A common request we receive from clients goes something like this,
"I've been getting a lot of requests from folks around the office trying to determine User ID's and passwords for licensed software items such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Sketchup Pro, Microsoft Office, etc. I'm finding that machines have multiple and unexpected user ID's based on when software purchases were made, and these ID's are not necessarily aligned with the actual users who are using these machines. I am looking for a way to simplify everything. Can you help?"
The short answer is, yes we can! Managing software licenses is a common problem across many offices. The solution is simple, but difficult. It's simple because a process with structure will fix this problem. It's difficult because we often find that not everyone will follow the process! To be fair, many offices don't even have a process, and if they do it's not communicated effectively to the employees.
At Forget Computers we always offer to provide the structure as part of our service. Amazingly, very few offices accept this offer. Instead, employees are allowed — even encouraged to do their own thing without communicating what they are doing with anyone. The result is always confusion around what software a business owns, where it is installed, what they has been purchased or not purchased.
Of course there are ways to enforce or prohibit software installations. People can be locked out of making computer changes. Nobody like's this solution and it produces ill-will toward IT. As IT providers, we need all the good will we can get so we're not in favor of restricting what people can do with their devices!
Communication is the best solution. Communicate to everyone that all software additions, moves or changes on company-owned devices must go through a process. Document this as part of your company's Use Policy and get employees to sign-off that they have read it. Three sample policies to help you get started can be found here:
- SANS.org Acceptable Use Policy
- Texas Workforce Commission's Internet, E-Mail and Computer Use Policy
- Implementing an Electronic Use Policy. EXCERPT: Adding or removing software. The indiscriminate addition or removal of software increases the network’s vulnerability to viruses, Trojan horses, worms, and spyware, and also exposes the organization to potential licensing violations.
Your IT team is best positioned to be the go-to for central management of software licenses and installation. Funnelling everything through IT will allow them to understand what is triggering requests for software and licenses, and subsequently enable them to solve the bigger issue of why are folks around the office even asking for this information? In highly efficient offices, there is rarely a need to make license changes. When IT can see the full picture, three scenarios are often uncovered:
- ADDITIONS — Request for additional existing software: Licenses are either available and can be applied today, or new licenses need to be purchased.
- MOVES — Request to move a software license: There might be a business case for a move, or a more efficient solution may exist and IT can help determine the most efficient course of action.
- CHANGES — Request for an upgrade or new software title: This sounds like a simple request from an individual point of view, but changes have the tendency to affect the entire office so even seemly small request must be vetted.
When introducing structure like this it's typical for employees to pushback and express their need to install software at a moment's notice to get their job done. This is the equivalent of asking for the brakes on their company car to be removed because they need to drive fast at a moment's notice. It's a bad idea and no one who truly understands the risks involved would allow it.
Plus, by moving software management from an ad-hoc system influenced by various individuals, to a centralized system organized by IT, both time and money is sure to be saved! You can't manage or improve on what you don't know and too many organizations don't know what they have when it comes to software. I encourage everyone to work with your IT team to get your software organized. Get a Use Policy in place and start sending software requests to IT so they can work toward improving your software management process, and in turn save your employees time and your organization money.