People, Process, and Technology: Three Pillars of Successful License Management

Nathan Biggs (@nathanbiggs), CEO

Over the past few years, House of Brick has had the privilege of working with hundreds of clients around the world to help them get a handle on their Oracle and SQL Server licensing challenges. While most people dread having to undergo a software audit once every three years, we at House of Brick are managing many different audits every single day. We must be gluttons for punishment!

Through all of this customer experience, we have refined our license services offerings into three pillars of focus, which have proven ultimately successful in supporting our clients through the process of usage discovery, compliance analysis, cost optimization, audit defense, and ongoing software asset management through usage monitoring and compliance event alerting. These three pillars – People, Process, and Technology – are often used in industry, but I would like to discuss how they apply to our license services work at House of Brick. Each pillar is required for success, and creating an imbalance in one over another may lead to missing key aspects of our license services work. In the next few sections, I will share House of Brick’s perspective on each of these pillars, and how we work with our clients to ensure successful outcomes.

While each pillar of our license services is important, the People pillar is undoubtedly the most vital. Ignoring people by focusing on technology automation, or rigorous processes will lead to dissatisfied customers who have been bullied by their software vendor, and who pay them too much money. Using Oracle as an example, we have all seen the news articles about their aggressive and overreaching audit practices. At House of Brick, we live at the epicenter of Oracle’s impropriety. We have seen far too many instances where our customers have become so anxious and worried about even the possibility of an Oracle audit that it becomes physically and emotionally unhealthy for them. It is also disruptive to their regular work responsibilities.

House of Brick focuses on the people in our client organizations by educating them on the correct principles of licensing, while filling them with confidence and hope that together we will get through any licensing challenge they face. With every license services engagement, we create a team with our client’s employees. For this team, House of Brick provides both an executive consultant and an architecture consultant. This House of Brick consulting duo spends time with every part of our client’s organization, from the executive staff, and procurement/contract management, to IT administrators and managers, and even the legal team. It is important for us to create an environment of unity for our clients on which we build solid license management and defense strategies.

Of course, we also deal with people at the vendors like Oracle and Microsoft. Too often, it is easy to forget that we are dealing with actual people, especially if those people are making claims that could put your career at risk. In performing our Oracle audit defense services, for example, there is no way we could replace the People component with software automation. The Oracle audit and sales professionals demand a high degree of interaction that we must deal with on a case-by-case basis. We carefully review every communication from the vendor, and every response strategy is meticulously analyzed with all key client stakeholders. A properly defended audit may take months of calendar time (not months of consulting time), and there are no shortcuts to patiently implementing the defense strategy that we have jointly developed.

The pillar of Process at House of Brick is also important. Our focus here is on measurement and analysis to provide answers to our clients as early as possible. It is not much fun to disclose to a client that they have some serious compliance issues in their current software deployments. Invariably, however, they thank us profusely for finding this out before the situation was discovered during an actual software audit.

Our license services Process pillar involves three key activities: 1) license entitlement discovery and documentation, 2) software usage discovery and analysis, and 3) current-state architecture review for future-state optimization. While it is not uncommon to find that a client is using certain software beyond their license entitlement, it is a more regular occurrence that we find that our clients have the opportunity to dramatically reduce their annual vendor support payments with some simple architectural and process changes.

By following this process, we can establish full vendor license compliance for our clients, and optimize their usage of the software going forward.

The final pillar is Technology. After all, House of Brick is a technology company. We have developed powerful software tools that are critical to our license services work. For now, these tools are available exclusively to our license services clients, and not available for individual download.

There are two components to our software tools that work in tandem for the benefit of our clients. The first component is the client-side software. The client-side tools perform software usage discovery and ongoing compliance monitoring. The discovery aspect is used in both license assessment projects, and audit defenses. The monitoring aspect is used once we have established a compliant state. We then deploy the automated monitors to continuously verify that compliance, and provide an alert if a non-compliance event occurs. The client-side software can be used in virtualized or non-virtualized environments, and also on-premises or in cloud deployments such as VMware Cloud on AWS or AWS EC2 instances.

The second component of our software is the House of Brick-side analytics, reporting, and software asset management engine. This engine performs a complex analysis on the data that was securely gathered from the client-side software. It identifies vendor software usage patterns, which will be utilized in the development of the audit defense strategy, and the optimization of the deployment architecture. The information in the House of Brick engine is vital for an effective audit defense as well as for ongoing compliance monitoring and usage management.

I hope that you can see how vitally important each pillar of the House of Brick license services is for our clients. We cannot effectively do one without the other two. Our focus on People, Process, and Technology gives our clients the tangible advantage they need to confidently use their vendor software, while remaining unintimidated in the face of vendor audit activity.

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