By: Cyndi Tackett
Most companies consider license reharvesting—the process of removing installed but un-used software and deploying it to another user—at one point or another. After all, why should someone have Visio installed if they haven’t used it in six months? It just makes sense. There are even usage tracking tools on the market that provide agents which monitor usage of specific features within products. But, many organizations make the mistake of believing that license reharvesting is the silver bullet – the foundation of their software asset management (SAM) practice.
The truth is that license reharvesting is an invaluable tool if the software portfolio is already optimized. But getting to an optimized software estate involves much more than usage tracking and license reharvesting.
To illustrate, consider the following scenarios. Assume that the company owns 1000 licenses for Software Product X bought for $100 each.
Scenario1: Installation counts for Software Product X reveal 500 licenses installed, giving the company a 500 unit surplus. Tracking usage finds that 50 of the 500 installations are not using the product. Removal of the unused licenses now yields the organization a 550 unit surplus. The net cost savings is $0. License reharvesting is simply not an effective tactic if the organization is already over-buying because the savings cannot be realized until the original surplus is gone. Unfortunately, most companies are over-buying the "usual suspects" for reharvesting.
Scenario 2: Installation counts for Software Product X reveal there are 2000 licenses installed, giving the organization a 1000 unit deficit. Tracking usage finds 50 of those licenses are not used; reharvesting results in a 950 unit deficit. In this case, reharvesting does reduce the liability by $5000, but still leaves the organization with a $95,000 liability. Reharvesting cannot eliminate the liability of a significant under-buy so it is only part of the solution.
Scenario 3: Installation counts for Software Product X reveal there are 1010 licenses installed. Tracking usage finds 15 licenses that are not used. Reharvesting eliminates the need to purchase an additional 10 licenses, so it is extraordinarily effective when the license is almost optimized. In fact, the most effective usage tracking technique is to start tracking usage when the license is within a 5% threshold of the number of entitlements. This is the scenario where reharvesting really pays off. But, to get to this optimized level takes more than just tracking usage of applications. If the organization does not know their actual license position, this situation is unlikely to happen at the beginning of a software asset management project.
The other problem with depending on reharvesting as the Holy Grail to software asset management is its slow time to value. Usage tracking is only reliable after 3-6 months of monitoring. If the organization has to deploy another agent to track usage, then factor in more time for a more complex tool implementation. Adding to this, many software product use rights require that applications be "shelf-ware" for 30-90 days before they can be re-deployed, adding even more time to the realization of value. Most importantly, reharvesting doesn't really work in the data center so it is not a strategy for many high value licenses in the organization.
I am in no way suggesting that license reharvesting is not a valuable tool in the software asset management toolkit - it is just not the silver bullet that companies hope for when implementing a software asset management program. Once the organization knows their actual license position and applies product use rights to minimize license consumption, license reharvesting is one of many best practice processes that can help keep the software estate optimized. License reharvesting is extraordinarily effective in the right circumstance, but make sure your organization doesn’t fall for the false promise of reharvesting and usage tracking as an overall software asset management strategy.