A Consultant’s Story: No Tool Can Do It All

Mar 24, 2021

Though maybe best known as an innovator and developer of ground-breaking IT Asset Management and SAM solutions, Certero has always retained a global network of in-house SAM and licensing experts, who deliver Certero’s broad scope of independent SAM and ITAM services.
A pioneer of what we call the ‘Technology-Led Services’ approach, Certero’s vendor specialist consultancy team have the unique benefit of the full Certero technology platform at their disposal, to help them provide value to customers much faster and with greater accuracy than the traditional consultancy-heavy, ‘tool agnostic’ or manual approaches to delivering services.

This is because the substantial knowledge and expertise within Certero is what informs the creation of the technology and how it’s used by the consultancy team in practice, to deliver value beyond the norm – each element doing what it does best, in harmony.

In this blog series we look to Certero’s SAM team including dedicated specialists in Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SAP and SaaS & Cloud, who discuss where the lines are between the expert knowledge and the unique insights from the solution, the value of symbiosis between the two and the knowledge they provide that will never be captured within a SAM solution…
In this first installment, members of Certero’s global SAM Services team discuss why expertise is essential:

Compliance & Controlling Risk – it’s not just numbers

When it comes to establishing a compliance position for a particular vendor – ensuring that the customer is fully informed of where they may have financial risks from under-licensing and where exactly they are over-spending on software that they don’t evidently need – it isn’t just about adding up the numbers within a SAM solution and creating a nice ELP screen – that’s just a starting point.

The SAM consultant’s role is to have a deep understanding of the publishers and know what to do with the information, as Certero Oracle and IBM licensing consultant for the APAC region, Noel Donovan explains

“Knowing what’s deployed and what licenses you own is only the first step to license compliance. How you reconcile the two data sources comes next. Ensuring you understand all the publishers licensing and policy nuances and how they apply to all of the operating systems, processor types and partitioning/virtualization technologies you’re using is paramount to making sure you don’t end up in an awkward, costly, situation with said publisher come audit time…and expecting the, often under resourced, SAM team within the organisation to possess these skills, across all publishers, is a tall order.”

Noel raises a key point – a SAM solution can provide visibility and can help to identify the technical complexities around environments and how that impacts licensing with specific vendors, but organizations still need to have someone who understands each publisher in detail and can leverage their knowledge to maximize potential benefits whilst making sure that the interpretation of the rules remains in-line with the vendors.

With multiple vendor’s software in use, it’s often difficult for one individual to be an expert with all of those vendors and for IT leaders, recognizing where additional help and resources are required is a vital element to keep control.

The Vendor Smorgasbord of Rules

Many SAM solutions have begun to offer automation– possessing software recognition and ‘pre-canned’ intelligence on the defined licensing rules of vendors. This certainly helps to truncate otherwise cumbersome manual processes and of course, the solutions must always provide the evidence and underlying data so that the optimal positions identified can always be logically verified by the SAM consultant.

Every vendor however, has its peculiarities which only licensing expertise can identify, as Hazel Hopes, Certero Oracle and Salesforce Licensing consultant for UK and EMEA, confirms

“Like all of Certero’s vendor specific modules, Certero for Oracle applies many of the licensing rules and uses its in-built functionality to build compliance data – however there are always elements in any engagement which sit outside the solution and require human analysis.

Areas such as contractual clauses, 3rd party or restricted use licensing, disaster recovery environments, hosting rights, oddities around usage profiles and sometimes even usage bugs produced by the Oracle products themselves; these all need to be traced, addressed and, if needed, mitigated.”

Change & Contractual Conundrums

Reviewing contractual data is especially important as there can be hidden complexities in these documents which companies sign up to and then overlook, often leading to compliance issues further down the line.

Certero’s experience suggests this to be a common problem where vendor products have been in use for several years and stakeholders who originally agreed terms have moved on, leading to confusion and worry for those left behind. (See Financial Services User Case where this scenario occurred).

 In addition, there may have been acquisitions or, worse, divestments, meaning the business loses track of who can use what and where. We have seen divested/sold companies still happily using vendor products without realizing they lost the right to do so during the divestment process, causing huge financial risk.

We spoke to Steve Wood, Certero IBM & SAP licensing expert for the UK and EMEA about his experiences with SAP contractual data and how it relates to usage and optimization:

“Customers using the SAP ERP solution will have purchased their SAP licenses over many years and under many contracts, and in many cases these licenses have no direct relationship to the user’s ability to access the ERP system, and therefore many customers may not be taking full advantage of their licenses. The addition of SAP services for any SAP ERP system will provide an additional level of understanding which often has not been encouraged by SAP. Though the use of the services alongside the inhouse SAP team we can provide the additional understanding of the SAP contracts and license entitlements and how these can be applied to the current users, to assist with the optimization of their licensing and to also ensure that a user is correctly licensed, ensuring that the SAP ERP licenses are right sized and optimized for the estate.

With mergers and acquisitions this is even more important to get the estate right before going out and buying additional licenses, using our services team will provide a view of the current system and provide options for alternative licensing as appropriate. “

Audit Anxiety, Mitigation and Control

As well as helping you maximize and understand your current investment, a licensing consultant can help you gauge how to mitigate, plan for and understand if your vendor’s suggestions (or reseller’s) are the right ones – or if an alternative strategy would be best for you, as Certero IBM Consultant for UK and EMEA Kevin Barnes explains:

“Our IBM Licensing Specialists can help you reduce exposures, optimize your software usage, provide audit defense services during an audit, as well as other more general help, such as; is a new proposal by IBM for a software actually going to work in your favor?

When it comes to reducing exposures, it is not always just a case of removing software – for example, the timing of a decommission and ILMT deployment can be critical to not putting yourself in an adverse position. Optimizing software can involve understanding how to use IBM’s complex licensing to your advantage and during an audit, do you know if you are inadvertently sharing information which is contradictory, thus putting yourself in a bad position?”

Beyond any SAM solution, having a clear understanding of how the major vendors approach auditing and how you can use this to your advantage is key to keeping your costs under control.

Forrest Silverman, Certero IBM and Oracle expert in the US, warns that a lack of clarity in these areas can cause unforeseen financial consequences:

“ELP Services for Oracle and IBM are paramount to fully understanding your licensing requirements. The complexities involved with Oracle and IBM licensing can easily lead a customer into using the wrong version, edition or type of product which can lead to mis-licensing and eventually a serious unexpected financial outlay.

With our expertise comes the understanding of the why’s and how’s which can provide the mechanism for correction of misunderstood requirements. Additionally, our expertise allows us to facilitate change, advise where duplicative products are in use and identify where overspending might occur… all of which are endemic problems with using IBM and Oracle software.”

We have seen too many businesses agree to additional audit expenditure just to make audits go away when there could be other options. Major vendors have very active audit programs, Oracle have traditionally generated substantial revenue through their auditing activity and they are not alone, as Steve Wood tells us:

Forrest Silverman, Certero IBM and Oracle expert in the US, warns that a lack of clarity in these areas can cause unforeseen financial consequences:

“IBM covers a wide spectrum of products and have a very active Audit program backed by KPMG and Deloitte, which has been established for over 15 years. Customers struggle with understanding the requirements of IBM licensing and the complexity of the IBM product bundles. The addition of IBM services to any ITAM project where IBM software licenses have been purchased provides a complementary technical resource with specialized knowledge of IBM licensing and the IBM Audit process.

If a customer doesn’t have any IBM expertise in house, but have IBM products installed, having our services team provide the IBM Licensing function for the ITAM team is critical and would help to avoid the risk of unplanned expenditure from audits through providing the ITAM team with the full visibility of the IBM licensing and thus reducing the overall risk.”

In Summary

As much as ITAM & SAM technology has evolved and many of the old ‘data’ problems simply do not need to be problems anymore; the consolidation of asset management disciplines onto a single platform has enabled the focus of SAM professionals to be on acting upon information and delivering value, rather than frustratingly spending most of their time just collating that information.

The role of the SAM consultant is more valuable than ever, as it is they who transform information into business value and with better information at their fingertips and more time to analyze and take actions, more and more organizations are able to transition to the ways of continuous control and technology value optimization.

By using specialist expertise, the abilities of the Certero suite of products can be significantly enhanced. Certero’s global consultancy team bring that additional element of clarity through the services engagements which de-mystifies many of the rules and, working directly with and for the customer, allows us to adjust findings to allow for their distinctive environments and business structures.

The second blog in our series looks at how businesses can assess SAM maturity, identify any gaps they may have with elements like specific vendor expertise, a lack of a SAM governance or emerging technologies, and how it’s possible now to simply ‘Switch ON’ the additional capabilities they need.

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.


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

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