective and efficient IT department and therefore should be managed accordingly.

1 Survey carried out by Emedia. Two thirds of organisations questioned employed had more than 1000 employees

2 IDC Whitepaper: UK Software Asset Management Maturity, sponsored by The SIRB, March 2010