How to avoid software strangleholds

It’s all going well, until it isn’t. That saying can be applied to many things, even software. There are a few things to consider when choosing an enterprise software solution. These considerations go beyond the features and benefits offered in the solution; they concern the type of company you are entering into a long relationship with and how that relationship is put to the test when things change.

Take, for example, these three common scenarios: license recycling, upgrades and end-of life (EOL) events. To illustrate, I use print management software as an example. It’s a good example to use since Gartner estimates the adoption of pull printing and other print management tools will increase by more than 40% by 2019; it is likely that you will find yourself evaluating an enterprise print management solution.

Software license recycling

Software license recycling is where a paid software license is re-used elsewhere. Say for example, you currently have 100 multifunction printers (MFDs) from brand X. You are using a print management solution on these 100 MFDs. It is time to retire 50 of brand X MFDs and you wish to purchase 50 MFDs from brand Y. In this scenario, you would be recycling 50 of your print management software licenses from brand X to use on brand Y, right? Not so fast.

Some print management software vendors require a new license if the brand of MFD changes. When evaluating software solutions, make sure your RFI or RFP templates include provisions for hardware changes at no additional charge and that the EULA allows for recycling of licenses. Failure to do so can put you at risk for unexpected and unbudgeted charges.

In the scenario above if you purchased fewer MFDs to replace the 50 that are being retired, there is another opportunity for savings. Make sure your RFP template includes the fee structure should there be a decrease in the number of devices used as well as how support costs would decrease.

Software upgrades

Simplifying it, upgrades are either minor/maintenance upgrades or major upgrades. Maintenance upgrades happen regularly and usually include minor new features, bug fixes and improve overall operability of the software. With most print management software or software in general, upgrades are included for the life of the software or a pre-determined amount of time.

Major upgrades introduce significant new features or technology. Investigate whether your software agreement includes upgrades to major new versions and get an historical understanding of how often these major upgrades occur, how the software provider helps you upgrade and the impact (on support for example) if you choose to wait on the upgrade.

End of life events

Another common software stranglehold is end of life events.

An end of life (EOL) announcement signals an end to upgrades and support for that version will end. Best practices suggest that your software provider give adequate advance notice (usually 12 to 18 months) and a clear path to continuation of services. The problem arises when the path to a continuation of services means having to purchase new licenses.

If you find yourself in an EOL scenario where your software provider is demanding new license purchases, consider your options:

– Negotiate a longer support period

– Negotiate a steep discount for new licenses

– Evaluate other options by your provider’s competitors:

  • Are you still receiving value for the software
  • Are new solutions available at a lower price
  • Have your needs changed, increased
  • Are there better options for service and customer care

Even if you decide to renew with your existing provider, you will be equipped with the knowledge of alternatives and can negotiate from a stronger position.

How your software provider handles licenses, upgrades and EOL events speaks volumes about how they care about you as a customer. Sometimes just asking the right questions can save a lot of headaches in the future and prevent a situation where a software provider has a stranglehold on your ability to run a smooth IT services organisation.

Image source: Shutterstock

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