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How NASA Saved $100 Million on Software Licenses

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Using a series of specialized Software Asset Management tools, the space agency uncovered software licenses it didn’t need.

NASA faced another moon shot.

This time, the civilian space ­agency’s monumental task was to help reduce government spending on software. For NASA, that meant eliminating duplicate software licenses and negotiating better prices for the software it already buys.

In 2008, NASA created the Enterprise License Management Team (ELMT) to inventory its software assets and to centrally manage software purchases.

Since then, NASA has leveraged its buying power to take advantage of volume pricing. It also has identified unused software licenses in some locations and is reusing those licenses elsewhere in the organization, says Darryl A. Smith, NASA’s agency software manager. Those efforts have led to $103 million in cost avoidance since 2011.

“By getting better insight into what we’re spending, who is buying it and where the assets are located, we can then look to see if there are better ways to procure software and whether there are existing assets in the ­environment that we can reutilize,” Smith says.

In 2014, the last time the Government Accountability Office studied the issue, investigators found the vast majority of federal agencies did not have adequate policies for managing software licenses. But because the government spends roughly $6 billion each year on commercial software, agencies see a strong incentive to improve software license management and to cut costs.

With that in mind, the Office of Management and Budget began requiring each agency to appoint a software manager to oversee software licenses and to maintain an accurate inventory of those licenses by using automated software asset management tools.

OMB also asked agencies to analyze that inventory, so they can consolidate redundant applications and find other cost-saving opportunities. The guidance calls for a team of senior federal IT and acquisition leaders — called the Enterprise Software Category Team — to negotiate governmentwide ­software license agreements with vendors.