As part of my ongoing series on Software Asset Management and licensing, I have had the good fortune to connect with industry leaders focused in this area. I was recently offered the opportunity to interview Matt Fisher with License Dashboard to get a deeper insight and to also learn a bit about what License Dashboard is doing to provide help in this area.
Matt Fisher is the Sales and Marketing director at License Dashboard, a software asset management and license Management solutions vendor. He has over eight years’ experience bringing SAM solutions to market and is a well-known commentator on the SAM and licensing market.
Me: My blog is hosted by myITforum and is read primarily by the Windows systems management community. What information should the readers know regarding License Dashboard products or services?
Matt: License Dashboard was originally developed in 2004 as a proprietary technology of one of the UK’s top Microsoft LARs, Phoenix Software. Through the company’s spin-off from Phoenix in 2008, one element has remained constant – our technologies are built by licensing experts who understand the challenges facing large and small organizations.
Me: The SAM tools market seems close to becoming saturated. What tools or services are offered by License Dashboard that are unique to the SAM marketplace?
Matt: I don’t agree that the market is saturated, but what I do see is a lot of confusion. There are a lot of IT Asset Management or Inventory solutions that claim to be SAM solutions when they’re really not. None of the major ITAM platforms really does a good job of helping organizations manage complex licensing agreements. This is where License Dashboard’s solutions are different – they are designed not to replace any incumbent ITAM solutions, but rather to complement them and add new functionality not otherwise available. In some ways it’s like buying the SAM module that your ITAM platform couldn’t supply.
In terms of uniques for License Dashboard; no other solution can automate as much of the license management process. For example, License Manager can import a Microsoft Licensing Statement (MLS) in its raw format and process every transaction in the document, understanding what license has been purchased and what the terms of usage are. Similarly, for organizations invested in Enterprise Agreements or large volume licensing agreements, no other SAM solution can enable multi-agreement, multi-territory licensing as effectively as License Dashboard.
Me: What tools does License Dashboard offer that integrate with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager?
Matt: License Dashboard’s License Manager technology integrates with Microsoft SCCM by way of a data connector that automatically extracts the software and hardware audit information and transforms it into a format that can be used for the purposes of managing licenses. When software audit data is imported from SCCM (or any of the 30+ other inventory tools supported by License Dashboard), this data is automatically cleansed and filtered to both reduce the ‘noise’ and improve the quality of the software recognition results.
This provides license managers with a much more usable data set which is presented in a manner that is optimized for license management.
Me: SAM is a relatively new concept in the US as compared to many other countries. I understand the License Dashboard is based in the UK. What challenges have organizations in the UK (or other countries) faced that have created the need for practicing SAM much earlier than the US?
Matt: In many ways it is the demographics of countries like the UK that have indirectly led to the early adoption of SAM. Compared to the US, the market is small but there are a relatively high number of ‘high value’ organizations. As such, the drivers for SAM have been twofold: first, many software vendors have used the UK as a ‘pilot region’ for their SAM and compliance initiatives, which means there has historically been a higher chance of an audit in the UK than other markets. Second, those UK organizations that spend heavily on software have realized the risks associated with poor management practices and so now cost-saving is as much a business driver as compliance.
Having established that SAM and compliance are profitable business practices, we are seeing software vendors now taking the models they have developed in the UK and western Europe and applying these not only in the US but also APAC, Latin America and Asia.
Me: Implementing SAM can be a lengthy process. What can organizations start doing today to help them prepare for a software audit?
Matt: You can download a white paper from our website, which outlines a number of key steps to help avoid or minimized the disruption caused by a software audit. In short, however, key steps to consider are:
- Build a central repository of all software licenses owned by the organization
- Deploy an inventory solution to monitor all installations of software on the network
- Define and document policies on software procurement, approvals and deployment
- Consider how volume licensing agreements might simplify license tracking and reporting
- Define and deploy standard software builds to desktops
The above steps may not prevent your organization receiving a software audit request, but should dramatically reduce the disruption faced by the organization when a vendor audit needs to be submitted.
Me: What is your best-selling product and why?
Matt: License Manager is our flagship product, dating back to 2004. Today, the current shipping version is 5.2 and is optimized for organizations facing complex licensing challenges that other solutions simply cannot effectively handle.
As stated earlier, one of the key selling points for License Manager is the fact that it is designed to work with existing ITAM investments, rather than forcing organizations to rip and replace any incumbent technologies. As well as the significant cost in acquiring a new inventory solution, for example, organizations also need to factor in the cost and disruption of deploying and configuring the new technology.
In comparison, License Manager works with the existing technology and offers unrivalled out of the box functionality. For organizations that want to minimize the time (but optimize the accuracy) of managing their software licenses, License Manager offers the most cost-effective solution.
Me: How does your best-selling product stack up against your competition in terms of product sales?
Matt: With no analysts reporting on sales in the SAM space – and the majority of the specialist SAM tools developers being privately-owned – it’s difficult to provide an accurate analysis. What we do know is that License Dashboard technologies have now been used on over 1,000 SAM engagements worldwide, which we believe makes it one of (if not ‘the’) most widely-used SAM technologies on the market.
Me: License Dashboard seems to offer SAM tools to a wide range of pricing. Can you provide an overview of your products and general pricing models?
Matt: The License Dashboard portfolio comprises three core technologies – License Manager, SAM Portal and Discovery, available in a number of commercial packages.
At the entry-level, License Analyzer provides a very quick and cost-effective way for organizations to get started with building an intelligent license repository. As organizations are ready to then start reconciling this license entitlement against their software usage, License Manager provides the fastest way to create an Effective Licensing Position (ELP).
Discovery is, as the name implies, a Windows-centric inventory solution that can be used by organizations to provide software and hardware audit information.
SAM Portal is an advanced solution that enables organizations to build and enforce workflows and policies around software management – from employees requesting software to line managers approving requests, software managers checking and assigning licenses through to deployment teams distributing approved software packages.
As well as the core technologies, there are pre-bundled suites designed for both small businesses and large enterprises. Pricing is generally calculated by the number of devices on the network and prices for License Manager start at around USD $25,500 for a network with 1,000 PCs and servers.