Rarely does an IT system work better in a silo, so a dialogue about the benefits of interoperability seems as redundant as making the case for world peace. Interoperability is a widely used, and often abused, term, but for those that deal with it at a practical level, with poorly integrated systems, it can be somewhat of a holy grail. This is particularly true for electronic license and entitlement management systems.

Electronic licenses and entitlements are unique in that they require coordination between IT, Operations, Product Management and Engineering. They must be integrated into the fabric of a software company’s products, and work seamlessly with order processing and fulfillment systems.

If an electronic license doesn’t get delivered correctly, all the dependencies the software module has on that license will be impacted. An electronic license or entitlement is much more than a simple enforcement mechanism. It’s a means to define software bundles, create electronic proof of purchases, provide means to audit customers, and track usage history. All this requires that electronic licenses be closely tied with systems that manage customer orders.All too often integration between license/entitlement management systems and order management systems takes place manually, with the responsibility falling on the select few that have intricate knowledge of license models, back office systems, and corporate entitlement policies. One of the reasons for this seemingly dysfunctional situation can be traced to how electronic licenses typically come to fruition at an organization. More often than not, they originate as part of a product management driven initiative to increase the level of control at the product level. Other groups are generally not consulted effectively. IT then has to create some sort of process (and sometimes product) to manage these electronic licenses, and bind them, in some way, to an entitlement. This “bottoms-up” approach is reactive at best, and it’s no surprise that well designed, interoperable systems are generally scarce.A well planned entitlement management system should by design be capable of addressing the needs of interoperability. It should allow for multiple licensing technologies to be integrated, and to abstract that technical complexity from operational users. It should have the ability to consume relevant information from order processing systems, and in turn pass the relevant information to order fulfillment systems. There should be the ability to obtain relevant customer, and channel information from a CRM.

Having license and entitlement information be a seamless part of an organization’s order and fulfillment process shouldn’t be a wish list item, cast aside for when “all the other IT fires get put out”. Rather, it should be an expectation, and organizations with interoperable systems should be aware that there are technologies that can assist in creating a tight and precise binding of electronic entitlements with order processing and fulfillment. If you struggle with back office interoperability in your licensing solution, see SafeNet for more information on how to tackle this challenge.