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Software vendors used to demand that customers comply to licensing rules, but now customers are demanding something back: Help me stay compliant and show me the value of doing so.
It's a seismic shift in the traditional relationship between software compliance manager and company software asset manager. In part due to the improving economy, more competition among software vendors, and new cloud delivery models, corporations are demanding more value and services from their vendor partners.
"Customers want to better understand what they're buying and the value they're getting, especially as they have more buying power than in the past," said Chris Ruhl of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in his Compliance Manager Summit 2015 session on March 12 in San Francisco.
To maintain ongoing customers relationships, vendors have to prove their long-term value. For compliance managers, that means expanding their programs beyond simply auditing customers' enterprise software to offer value-added services and new engagement models. As it turns out, these new services can lead to important insights into customer needs—and compliance management turns into a mutually beneficial endeavor.
In turn, Ruhl argued, software vendors can mine that relationship to find out exactly what product enhancements and new services their customers need. Through the compliance program, product development teams can more accurately make changes to their products that will resonate in the market.
Today, software license compliance programs are more successful than ever in recovering revenue and protecting intellectual property, said Ruhl, but that's not enough. "Recovering revenue through audits won't ever change. How you engage with customers and what they demand is changing."
Connecting with the Customer
Compliance managers have augmented their programs with a variety of services that both drive new revenue for their organization and forge deeper relationships with customers. These include software asset management services including assessing customers' internal compliance programs, making recommendations to maximize software investments, and offering a variety of tools to improve customers' asset management practices. Assisted discovery and baseline services include a customer-initiated inventory of product usage, such as reviewing enterprise agreements or conducting a technology refresh.
Ruhl recommends that compliance managers develop four separate go-to-market models that make it easy to be transparent with the customer as well as offer new services:
1. Audits, which may range from "low-touch to high-touch risk-based engagement models," allowing the compliance manager to have an appropriate audit path for any type of customer,
2. Anti-piracy and enforcement models, which focus only on protecting IP and going after IP pirates,
3. Advisory services, including SAM services,
4. Sales enablement services, such as assisted discovery services.
Through these deepened relationships, compliance managers can drive business insights that are unique to the SLC team.
"Compliance program [employees] are much more engaged with other teams within the organization, based on their interactions with customers. They have a factual baseline with customers, even more than sales [employees]," said Ruhl. He pointed out that through SAM and baseline discovery services, the SLC team will find out about customers' creative ways to deploy the software that the product and sales team were unaware of.
Ultimately, as Ruhl pointed out, the ideal compliance program develops both highly satisfied customers and new streams of revenue.
"Investing in the customer is not just about getting the customer through the door. A deeper relationship results in good sells—and a more proactive customer."
Join us at our next event in Chicago for end user company software asset managers, the SAM Summit 2015, June 8-10. Visit SAMSummit.com.
Additional reporting contributed by Leslie O'Neill.
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