"I thought we had a great relationship with our software supplier – I never thought he’d audit us!"

We hear this sentiment a lot from clients who nevertheless find themselves struggling with a software audit, facing potentially serious settlement fees because they exceeded some software entitlement. These fees can be in the hundreds of thousands – sometimes the millions.

As consultants in the Software Asset Management (SAM) world, we’re often asked to quickly review a client’s ITAM plan, or maybe perform an emergency Software License Position (SLP) to reduce the risks of an expected audit, or maybe even one that’s underway. 

Clients grouse in private they believed themselves fairly safe from such audits for a lot of reasons. After all, they tell us, they were courteous and professional with their software supplier, gave plenty of business to the supplier, maybe referred their friends to the supplier, even invited him to holiday parties, or maybe he just seemed like a great guy.

Then came the audit.

Why? Even though software publishers sometimes ignore their contractual right to conduct an audit for a long time – sometimes a spark goes off. Maybe the supplier representative heard something that sounded wrong, or saw something that seemed wrong. Maybe a customer’s employee inadvertently revealed something about company future plans to change software. 

More often than not though what our SAM client didn’t know, was that at many software companies, especially the larger ones, the folks that market the products and provide price quotes and tell you the jokes on the phone and attend your holiday party, are in a different department than the folks that make decisions about audits. Software publishing firms can have the same disconnected stove-pipe organization that many of their customers have – meaning one department does not necessarily talk to another department.

In these cases, our SAM clients seem stunned to have devoted so much personal energy, and sometimes a lot of purchasing power, toward cultivating a relationship with the software salesman, only to discover the guy has no influence over software audit decisions.

So … what to do? What do we advise SAM clients?

Don’t count on your personal relationships with suppliers to insulate you from their audits. Be prepared. Develop a Software Asset Management plan to ensure your compliance with entitlements and defend you from audits that might come from any direction.

And then go ahead and invite the guy to your holiday party if you want. After you setup the SAM plan.