Why We Don’t Like to Discuss Software Licensing

discuss software licensing

The Elephant in the Room

In today’s environment we are bombarded on an almost daily basis with new technology, solutions and services. Just like with a new shiny toy, it is exciting and interesting to focus on what it can do, how it can better our lives, and what it will achieve for our stakeholder groups. So far, so good. However, we often don’t focus sufficiently on the contractual pieces of paper we sign or the terms and conditions we accept when we press the online acceptance button. After all, most IT terms are long-winded, sound like another language, and our general attitude of “she’ll be right” often prevails. Hence the importance of the actual contract after it is signed, rather than the intent of the parties upon signing. The contract itself – in its original, raw form – is usually overlooked, even though it almost always impacts on licence compliance.

If you have experienced the negative implications of licensing compliance, don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone. Most of us will agree that the very word “compliance” is emotive. We’re usually still on that high where we’ve assumed all is OK. We want to be transforming and implementing the cool stuff, like cloud, blockchain, AR/VR/AI. However, the common thread across these is “licensing compliance”. It won’t go away, and at some point it will rear its ugly head. Should we panic or admit defeat?

Why don’t we want to talk about software licensing, putting it in with death and taxes as topics we don’t discuss in polite company? Here at Palisade, we think it’s partly because having to talk about “it” implies we aren’t across the nuances of the finer details and as in control as we could be. We have a false belief that we are OK!

What are these “finer details”? They include the complexities of legalese, terms and conditions, vendor terminologies, products, definitions, metrics, rights, restrictions and obligations. Many of these may seemingly be buried in multiple documents each with hundreds of pages, or defined by references to ever-changing URLs.

In the case of Oracle, the sheer numbers of different types of licensing arrangements are confusing in themselves.

Recently, we conducted an exercise to put all the links referenced in an Oracle Cloud Schedule into a word document, and it made up 38 A4 pages, of just the links! The complexity and relevance to each contract you sign is not just perception, it is real. This is the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) of the unknowns in compliance that’s used as one of the tactics by vendors to create “false positive” sales environments. And they get away with it!

It is in the myriad of all this, irrespective of actual technical software deployments, that organisations usually come unstuck. The procurement and administration teams charged with looking after annual licence and support renewals as well as migrated and/or new purchases are often at odds with technical teams charged with getting on with projects to deliver business value as well as attend to problems. Taking the time required internally to understand enterprise-wide licensing implications can become complex, confusing and costly.

Add to this that the responsibility within an organisation to understand and sign off on a contract is often not defined. That responsibility frequently falls by default to contract management and evaluation people, or those that “inherit” the responsibility, and the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the specific vendor’s commercial and legal terms is not taken.

It can seem easier sometimes to simply throw up our hands and cry ignorance than to actually try and take control.

Why is licensing so important?

Software licensing is generally defined as the legal instrument(s) that governs your use of software. It is the legal contract that defines what you can use, how you can use it, and who can use it. Software should be licensed before you install and use it, otherwise you are considered “in breach”. Licensing your software ensures you pay for those licenses you need – a balancing act between acquiring too many licences which is wasteful for an organisation, and not acquiring enough, which leaves an organisation open to costly remediations. At the time of purchase, licensing usually seems fair and reasonable. However, after a few years much can change.

Being out of compliance with any form of licensing can be the single, most unanticipated budget exposure for an organisation.

Is your organisation 100 percent compliant with software licensing? Do you know the answer? Do you know what non-compliance means and how it could affect your organisation, financially, or reputational or both? We encourage you to talk with colleagues up, down, and sideways across your organisation. Talk with contacts you trust in other organisations. Talk with organisations that you know are utilising similar software technologies, having similar business problems, and implementing similar solutions. Unfortunately, more often than not, talking to the vendor is not a good idea. After all, they have their own vested interest at heart; but there are plenty of other avenues. If we can start to discuss software licensing, we usually find someone who has contemplated the same question, and this can lead to someone who can answer it!

So, don’t let the elephant in the room put you at risk and create uncertainty in your organisation! It’s often the difficult conversations that have the most value in the long run. You have our very best wishes for kickstarting the conversation, “are we compliant”?

Find out more about our Oracle licensing services and how we can complement your existing internal or external arrangements.