Buy what you use and use what you buy. This sounds like a pretty simple and sound policy, but it is tough to execute when it comes to software.

AUDITS Lockwood Greene's Christine Mann reduces tech costs with asset management.

Purchasing the right amount of software licenses to meet a firm's needs is a challenge. Many buy a volume license or too many seats, when they could operate as well with much less. At the same time, firms often discover that their PCs are sprouting mismatched program versions, or pirated copyrighted materials and unlicensed software whose presence can expose them to legal liabilities and potential fines. Software management issues have led to new disciplines for tech-savvy individuals–software metering, auditing and asset management.

Look on most desktops and you will see idle icons for applications that have not been used in months, if ever. Software metering and auditing on networked systems gives managers precise tracking tools to determine who uses what software, when, where and how often.

Some firms realized the value of managing software assets early. In 1997, Lockwood Greene Engineers, Spartanburg, S.C., began its software asset management initiative by creating the position of corporate software manager.

The firm centralized software asset management as it would any other key asset of the firm. All employees read and signed a corporate software policy. Each business unit provided proofs-of-purchase for all the software then installed. Building from that baseline audit, Lockwood Greene now uses the auditing tools of Microsoft's System Management Server to regularly inventory all its PCs and servers. The company audits all of its 30 locations and produces inventory reports to ensure compliance with corporate software policy. It also conducts several unannounced onsite and offsite audits each year.

"Since 1997, we now know how many copies of each software program we own at each location, as well as [in] the entire corporation," says Christine S. Mann, corporate software manager. "We have electronic purchase records for all of our software [and] can sort by location, application, date, purchase order etc."

TECH RECORDS Architects at Norfolk firm use multi-tool approach to track software.

Mann says the company can transfer licenses between offices that do not need them to offices that do, saving "thousands of dollars" by not having to purchase new software.

"We have been able to negotiate better purchase contracts and leverage our combined volume for much deeper discounts for all of our standard software applications," Mann says. The company's regular vendors include Microsoft, Autodesk and Bentley.

"We track our savings each year and average between 30 to 40% overall savings on software purchases and maintenance as a result of centralized software management," Mann says. "When we first centralized, inventory showed that we had over 600 applications. We've now standardized on about 150."

The standardization helps with price incentives, more focused training, deeper skill sets, better alignment of applications and work processes, improved internal standards and simpler integration, Mann says.

But using server-based software metering and auditing programs may be overkill for small firms, says Carl R. Gray, programming manager for GrayTech Software Inc., Wheaton, Ill. Gray makes modeling and CAD software for Windows applications. "If the company is fairly small, management ought to know what software is in use," he says. In Gray's opinion, tracking the information may be too time-consuming for a small company, but valuable for larger companies.

But auditing tools do not have to be expensive for small firms. Attest Systems Inc., Novato, Calif., gives small firms full-featured versions of its GASP asset management software for free. "They can download a demo, fully functional, 25 seats or less, that never expires," says Herbert Gottlieb, president and CEO. "They'll get a call from our sales department, but let them have it for free," he says.

Attest targets larger companies. Seats run $25 and less, depending on quantity. GASP software, including a 100-seat demo good for 60 days, can be downloaded free from

"The liability side of it is how we got started. We're the original software police," Gottlieb says. GASP is used by the Washington, D.C.-based Business Software Alliance, a software developer-supported organization that pursues software piracy by encouraging tips and initiating legal action, including raids of non-responsive companies, to extract settlements or press for prosecutions. But Gottlieb notes that these powerful economic motivators also encourage better software asset management today. "Many companies over-buy software," he says.

Software management can pay off by helping keep records straight. Norfolk, Va.-based design firm Hanbury, Evans, Wright, Vlattas has about 70 employees, mostly in its main office. It has made a concerted effort to manage its licenses and keep tabs on use.

"Keep on top of it early on with documentation and server-based metering if [your] firm can afford it," recommends Michael Sleeman, IT director. "Otherwise, it seems like you spend all your time digging through old records, software boxes, CDs, etc. to find out what you own and in what version."

"We keep track of things using several methods. In the case of Autodesk's Architectural Desktop and VIZ, we use a network license manager that issues licenses to users," says Sleeman. "For other software, we keep spreadsheets of which software is installed on what systems to make sure we don't install more copies of any software than we own." He says the firm plans to deploy Microsoft's System Management Server in early 2003 as a software metering tool.

Software vendors also are addressing audit and asset management issues by consolidating license offerings, recognizing that their customers do not want to pay for seats and rights that they do not use.

"We have seen more interest and action toward consolidating licenses across the globe, over borders, as well as downloadable versions and licensing terms that support internal digital distribution or self-service usage," says Tina Hong, director of product marketing for Cambridge, Mass.-based Mathsoft Engineering & Education Inc., maker of Mathcad and Mathsoft products. Like many volume licensors, Mathsoft is building software metering into its product offerings.

Hong says Mathsoft uses Globetrotter's FLEXlm. She says the company has given the subject quite a bit of attention over the past year, introducing licensing management to volume licensing first, and then an activation requirement for single-user licensing similar to what Microsoft requires for its products.

Built-in software meters also can help firms better understand how they use applications. Entranco Inc., a Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting engineering firm, uses Bentley Select Server to manage certain applications, includ-ing MicroStation, InRoads, Storm/Sanitary, Survey and Descartes product licensing. The system allows a complete review of license usage history.

"This helps us determine whether we have an excess of licenses that may be useful in other locations," explains Jay Van Echo, vice president and Arizona branch manager in Entranco's Tucson office. "It is a win-win for both the customer and us. It helps us keep our costs down by being able to pool the licenses for multiple users," he says.