Howard Smith’s vision of integrated process management tools (see Abstract Thinking) is laudable.
However, it is wildly ambitious given that most UK companies' finite IT resources and their preoccupation with surviving the current climate.
In our experience , companies improve their profitability by harnessing the knowledge of the people ‘at the coalface' to identify and enact process improvements. Integrating process management software into company business systems using enterprise application vendors smacks of over-elaboration and imposing a methodology on a workforce that may well prove resistant. The most logical step is to gradually involve employees in continuous improvement; beginning with simple software tools they use themselves. This paves the way for integrating these tools into business applications at a later date.
This phased approach also avoids major IT implementations that even large enterprises cannot justify. Howard Smith says that process management packages are starting to turn organisational design into a reality, but we believe that this breakthrough is being made using simple, desktop ‘process mapping' products that enable all employees to begin process management from the bottom up. If everyone is involved, managing business processes need not move outside of software to be effective.
Managing Director, Triaster
Named and shamed
Many in the UK IT industry have heard about the Business Software Alliance's latest amnesty campaign in the USA, which offers a "grace period" for software pirates to get themselves legal.
The last time a similar programme ran in the UK was Spring 2000. The BSA apparently has no plans to run such a campaign again in the UK. But companies should still be wary. In September 2001, for example, the BSA named and shamed a leisure centre, a county council and a candle maker among others in the UK. Their fines ranged from £9,500 up to £65,000, on top of the cost of the deficient licences.
Clackmannanshire Council in Scotland was recently named, shamed and fined. The council apparently had a select agreement with Microsoft, but had bought an additional 470 Microsoft Office 97 licences from a reseller. Microsoft said the licences were invalid. The council was fined $42,500 and forced to buy 470 Microsoft XP licences at a cost of £102,229.
As a vendor of IT asset tracking and inventory software, Tally Systems has been placed in an odd position by the BSA campaign – on the one hand, we agree that doing an inventory and staying legal with your licences is a good thing; on the other hand, we deplore the heavy-handed tactics being utilised by the BSA to achieve this end. It is too bad that the BSA is missing the point with its naming and shaming policy, highlighting the bad and not the good? What a shame the BSA has chosen to call in the lawyers rather than promote the positive benefits of keeping better tabs on inventory.
We think that IT managers should be doing audits for the right reasons – to save money, gain leverage in software negotiations, and improve helpdesk operations – not because someone has threatened to club them over the head with a lawyer. Hopefully IT managers can make some lemonade out of these lemons by using the BSA campaign to justify getting their IT assets under control.
Vice President EMEA
As your letter points out, it has become increasingly important for organisations to conduct a thorough inventory of their software assets on a regular basis. This month’s feature Underworked and overpaid, looks at why organisations often buy more software than they need when they still have applications ‘on the shelf' waiting to be implemented.