In software licensing automation, there are generally two phases: the automation of the business processes for the software manufacturer, and the automation of the end user processes of activation and deployment.

Phase 1: Automating the Software License Delivery Process

How we get from receiving the order to delivering the software and access to licenses to the end user is what most people consider as the complete license delivery process.  As a part of this phase, the user typically receives a download link to the software and the access codes needed for activation. 

This phase alone is sufficient for revenue recognition, ensuring that your end customer has received all that is required to provide them with access to the acquired product or service.

To automate your license delivery process, you need to integrate your ordering system with your license delivery solution. When an order is placed into your ordering system, details are sent to the licensing system including the customer’s contact information and what software has just been purchased. The entitlement,  which details what products, features and services the customer has the right to use and in what quantity and for what period of time, has just been created in that step.

But creating an entitlement alone does not constitute delivery. Delivery requires that the customer have access to the software and all that is needed to enable its use. Your licensing system must send a notification to the customer that includes all the details about how the customer can access the software and get the license to enable its use. Typically, this appears in an email that could include a link to a licensing portal, an access code which can be used to activate the software, and a link to download the software.

Phase 2: Automating activation and license deployment

This second phase in the automation process takes an average license automation experience from good to great.  What happens after the software is installed, when the user starts to use it, impacts their overall experience, and most companies have not implemented automation of these steps.  Maybe this has happened to you before.  Here’s an example.

I’m a new customer, and I receive my automated email with all the details I need to download and activate my software. I download the software and install it on my machine. Everything is great, that is until I start the program.  I am told I’m running in trial mode and need to apply a “license” within the next 7 (or 10 or 30) days to continue use.

I think to myself “That’s OK. I have this email that included an activation code and tells me where to go to get my license.” I go the publisher’s portal as directed, and I enter my activation code.  Here’s where this license delivery process can go south for users. I’ve just been asked to supply some cryptic details (at least it’s cryptic to me as a non-technical white-collar worker.)  This software is asking me to  enter my Disk ID, or my IP Address, or my MAC Address,  or worse, it directs me to download another  tool and run it to gather the required data from my system and upload the results before I can get my license.

I decide I’m not wild about downloading another tool to get this info, so instead I fish around to find the requested details.  I finally find them, and voila, a license is produced which I can download or is sent me in an email.  I’m done.  Wait, there’s more?

Now, I have to take that file and save it to disk and then go to my software and find the way to install it or configure it for my machine.  And then, finally, I am done loading my new software.  I can’t help but think it should have been much easier to install.

Imagine how different the same customer’s experience would have been if your software license delivery were completely automated,  meaning your users don’t really have to know anything about the software or about the device to which they are loading it.

In this more efficient license delivery model, I download and install my software and I am asked for my authorization code at installation time (or during startup). I enter the code from the email and that’s it. No need to find my MAC ID, and no trying to figure out how to apply the license. It’s all done for me. My application gathers the details required, sends it to the licensing system with the entered activation code, which returns the license and applies it to my system automatically.  I don’t even know it happened. What I do know is that I am up and running and being productive, and that makes me a very happy customer. This is the promise of a fully integrated and automated solution for entitlement management and license delivery. If you aren’t doing this now, you should be.

Have you or your customers  encountered  similar experiences with your software and license delivery? How have you automated the process?  Share your story.