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IT pros face tough decisions around which applications and devices to deliver to end users, but there are tools to help.
Software licensing and maintenance is often one of the top expenditures in an IT department’s budget, so getting better real-world data about application usage would benefit IT, said Matt Kosht, an IT director for an Alaskan utility company.
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"Increasing the effectiveness on licensing spend is like finding money you didn't know you had," Kosht said.
IT needs a way to identify how much time a user actually spends interacting with an application and what apps people might be using that they do not know about, Kosht said.
"I can't tell you how many times I found a copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro installed because the user had to fill out a PDF form once AutoCAD installed to view an emailed drawing once a month," Kosht said.
Tools such as IBM’s Endpoint Manager for software usage analysis, SoftWatch Technologies Ltd. OptimizeIT, Symantec's Altiris Asset Management Suite, 1E’s AppClarity and a host of others bring together the data to help IT pros make informed decisions about whether to keep a software application or increase the number of licensees for it.
Software auditing tools help with productivity applications but not Client Access Licenses, which are not auditable, said Wes Miller, research vice president for Directions on Microsoft, an independent analysis firm based in Kirkland, Washington. "They are your highest cost item."
SoftWatch, a startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel, recently added a service to its software usage analysis tool for cloud applications, called OptimizeIT Premium Suite. The software follows a service that specifically assessed the use of Microsoft Office applications.
The new SaaS-based service helps IT pros and CIOs optimize their end user computing environment.
SoftWatch’s new service analyzes employee behavior and software usage. This allows the IT department to determine who the power users are in an organization for applications such as CAD/CAM and statistical analysis, or other business apps such as ERP or CRM. The service costs $1.50 per user per month.
Once IT pros have analyzed the appropriate application software licensing agreements, they can use this knowledge to guide deeper decision-making about hardware and their end user computing environment. For some end users, full-fledged PCs may be more relevant to their jobs versus a tablet or virtualized desktop model for others.
"Certainly the goal of using a tool like this is to optimize the provisioning and right size the device portfolio,"said Phil Karcher, senior analyst for Forrester Research Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "We advocate doing the analysis based on where people are working from and if they are taking laptops home," he said.
SoftWatch’s new tool is not a cure-all for IT pros, but it's a start. The agent only supports Windows and Linux PCs at this time, Kosht noted. For instance, an employee could be using Salesforce on his or her personal iPhone, and information showing whether other marketing people are doing the same could be useful, he added.
Forrester, which conducts a global benchmark study every three years, surveyed 9,912 information workers in 2012. Among its goals were to understand how information workers adopted and used technology, as well as to determine how much employees actually need software such as the full suite of Microsoft Office.
The research company used workforce segmentation to optimize software licensing needs for those operating on pay-as-you-go, SaaS-based models. Based on the modeling of a 100,000 person company, if enterprises right-size their software license based on worker needs, a company could save up to $3.4 million dollars annually.