Imperial Brands

We like the out-of-the-box functionalities of Snow but what clinched it for us was Snow’s management of the relationship
Katherine Brough Software Asset Management Project Lead


Imperial Brands PLC is a dynamic fast-moving consumer goods company borne out of a strong tobacco heritage, a FTSE30 company headquartered in Bristol, UK. The group owns some of the world’s most iconic brands, such as Winston and Gauloises, and sold in the region of 300 billion cigarettes in 2017. With an active presence in 47 countries, Imperial employs 33,000 people worldwide. The group is increasingly focusing attention on developing and expanding its Next Generation Product portfolio.



The UK and German arm of Imperial Tobacco implemented the Snow Platform in 2010 to get to grips with its Microsoft licensing position. Visibility of its software landscape also strengthened Imperial’s hand in its negotiations with other software vendors. In 2016, as part of the transformation driven by a refreshed IT strategy, the decision was made to centralize Software Asset Management. A recent Microsoft audit was further catalyst for the group to take the decision to implement Snow globally.

Once the IT transformation is complete, the Snow Platform will be the linchpin of the group’s software license procurement and compliance. Roll-out has not been completed, but an early encounter with a software OEM recently has given the SAM function the kind of granular insight that allowed it to take action to forestall an audit.



Katherine Brough, Software Asset Management Project Lead, says: “We like the out-of-the-box functionalities of Snow but what clinched it for us was Snow’s management of the relationship. There was consistency and a real desire to see the product succeed.”


Before 2016, Imperial Brands did not have a centralized IT structure. Software Asset Management was conducted on a federated basis, with each region having a considerably amount of freedom in how they ran and structured SAM. The IT strategy refresh in 2016 set the stage for the decision to centralize IT and it made no sense to leave the SAM function fragmented.

Katherine Brough was tasked with putting in place a structure (and solution) to make license management compliant and cost-effective across the group. She had been using Snow’s SAM Platform in Europe, and was impressed with the solution, but company policy determined that a global solution had to go out to tender. Among Imperial’s top criteria for its global SAM solution were functionality and performance, overall cost as well as product roadmap and future vision. “It came down to a choice between Snow and an alternative provider,” Brough says.

One of the things that gave Snow the edge was that it offers many more of its functionalities out of the box. Opting for the alternative would have involved a lot of add-ons and consulting, resulting in a more bespoke solution, something Imperial explicitly did not want, as Brough explains: “As we know, bespoke costs, and I don’t just mean at the point of sale – but it costs and costs and costs indefinitely.”

But there was something else. What really tipped the scales in Snow’s favor was that elusive yet all-important thing: relationships. Brough says: “We found that Snow’s management of the relationship was quite clear from the very beginning. There was consistency, there was a desire to see our project succeed. Pricing of course was good, although pricing was not the overall deciding factor at all.

“We had had more exposure to Snow, but that said, that didn’t influence the final decision. We liked the solution, of course we did. But it was also about how we felt important to Snow.”

Brough retires later this year; and finding the right strategic SAM solution was one of the most important decisions Brough has made in her career. Snow is part of her legacy, and the choice – the right choice – mattered to her at a very personal level. “

The right choice was to get the right people involved in our account,” she says, “and to have the knowledge that there was somebody behind you to support you in actually delivering a successful SAM program. It was very, very important to me that when I leave, Snow will still be there. Nobody would look at it and say: ‘No, far too hard’.”

Another trigger for the decision to roll out Snow globally was a two-year Microsoft audit that Brough describes as ‘painful’. The process dragged on for so long because Imperial pushed back the auditor’s demands every step of the way.

Brough is a very battle-hardened SAM hero. About audits generally she says: “It’s absolutely within a vendor’s rights to audit, but I always make sure it’s done at our pace. We never delay unnecessarily, but we will not be bullied into providing information that is possibly too quick. With audits, you just have to be mindful and respectful. You shouldn’t be pushed into their timescales, and I can say I’ve never adhered to that.”


This steady approach resulted in ‘significant’ savings on Microsoft’s original demands but all parties were bruised by the encounter. “The whole idea at the end of the day was: this can never happen again. We have got to get Snow.”

Full implementation of Snow is on hold until this fits in with the trajectory of Imperial’s IT 2020 program. She is particularly impatient for Snow to monitor virtualization compliance. “We know there’s the ability to have more than you need, and people think, ‘Oh, we haven’t got enough licenses, let’s get another X number just to cover ourselves,’ and don’t appreciate what an impact that has. So for me, the one massive thing that Snow will achieve is to reharvest unused, surplus virtual licenses.” Soon, the process of removing unused cloud and on-premise licenses and reassigning them will be automated using Snow Automation Platform.

“We like the out-of-the-box functionalities of Snow but what clinched it for us was Snow’s management of the relationship”

Katherine Brough Software Asset Management Project Lead

Brough used Snow to take a look under the hood of Imperial’s global Autodesk licenses, assuming this would be a relatively straightforward exercise. But as always, full visibility sheds a light on issues you didn’t even know existed – and so it proved with Autodesk.

A report from Snow gave Brough a breakdown of all Autodesk users, and she sent out a request for licenses and serial numbers. Some Imperial offices did not know they had Autodesk, others said its Autodesk licenses needed removing because they were installed on redundant machines.

She continues: “It’s also thrown up some funny stories, like a gentleman who had AutoCAD 2000 and ‘13 Lite on his machine. His machine was rebuilt. ‘Can I have a more up-to-date license?’ So we ring AutoCAD, who say: ‘Yes, you’ve got a 2015 license, here’s a serial number.’ When I look at it, this 2015 license we’ve been given is Polish, and we’re not allowed to use it here, because you’re not allowed to use AutoCAD in different countries.”

Fortunately, a license with a different and authorized serial number could be re-assigned to this particular user, so there was no harm done. “But I wouldn’t have known that without Snow, and to me this is a classic example of what Snow can do.”

When Brough retires she intends to spend the first month of freedom in Puglia and Tuscany. Will she miss Imperial and Software Asset Management? “Licenses are my passion,” she says, “and SAM has been my life’s work. As I concentrate on my other passion – growing flowers – I will look back at my time at Imperial with pride, that I have laid such a sound foundation for the global roll-out of Software Asset Management and Snow.”