At last, exactly two years later, the long-awaited sequel to my hit, if overly censored, blog post: Five Shades Of Grey (How software buyers and license managers should be compliant without being submissive). The trigger is the SAP vs Diageo verdict, which generated a lot of hysterical blogging and tweeting with dire predictions for SAP customers. IMO most commentators have overlooked the crucial parts of the judgment and therefore significantly overstated the case’s negative implications for SAP customers. I believe the judgement has actually made this grey area slightly more black-and-white. My analysis, subject to the usual IANAL disclaimer, is that the real implications are:
SaaS vendors must collect customer insights for innovation and compliance.
As of the end of last year, about 30% of companies from our Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2011, were using some software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution; that number will grow to 45% by the end of 2012 and 60% by the end of 2013. The public cloud market for SaaS is the biggest and fastest-growing of all of the cloud markets ($33 billion in 2012, growing to $78 billion by the end of 2015).
However, most of this growth is based on the cannibalization of the on-premises software market; software companies need to build their cloud strategy or risk getting stuck in the much slower-growing traditional application market and falling behind the competition. This is no easy task, however. Implementing a cloud strategy involves a lot of changes for a software company in terms of products, processes, and people.
A successful SaaS strategy requires an open architecture (note: multitenancy is not a prerequisite for a SaaS solution from a definition point of view but is highly recommended for vendors for better scale) and a flexible business model that includes the appropriate sales incentive structure that will bring the momentum to the street. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to highlight the challenge that software vendors need to solve for sustainable growth in the SaaS market: maintaining and increasing customer insights.
Software audits are a bit like public transport; you can wait for ages for a bus and nothing turns up and then all of a sudden five come along at the same time. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that software vendors are running more licensing audits today than ever before. The challenging economic climate has driven down the volume of new license sales for many vendors, so they are looking to backfill that revenue gap by auditing their clients and by finding which ones are using more licenses than they actually purchased.
Looking at Forrester’s inquiries over the last few years, we can see a steady increase in calls asking for help with a Software Audit. The main vendors we see active in the software auditing space at the moment are IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. That’s not surprising, as they’re the major software vendors overall. More clients means more audits. And audits certainly aren’t limited to these players; vendors of all sizes are auditing.
But software audits don’t need to be a horror show. If you are well prepared for an audit and have good Software Asset Management procedures in place then you should have nothing to fear. If you aren’t prepared, perhaps in blissful denial that such an event would happen to you, then let this be a warning; in the software audit space, no one can hear you scream.
Un-licensed software usage is easy to miss. There are many potential causes but the outcome is usually the same; you owe more money to the software vendor!
So be prepared. And preparation starts with this: once the audit request arrives make sure you:
Understand the vendor’s Audit process
Establish a single point of contact within your organization
Establish your audit team
Get ahead of the audit by thoroughly reviewing your license entitlements and your actual usage before the Vendor’s audit team arrives