Love thy Vendor

10 Jul 2016 by Ben Brand

OK, so maybe the thought is a little strong for many customers that I speak with. How about we rephrase this to "Don’t fear your vendor"?

Throughout a lot of the Software Asset Management work I do for my customers there is a constant undertone of not wanting to share any information or outcomes with vendors. I can understand some of the obvious reasons why this is the case, but it doesn’t, and actually shouldn’t, need to be the reality of the client vendor relationship that I see pervading so many organisations. 

I have an old adage provided to me by a dear friend that I worked with many years ago that has stuck with me for years: "trust is built on consistency of action"

While the obvious relationship here talks about building trust, the inverse of this is also accurate, that being lack of trust is also built on consistency of action.

How does this apply to the SAM world and your software/licensing?

The trust, or lack of trust, between the client and the software vendor is bi-laterally unique, meaning that both parties have the ability to build or destroy that trust based on their actions and perception of the other parties objectives. 

Acting as somewhat of a middle man in many scenarios I get to see a somewhat altruistic view from the vendor about what they want to achieve through their actions, and in reality it is the same outcome that the customer wants - a compliant environment that maximises their software assets. Many organisations chose a different path to get to the same outcome, or sometimes the vendor themselves will *ahem* coerce them down that path. 

What is interesting is the attitudes from some vendors, one in particular, is changing for the better. They are actively choosing to audit less and instead offer a program of assisting customers through a true up or renewal process. The discussions off the back of this process are not held under the constraints of an audit clause but are genuinely structured to help the customers long term licensing position. Sure if there are gaps they need to be dealt with, but there are more options open to the customer than if it was an audit program.

Insight has independently taken many of our customers down the same "baseline engagement" path as above that has revealed some pretty large and expensive shortfalls. The difference here is that we do this with a view to help the customer fix a problem, remove a risk and plan a better licensing future. The vendor I talk to above is trying to achieve the same goal, and other vendors should take notice and follow suit. Long term customer relationships would be improved... of that I am sure.

So back to the point of this article, if I am a customer, how can I best leverage and actually benefit from a good relationship with my vendor?

Consistency of Action

The #1 reason customers tell me for why they don’t like engaging with vendors and sharing data is the fear of the outcome if they are in a position of significant shortfall around their licensing.

This fear, and some of it is well founded if you are found to be significantly under-licensed, can be mitigated and removed altogether. 

Companies that choose to tackle this head on, and proactively, will usually start with a baselining exercise to deal with the immediate problem. From that point forward there is no excuses for not keeping in touch with your account manager for your vendor of choice (or your LSP for that matter!) on building better licensing compliance outcomes and staying on top of your license position. This is also the best time to understand why you have been short and to implement an ongoing SAM Solution to ensure that under licensing is not the reason your vendor calls.

I have written previously around the benefits of proactivity and communication as a valid audit defense process and if you can remove the impetus and the obvious financial incentive to the vendor for an audit then you remove the risk of the audit itself, audit free is a great place to be.

Getting your shop in order to a point you are comfortable in engaging with the vendor on a reasonably regular basis is the key. You will have control over your spend, your compliance and the vendor will love you in return. Most importantly it starts to build that trust through a consistency of action and for parties on either sides of the fence, that has real value. 

Insight has extensive experience in helping customers solve these issues through baselines and have a class leading Managed SAM solution to keep you on track. My goal is to simply ensure all your vendor discussions are over a coffee and not a contract.

Discover more about Insight's Software Asset Management Solutions.