The ITAM Review

News, reviews and resources for worldwide ITAM, SAM and Licensing professionals.

Software on a Budget


CIO’s, IT heads, finance leaders and ITAM professionals are always looking to reduce or consolidate the amount of money being spent on software and software licenses. Tier 1 vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle and Adobe all provide the required software to ensure a business and it’s users can fulfil their daily tasks and meet goals and objectives set by the organisation.

Away from work, the majority of us like a bargain, we like value for money. If you had the option of a well-known branded car that was $20,000 more expensive than a very similar, if not exact model from a lesser-known brand, which option would you pick? You can apply the same logic to picking software.

Expensive Software 

There are a lot of vital software programs that are hugely expensive to an organisation, especially in the datacentre environment. Expensive software poses a number of risks due to the price and also complexity of the license model. Tier 1 vendors are also well known for being strict and difficult auditors. Finding an alternative vendor/software to their offerings may also help reduce the risk and headache of potential audits. However, as we will mention later, these software licenses and assets still need to be managed properly as you would with Tier 1 vendor applications.

Stating the obvious, but Tier 1 software will take a significant chunk out of an IT budget. Martin Thompson of the ITAM Review stated that “80% of software spend is within the top 5% of your software inventory”. Basically, only 5% of software equates to the majority of the software budget. When you consider the size of some global enterprise organisations and the amount of applications that may be installed within that environment, the figure is staggering.2

Looking for alternatives to expensive software can change this figure and the amount of money spent on software each year. There are thousands of applications out there, and many are worthy competitors to well known, vital software applications for businesses. The first step is to address what software vendors you’d like to save money on / find an alternative for, and then get researching!

Looking for alternatives

There are a number of opportunities throughout the year to look for alternatives for expensive software. The best time would be if you were coming up to the renewal date for the existing software. There should be an existing process in place for the renewal of software contracts, so you should know exactly when you need to decide if you are renewing or not. Three to four months in advance (depending on workloads and the software application) is time to start researching alternatives.

It is important that when you are looking for cheaper alternatives that you thoroughly research the limitations and capabilities of the software. In the past, I have created a short document highlighting the key features of the existing software, and then matched that to the alternative software. If there are glaring omissions from the alternative software, then it is best to keep researching. It is also important to see how often the software is updated, and whether the vendor provides any form of support/maintenance agreements. Having support and maintenance will help the transition from the older software to the new one.

Talk to your employees and understand what they like and dislike about the current software. Understanding your environment and users needs will help you make an informed decision on what alternative software is best for users and will be a good fit/alternative to their existing options. As mentioned above, there may be features missing from the alternative software, which the ITAM/SAM team may think, are key elements, however after speaking to active users of the software it may be the case that they do not need certain features.

Whilst looking for alternatives it might be worth talking to the vendor as they may offer some sort of introductory price. If you were to agree to move your complete estate (for that software type) to the alternative vendor then they may offer you an incentive such as free training days, added support or an extra discount to get your businesses custom.

It also may be the case that there are simply no adequate alternatives for certain applications. At least by conducting the research you know the software market, and you know you have no alternatives so are not missing out on any cost savings!

Are alternatives really a good substitute? 

Yes, they are. There are a number of strong alternatives to well known applications that will cost organisations a fraction of the price. A lot of these alternatives also have flexible licensing models, including concurrent, device or user, and after researching different vendors, there are only a few that offer subscription licensing. Whilst some alternatives may be more expensive than their cloud based competitors for the first year (subscription per month, and the upfront cost of the alternative), over the three years of a cloud subscription the alternative software can actually work out to be a lot cheaper.

Obviously using a lesser-known software vendor can be a risk. Support may be an issue, and patches/updates may not be as frequent. However, any concerns and issues should be found and discussed with the business during the research stage.

Potential issues

It is not uncommon for there to be a few teething problems with new systems or applications during the implementation phase. These can include:

CompatibilityThere may be issues with compatibility between current systems or software and that alternative software. It is important that during the research phase that the ITAM team or organisation finds and addresses any compatibility issues with existing applications and systems.

Packaging / Technical – Repackaging or making the software available to users may cause some issues. Experience suggests that there may be issues with firewalls and security software, and that deployment tools may not be able to deploy the software correctly. These issues can be overcome through research and support from the vendor. This is a short-term problem, and shouldn’t pose many issues long-term.

Acceptance – There may be a number of issues with users accepting the new software alternative. This may be because they are used to using other software and do not like change. With the proper training and education program, users will come to accept the new software and applications.

Managing software licenses

Despite not being Tier 1 software, management of the software licenses still needs to be effective and accurate. These licenses are just like any other, so make sure you keep all of the documentation, are monitoring and managing the installs, and ensuring that compliancy is met. If you are looking for alternatives to the likes for Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle and IBM for example, it may be the case that the alternative vendor are a lot less likely to audit you. As we’ve said however, you still need to manage your licenses and not install any copies or instances of software that you have not purchased.

One of the advantages of looking for alternative software is that the license metrics are likely to be a lot easier to understand and manage, which will please The Campaign for Clear Licensing!

Look out for our software comparison lists for all the major vendors coming to The ITAM Review soon!

Have you had any experiences in using alternative software to the ‘big boys”? What have you found the limitations to be, and what successes have you had? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Tools Day

Find out which ITAM Tools would be best suited to your budget at our Tools Day in London on 20th November.

Hear directly from leading SAM and ITAM tool providers about their tools and experiences in the market. This is a unique opportunity to get up to speed on the latest developments in ITAM tools innovation, raise queries with software tool vendors directly and connect with industry peers.

Register here. It’s free!

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About David Foxen

David Foxen is a Software Asset Management expert and enthusiast. He had a vast experience of successfully implementing SAM, SAM tools and also made huge cost savings. A member of the ISO Standards WG21, David is a massive ITAM geek, so uses any opportunity to talk about the subject to who-ever will listen. He believes that the industry needs to share its knowledge and success stories to help the SAM industry mature and become more effective. Always willing to help, his primary goal is to make a difference to organisations and the SAM industry so everyone will know how epic SAM is!

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