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Mathieu Baissac argues for usage-based tracking instead of audits to ensure compliance
By Leslie T. O'Neill
For some compliance managers, the notion that they could do away with customer audits forever must be absolutely unthinkable. How would they enforce software entitlements? How would they prevent piracy and protect their company's intellectual property? How would they drive revenue and justify their organization's existence?
Mathieu Baissac has a unique perspective on audits. As the Vice President of Product Management at Flexera Software, the industry's largest provider of software licensing technology, he can see both sides of the compliance coin. At the 2014 IBSMA Compliance Manager Summit, he urged compliance managers to envision a world without audits. He wants to enable a trust-based conversation between software vendor and customer.
Mathieu Baissac, Flexera Software
"Audits aren't the solution," said Baissac. "They're too combative. They're too complex—the vendor's compliance position [can seem] arbitrary. There are questionable wins. Many audits settle for pennies on the dollar and don't win that much money."
"Wouldn't it be better if they bought more software initially?" he asked the conference attendees.
Based on his experience in the field, Baissac explained that many customers think vendors make their contracts confusing on purpose. Furthermore, some of them have become so distrustful—or had so many bad audit experiences—that they believe vendors' licensing models are designed to be too complex for customers to easily follow the rules.
He suggested that customers could be appeased and most compliance problems solved simply by tracking software usage instead of licensing. He challenged software-company compliance managers to start thinking about licensing in a new way.
"What if producers could capture software licensing in a non-threatening, non-intrusive way? Could [it] enable enterprise self-compliance with a 24x7x365 view of usage and entitlements? Could [it] provide a single source of truth of software license compliance for both the enterprise and the producer?" asked Bassaic.
Move from compliance validation to optimizationHe detailed the three steps that are required to move to a usage-tracking model. First, the vendor captures usage data from the customer. Second, the vendor freely shares and compares usage against entitlement with the customer. Third, the vendor can take action to reconcile any overages, such as sending an invoice for additional payment to the customer, as necessary. For this model to work, Bassaic said, producers must simplify licensing models so that they can be measured for true usage and customers must agree to openly share their data.
"This works for customers you want to trust, which might depend on geos. Maybe not China," noted Bassaic. He added that usage tracking would allow customers' software asset managers to "move from compliance validation to optimizing licenses."
Leslie T. O'Neill is a writer based in Pleasanton, CA.
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