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The Key Audit and Licensing Areas You Shouldn’t Neglect – COVID-19

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Supporting the Transition to Remote Working
The dramatic change to the ‘normal’ workday as a result of COVID-19 has compelled businesses into making IT changes at a breakneck pace. Rapid decisions have to be made for the survival of an organisation or to ensure the continued employment and safety of its people.

The attention of IT departments is currently focused on servicing a new way of working, as many employees who have never worked from home need extra support and continued secure access to business systems and information.  As a result, it has been encouraging to see an outpour of free resources and help from numerous tech companies keen to assist organisations navigate this crisis and help ease the budgetary burden that many will be struggling with.

The SAM team at Version 1 has collated various resources that offer help on remote working or identify organisations with reduced cost or free offers for services or products. If you missed the Version 1 Quick-Start Guide to Remote Working, check it out for advice from across our organisation.

The Key Audit and Licensing Areas You Shouldn’t Neglect – COVID-19

To support this new demand for remote working, our SAM team is advising that it’s worth keeping a cautionary eye on aspects that may not be at the forefront of your mind right now.

To help you avoid an unpleasant situation when the dust has settled, our license experts have collated some useful insights in relation to potential difficulties that businesses may be unintentionally creating in their desire to support their remote workforce.

1. Audit Amnesty

Whilst vendors may put off normally stressful or adversarial audit practices at this time, clients shouldn’t forget that support and license is one of the largest revenue generators for the large vendors. Where year-end targets have been missed due to the current climate, expect an invigorated audit front later – and plan for it accordingly.

2. Microsoft Teams for ‘Free’     

‘Teams’ has become a popular answer for businesses with remote working and conferencing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and Microsoft’s offer of free Teams has been incredibly welcome for many. There are a couple of areas that you need to be aware of around some of the license limitations, co-dependencies, available features and governance considerations, however. Businesses should evaluate user requirements to understand what collaboration and communication features are needed, and  IT requirements to understand what security and compliance features should be in place (e.g. Legal hold); thus, what licensing dependencies underpin certain features. ‘Free’ sounds great but could come at a cost.

3. Remote Working  

With national movement restrictions still in place, working from home has become the new normal. In order to keep businesses operating and people productive (and safe), there is a chance that some organisations may have unwittingly created a noncompliance situation surrounding the Office family, Windows and Client Access Licensing.  We recommend that organisations should check how they have bought their licenses (under what type of license agreement), what licenses have they purchased (perpetual and/or subscription), what software assets are employees given access to, how are employees accessing corporate assets (remote access to virtual machines or physical clients with software installed) and to whom they have given access.

4. Increased Workloads = Increased Cloud Deployments  

With all the focus on the provision of business via electronic delivery, many organisations have had to significantly increase processing power for their cloud-hosted services. This can have both a significant impact on license requirements as well as cloud service spend. Time to keep a close eye on your public cloud consumption costs. All the main providers have solutions here (think AWS Cost Explorer or Azure Cost Management) and if you are looking for a hybrid cost management solution you could look at a third-party solution like CloudCheckr or Orbitera. If you’re worried about how to perform these checks, Version 1 is here to help.

5. Flexible Workforce      

With employees able to cover each other’s roles and functions, it may have been necessary to increase responsibility allocation in your core business systems. Doing so can result in a material impact on application license requirements, which is typically based on the right for a user to access a certain module rather than their use of it.  Specifically, here we are talking about allocating rights and roles within enterprise solutions such as Oracle E-Business Suite. Allocating a role today to get a job done now could be easily forgotten and result in an expensive bill in the future.

6. Vendor Flexibility    

Whilst many vendors are trying to help in the current climate by providing ‘free’ or discounted services or altered payment streams, you should check the terms carefully (and make sure that they are stated clearly) to ensure you are not simply postponing a required payment till later.

Additionally, make sure that you don’t lock yourself into a piece of ‘free’ functionality you wouldn’t originally have pursued or for which you may already have a standardised platform.

7. Hard Contractual Liability       

At this time vendors may ‘promise’ services, payment terms or usage rights to get a client through a tough patch, or a period of uncertainty or unusual activity. Unless those ‘promises’ are backed up by accepted and signed terms and conditions be wary about what you think you’re getting.

8. Transition and Transformation

For customers undergoing transition programs, e.g. migration to new data centres, be aware that periods of parallel running may take longer than initially expected and any waivers on dual licensing may be at risk or increase in cost.

9. Ghost use    

Whilst many companies may be seeking to reduce OPEX costs by ramping down basic Cloud costs – don’t forget that some licenses covering such applications in the Cloud do NOT reduce in line with service reduction.

10. Hoarding   

Cloud use at this time is being prioritised to front line providers and critical government functions – be careful not to hoard your own Cloud assets in ‘panic’ mode – use what you need and switch off what you don’t. This will also save you money! See the segment earlier on cost management if you need help with that.

11. Shadow IT

With the rapid rise in remote working, there is potential for Cloud related Shadow IT that may result in the use of unauthorised and possibly insecure applications being accessed to support business functions. It’s important that asset managers track potential Shadow IT risks and remedy.