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Automating License Re-harvesting

By David Hitchen | October 16, 2015

Allocated licenses laying unused; potential new users frustrated at the lack of available licenses... A situation we're all familiar with and one that almost certainly needs a more efficient way of working. But how? Could automation provide the answer? Anyone with a decent Software Asset Management (SAM) platform, that includes the ability to monitor software usage and license allocation, will already be able to manually identify opportunities to reclaim unused licenses from across the network. 

But that’s a manual process and therefore at best time-consuming, or at worst just doesn’t get done. So how about a SAM platform that could automatically check and re-harvest software licenses based on a clear set of criteria that can be continually monitored without the need for manual intervention?  SAM teams are freed up to concentrate on more skilled tasks and the organization benefits from a more seamless and efficient process.

How could this actually work in practice?

Let’s envisage a SAM platform with an automation engine which performs regular check for unused licences, autonomously taking action based upon the results. For example, the automation platform could identify specific software application instances that haven’t been used for the last 90 days - and send an email to the user, letting them know that the software will be automatically uninstalled within a week and the license returned to the business.

A week after this, the automation platform could instruct the company's deployment technology (e.g. Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager) to uninstall the software. Licenses would be freed back to the business and could be utilized by other users making requests through self-service portals such as those available in the Snow SAM platform.

But what about...?

There is of course the risk that by telling users they are about to lose software, this would prompt them into using it again, if only to make sure they keep hold of it - 'just in case'. Perhaps a more discrete and selective process would be more effective? Why not start by specifically targeting applications with high ticket prices or ones where the contracts are more complex to renegotiate?

Just because we can automate this process, does it necessarily mean that we should?

Always a tricky question - should we do something just because we can? We will always face the challenge of data vs knowledge - i.e. it is one thing to know that a piece of software is only used once a year - but quite another to know that it is only needed once a year, for the company finances for example, and that an automatic removal could create more problems than it solves.

Of course, an understanding of the software's purpose would show that it should be exempt from the automatic removal list.

Equally, it would take a bit of knowledge of company hierarchy (and office politics!) to suggest that Directors or VIPs should perhaps be added to an exceptions list.  Sometimes a little discretion goes a long way.

Fantasy or reality?

If the concepts above sound like a flight of fantasy, let me assure you they’re not. 

With the new automation capabilities in the Snow SAM platform, re-harvesting is just one example of many SAM processes that can now be automated, bringing greater value to the whole organization. What’s more, automating these processes doesn’t take months of consultancy time and can be easily amended as the organization matures and best practices evolve. 

It’s very much part of what we describe as ‘4th Generation SAM’, increasing the value and adoption of SAM across the enterprise.

Why not take a look at your top 20 Service Desk tickets and ask yourself "are these repeatable tasks?

Can they be automated?". We're willing to bet that the answer to most of them will be yes...

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