More than half of the companies out there that deliver B2B software have some sort of electronic license management embedded in their products. The lion’s share of this market belongs to home grown technologies, an unsurprising fact considering that the one thing software companies do is create software. The pros and cons of build versus buy have been well documented, and isn’t the topic of this article. What mystifies me is the glaring lack of metrics when it comes to this highly pervasive and extremely important issue.
At a recent conference our CEO asked: “What’s the average price of software?”
An interesting question. I started thinking about the mix of consumer vs enterprise, the uptake of subscription based and usage based pricing, and a host of other factors that left me spinning to the point I concocted a number way off the mark. I’ll preserve a little dignity and not share my answer, but ask that for a moment that you ponder the same.
I suppose the title of this article may provide a clue. So do you have your guess?
In large scale software deployments, it is common for organizations to solicit the expertise of a professional services team to ensure a successful rollout. However, this happens less frequently in the case of software licensing projects. This is due in large part to the fact that expertise in all aspects of software licensing is not easily found. Unlike ERP deployments, when it comes to software licensing, requirements can vary dramatically from organization to organization.
When you decide to manage your organization’s software licensing and entitlements with the aid of technology, you quickly realize just how many non-technology factors need to be considered. You really don’t necessarily require technology to manage licensing or entitlements. In fact, several organizations manage these via audits and manual updates to internal systems. Manually tracking entitlements and licensing is an approach with its own set of shortcomings, the most notable being the inability to exact any measure of control or perform any kind of true audit. Organizations generally tend to favor software overuse, except when it comes to specialized software where enforcement and restrictions are commonplace and expected.
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.
“The revolution will not be televised”, the singer Gil Scott-Heron once famously sang. I think he was trying to say that information and truth, cannot be packaged up in a nice “made for TV” special. In fact, by the time it’s happened, it’s probably already passed you by. I can’t help but feel this way about virtualization. We’ve been hearing the hype for years. No one denies the unbelievable impact it has had, and the value it continues to promise. This is not one of those technologies where you think “if”, it’s really more of “when” and “how”.
Let me start of by apologizing to both Apple enthusiasts, and those on the other end of the spectrum who expected this to be an discussion about the much debated iPad. It is not. While passions run high about iPad’s place in today’s market one thing is clear. Whether its time is now later is a moot point. What it does is shine yet another spotlight on the changing face of technology. The iPad builds on momentum created by the iPhone that is dramatically effecting how we consume technology.
So what does all this have to do with licensing. The new workforce is comprised of a generation that cannot live within the strict boundaries traditionally defined by IT. They also see the unprecedented access afforded by applications like iTunes as something expected, rather than their predecessors, that still struggle with the piracy implications. They expect their software to be consumed in the manner most convenient to them, be it the home laptop, iPhone or iPad. Ask yourself how often you’ve wanted to access your favorite on-line service and just assumed that there must be “an app for that”. I have iPhone apps for most of the web applications for which I used to use my laptop (hurry up United, you’re lagging).