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A Consultant’s Story: Audit Pressure & the Human Cost

20 May 2021

In this third instalment of the series, we speak with members of Certero’s in-house SAM services team about an often-over-looked impact that software vendor audits can have on the individuals working within IT. Specifically, those who have to respond and navigate through the audit process, often on-top of an already pressing ‘day job’.

Responsible businesses and IT leaders need to be mindful of the impact that the significant stress and pressure has on individuals; how that can affect their wellbeing as well as the stability of that individual’s role within the team.

Certero’s consultancy team have been there – both as the targets to an official software vendor audit and as independent auditors working for Certero – being drafted in to relieve the pressure and uncertainty from customers and helping businesses navigate the potential risks, as Hazel Hopes, UK & EMEA Oracle & Salesforce.com licensing specialist explains:

“It’s no secret that “official” software audits are lengthy and can result in unexpected financial penalties. Everyone has heard the horror stories of an audit that ran for months because of a dispute about usage or an impasse about a small clause in the vendor agreement, which resulted in substantial legal fees.  But what about the human face of audits? 

The UK Office for National Statistics saw an estimated 141 million working days lost during 2018 (pre Covid) which gives us some idea of the crisis. Among the major reasons were mental health conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety which made up over 12% of that total.”

The Blame Game

Within IT, after Cybersecurity attacks and businesses needing to work through redundancy programs, software vendor audits can be nearly as disruptive and painful to deal with. They have all the potential ingredients for a disaster; the timing is out of your control, you’re legally obliged to respond, they can potential suck-up resources and derail your planned program of work and ultimately, they can present a significant financial impact to the business that IT may not be able to reasonably absorb.

Noel Donovan, Certero Licensing Consultant within the APAC region has observed:

To state the obvious, Software Audits are not fun. Often, companies ‘react’ or ‘fire-fight’ when it comes to being audited as they’re not prepared and are immediately on the backfoot. Unfortunately, this also means that it’ll fall into the lap of an unsuspecting team within the organization or even worse, and often seen, a sole individual to deal with. All of a sudden, they need to become a licensing expert; learn how to get an inventory of the whole estate; learn who the relevant stakeholders are; navigate the minefield of the vendors pitfalls and tactics; negotiate an almost certain bill for a shortfall in licenses upon completion, and all this while doing their ‘day job’.

All in, a company can expect 3 months for an audit to complete and this is a best-case scenario. Multiply this by the number of vendors software that you’re using and it becomes very stressful very quickly with numerous people out-of-action fighting fires.

No one wants to have to be the one who has allowed a catastrophe to happen, but though someone has to be ultimately accountable, the true responsibility can not lie within one individual’s hands – for all those involved, it’s an extremely stressful and potentially damaging issue to deal with.

Hazel elaborates:

‘For example – do any of these situations sound familiar to you?

  • You have the ultimate responsibility for the audit outcome; your management team will look to you for answers if anything goes “wrong”
  • You have a strong team of technical colleagues and you do trust them but a lot of the terms, detail and finesse is “technobabble”, so you have to take at face value what they tell you; which means the small, nagging voice in your head won’t shut up about “evidence”
  • You don’t sleep so well worrying what, exactly, that audit might find and what you can do about it
  • You don’t have a licensing team, you have a few people who claim to know “enough” but it’s a constant concern that “enough” may not be sufficient
  • You know only a handful of people in your organisation have all the details, like purchasing paperwork and architectural diagrams but, if one or more of them leaves you’re in a lot of trouble
  • You weren’t expecting that audit letter… in fact no-one in your team has ever been through the process so you aren’t sure what to expect or how to deal with it anyway
  • You don’t know where you’ll find the time to decipher and follow the audit instructions; your technical team is already maxed out and you’re expecting them to push back on all the activities required
  • You were brought in to an ITAM/SAM role with experience of licensing and audits with common vendors like Microsoft, but your role has suddenly evolved and now you’re expected to be an expert in the datacentre as well – with vendors like Oracle, IBM and SAP…

These are just a small selection of customer comments and concerns that Certero consultants have seen through the years. We know audits hurt financially but now we see valued and senior employees taking extended leaves of absence, driven by the massive anxiety and pressure of handling complex audit requirements on top of their day jobs.’

It doesn’t stop there either, maintaining, managing and controlling large software estates just adds to the burden and you may be feeling the pressure even without an audit letter.

The point here is that, although software and software audits are technology driven, there is a human element to the process and this is usually the last consideration. In our millennial world the cost of spinning increasingly complicated plates can be all-too-human illness as reflected in the ONS publications.

Recognizing Breaking-Point & A Safe Pair of Hands

Certero are here to tell you that we understand – we’ve been there. We’re still there, every day. But we bring with us a tried and tested solution to this problem that achieves the best possible results for you but not at the expense of the wellbeing of you or your staff. Hazel continues:

We say that we think and do things differently and yes – we created an innovative solution that removes the technical / data headaches from the process but we also have real, live human beings too, and this means that we’re fully equipped and ready to support you through any licensing challenges that inevitably come up.

As IT and licensing across hybrid environments becomes costlier and more complex, we develop and maintain the expertise and capability to optimize your investments so that you don’t have to.

Recognizing where the breaking-point is for your team and avoiding a catastrophe in human as well as financial terms is essential and will secure the longevity and effectiveness of your team.

So, if you have any audit questions or concerns that you’re perhaps struggling with, please don’t suffer in silence – the Certero team are here to help.

For more information on Certero services visit: www.certero.com

User Cases:

Certero SAM Managed Service for Oracle

SAM Service: Effective License Position for SAP

SAM Managed Service – Microsoft, Oracle & IBM

About the Authors:

Daniel Whitefield, UK and EMEA: Subject Matter Expert on all aspects of Microsoft On-Premise, Online Services and Cloud Licensing. Dan has extensive experience in the LSP space as a Microsoft Licensing Specialist and made the natural evolution from Microsoft License Management to ITAM and SAM.

Hazel Hopes, UK and EMEA: Oracle and Salesforce Licensing Consultant for Certero, has worked in tech for many years and is focused specifically on deep dive Oracle Licensing and compliance, helping businesses to drive maximum value and understanding from their Oracle estates.

Kevin Barnes, UK and EMEA: Kevin brings extensive experience in IBM licensing to the team (ELPs, Audit Defense and Advice and Guidance). This is coupled with a background in Financial Services and project management which help with customers from that sector as well as in executing remediation plans.

Noel Donovan, APAC: Noel has worked within the SAM and License Compliance industry for the past 23+ years focusing on SAM process maturity and license compliance in the datacenter (Oracle, IBM, VMware, Microsoft amongst others) for public and private sector organizations. In 2015 he moved to Australia from the UK and continues to focus on these services for APAC and global organizations.

Peter Chance, APAC: Peter hails from Perth, on the sunny west coast of Australia and has twenty years of experience in managing enterprise infrastructure. In recent history, Peter became responsible for his organization’s SAM and after evaluating SAM tooling, liked Certero so much that he joined the company. He is predominantly self-taught and excels at anything he turns his hand to, if he does say so himself. As a Certero consultant Peter delivers ELP’s and optimization services to customers across the APAC region and specializes in Microsoft licensing, Enterprise infrastructure, AWS, Azure, Managed services, Support and Product Training

Steve Wood, UK and EMEA: Steve has worked within the Public Sector, Pharmaceutical, Transport, Banking, Retail and Shipping industries, as an IT Asset Management Software Professional for over 20 years. Steve brings a wide technical understanding of HAM, SAM and the Optimization of Datacenter Licenses, especially as an SME for IBM and SAP. An experienced auditor for IBM, Steve has guided many enterprise customers through audit processes, achieving savings often into the tens of millions of pounds with big-ticket vendors like SAP and IBM.

Michael Gray: Michael has extensive experience with Microsoft and Adobe licensing from both the sales and consulting sides. He has worked with customers large and small as a Microsoft licensing specialist in order to assist them in navigating the ever-changing world of Microsoft licensing. He has several years of SAM experience as both a Software consultant and Software Asset Manager for a large international organization. Michael is knowledgeable within the Datacenter and has assisted many customers in the optimization of their Windows Server and SQL estates as well as their cloud-based licensing.

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