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Software License Manager

License Management software protects intellectual property against unauthorized copying and distribution for various Digital Rights Managed business applications. Companies can monitor the use of rights-protected applications to ensure license compliance, control distribution, preserve revenue streams, and avoid piracy. Application protections can be specified to networks, individual users, and time tables. License software is related to Application Development software and IT Asset Management software.

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Software License Manager Buyers Guide

Software licence management tools protect Digital Rights-Managed (DRM) media items from unauthorised access, copying, distribution, and other forms of intellectual property infringement. With this type of software, companies can monitor applications that are rights-protected for compliance. In doing so, they can prevent piracy and maximise revenue streams.

Every type of software comes with a licence, including public domain and proprietary applications. The licence states the rights owner's terms and conditions for the application's use, including sharing, upgrade, and disposal. But the software used to manage a licence will often depend on the type of licence itself. For instance, there are tools tailored to app licences, hardware-locked software keys, cloud licences, and hybrid solutions.

Software licensing tools enable intellectual property managers, IP portfolio managers, legal representatives, and IT managers working on behalf of rights owners to track licensing status, issue licences, activate products globally, and monitor copy usage. In some cases, the software developer can single-handedly manage some of these tasks. But users can often set up network protections, customise individual access, schedule upgrades, and ensure compliance much faster with the right software licensing manager.

There is some confusion between licensing and asset management tools. Within a business setting, it's usually the IP manager's job to track licence usage for every user and type of service offered, set and impose registration fees, determine if the licence is a good fit for the user, and check compliance. These tasks can all be streamlined by the vendor with software licence management (SLM) applications to minimise waste and maximise returns.

But companies that licence software from developers and vendors can have trouble tracking their licences. If they licence too many tools, they risk paying more than they need to. If they don't licence enough, they risk violating their agreements. So, users must strike a balance between spend and functionality. To do so, they often rely on a software asset management (SAM) tool.

By their very nature, SLM and SAM tools are different types of tools with an entirely different user bases. But users often conflate the two because both types of applications can monitor compliance and optimise the use of software tools. Licence manager tools could share some of their features with various applications, such as Asset Tracking Software, Intellectual Property Management Software, IT Asset Management Software and Cloud Management Software.

Moreover, some of these tools come with complimentary IT services, courtesy of the ASP. Others have built-in modules explicitly created for software developers who are also service providers. So, Vendor Management Software sometimes crosses over into categories like ITSM Tools, IT Service Software, SaaS Management Software, and IT Management Software.

There's no shortage of business licence management software tools, all with unique selling points to match the diversity of the users. Some are created for very specific industry verticals, such as accessible app developers, augmented reality experts, the gaming industry, and music selling platforms. Others are geared toward companies wanting to outsource their operations to ASPs, cloud, or SaaS providers. But whatever the specifics, users should expect to be able to configure, monetise, and manage software licences with a few basic, out-of-the-box functions:

  • Tracking how licences are granted
  • Facilitating trial licences
  • Activating products and services
  • Monitoring licence usage
  • Protecting the copy against infringement
  • Enabling users to migrate, upgrade, and port licences

What is a Software Licence Manager?

From a software vendor's perspective, licence manager applications assist Intellectual Property managers in the UK to configure, manage, and monetise the licences they provide to customers. From a business customer's perspective, software licensing tools enable IT professionals to ensure compliance for their company's software assets, optimise software spending and stay audit-ready.

As there are tools that work both as software licence managers (SLM) and as software asset managers (SAM), the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the original meaning of software licence management refers strictly to the activities undertaken by vendors as they try to prevent copyright infringements on behalf of the rights owner.

In recent years, though, software licence management tools have taken on new meaning, and their capabilities span the whole gamut of a company's IT assets, not just licences. IT asset management (ITAM) software can combine inventory, financial, and risk management capabilities for hardware, software, and cloud assets enterprise-wide.

Software licensing tools can be used in several fields, including software development, security administration, market research, property management, insurance, engineering, healthcare, and translation. So, those in charge of administering the organisation's software licence manager may have a background in project, contract, property, product, or ward management rather than licence management. Licencing applications must be intuitive, user-friendly, codeless, and flexible to accommodate these diverse backgrounds and skillsets.

Software licensing tools come in several configurations, including desktop applications, web tools, browser extensions, and mobile apps. Used by companies of any size, from SMBs to Fortune 500 businesses, they can accommodate a wide range of business models and licensing options. For instance, they can support fixed seat licences, which are locked to individual hardware assets, and floating licences shared by co-workers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Users can also expect to manage software licences that are trial-based, time-limited, perpetual, feature-based, metered-usage, or subscription type licences. In some instances, users can also activate and check their licences offline.

For many of today's business licence management software tools, there's also an expectation that they should support APIs for all the major development environments. As a single-pane dashboard, the tool must also issue, monitor, and manage usage for software licences in real-time. Complete with integrations for the company's existing CRM, ERP, and sales tools, this application can survey software installed on-premise, on the cloud, or both.

With a licence or asset management tool, IT specialists can automatically reveal applications installed, see how they are used in real-time, and take immediate action. For instance, administrators may monitor usage based on serial numbers, login credentials, workstations, and other user details. They can access browsing information, manage licence renewal using built-in smart calendars, reveal hidden or unnecessary licence spending and optimise their costs through audit-ready compliance efforts.

Reliable licensing information is critical to any business and IT company in particular. Software licence management can return compliance information, utilisation rates across departments and regions, visibility into the global IT estate, digital transformation goals, key licensing challenges, and technology consumption changes. With these tools, administrators can optimise the use of their licences and improve IT governance across company branches and assets. When deployed on the cloud, business licence management software becomes scalable, capable of delivering value faster and achieving SAM goals more easily.

What are the benefits of a software licence manager?

The benefits of software licence managers are very straightforward and tangible. UK businesses use these tools to satisfy a variety of needs, such as:

  • Licence monitoring: Being able to single-handedly visualise a company's entire software asset inventory across departments, branches, and regions isn't part of a manager's job description. But with a licence managing tool, managers can easily do just that, and view licence status and usage metrics.
  • Budgeting: With licence management software as part of their toolkit, businesses can view consumption levels, assess entitlements, estimate maintenance and upgrade costs, and gauge demand changes. By analysing utilisation levels for specific software products, they can better negotiate contracts, consolidate integrations, consider developing in-house tools, or opt for software products with the potential to offer better value. This information can then feed into budgeting reports and be shared with accounting and finance departments, helping to improve expenditure control.
  • Boosting profits: Using a software licence manager can help pinpoint waste, redundancy, excess, and inefficiency. Wherever licences are underused, used incorrectly, or by the wrong people, there's the possibility that savings could be made. With business licence management systems, it's easier for managers to reevaluate, reallocate, and make the most of the resources available to them. Furthermore, every aspect of a licence agreement is put to good use, there's no wastage, costs are reduced, and profits ultimately rise.
  • Reducing security risks: One of the most rewarding aspects of using a software licence manager is that it prevents unauthorised access to company software. With rampant computer hacking, DDoS attacks, and ransomware campaigns carried out on organisations involved in everything from healthcare to the stock exchange, no industry or company is immune to cyber-attacks. But software licence tools can mitigate the risk of network breaches, malware, conflicts, and data leaks.
  • Software compliance: Licence agreements come with terms that are often complex, difficult to follow, and prone to change. Exclusivity demands, conflicts between competing brands, and compatibility issues are some of the most common problems, but administrators must also contend with the possibility that not all employees are using the software as intended or permitted. Being able to carry out software audits automatically and comply with the developer's demands minimises the threat of fines and downtime.
  • Centralised management: Visualising usage and compliance benefits not only the administrator but all stakeholders. With software licence manager software, this information is available to all those authorised on a single screen, with remote access, and often with engaging visuals.

What are the features of software licence management tools?

Typical features of software licence managers relate to how software is used within the company and how this usage can contravene established agreements. There are at least six major features that every business user should expect their software licencing application to offer:

  • Licence inventory: Manage information concerning acquired licences. Whether they are bought outright, used on a trial basis, or employed with a pay-as-you-go type contract, software applications can add up, and so can their costs also. Missing a renewal date, defaulting on payments, and not putting all their capabilities to good use can affect business processes. But with a software licence tool to keep track of all applications, capabilities, due dates, and global usage, organisations can make the most of their software inventory and keep the business running smoothly.
  • Compliance management: Maintain software compliance by identifying and enforcing compliance policies. To make mistakes is human, but compliance and non-adherence errors can be very costly. Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines, downtime, loss of business, and reputational damage. So, when it comes to compliance policies, it's best to rely on a single tool capable of monitoring every developer's terms and conditions, identifying conflicts, and matching the business only with applications it can use safely.
  • Maintenance history monitoring: Keep an eye on software lifecycle maintenance records, determine challenges, budget for them, and make long-term investment decisions. With time, some programming tools continue to grow with the company, offering new releases and versions to match the user's evolving hardware and resources. However, some software tools stagnate or deteriorate with time in terms of functionality, support services, or both. A software licensing tool should be able to flag up applications that are close to their end-of-life phase and are either too difficult to maintain or aren't of sufficient value to the company.
  • User permissions: Keep in control of authorised user lists, permissions, restrictions, and exceptions. Software licensing tools can manage user permissions for companies with massive and very diverse workforces, including thousands of remote workers, interns, temporary workers, transferees, and contractors. This is especially useful for businesses with high employee turnover rates, such as sales and marketing companies, warehousing facilities, NGOs, HR businesses, contact centres, education, healthcare, and technology developers.
  • Reports and analytics: View performance figures for every licence, track metrics over time and manage the entire inventory from a single dashboard. Being able to capture and see performance snapshots for every licence is useful. But licence tools can only offer actionable insights if they offer these snapshots daily, consistently—and relatably—so that managers can compare performance over time, between applications, across regions, and in real-time. For this, they need interactive and instantly updated graphs, charts, diagrams, tables, and reports.
  • Portability and scalability: Enable business managers to upgrade their licensing package, migrate, diversify, or even pass it on to their users. As the needs and demands of the userbase keep evolving, developers must keep up. For software licencing tool developers, this means being flexible enough to accommodate for seasonality, exponential growth, and the need to involve the end-user in their business model.

With Capterra's software directory, there's no shortage of software licence manager tools that come with all 6 of these features. For tried-and-tested licensing tools, readers are welcome to browse, sort, and filter directory results pages, which are brimming with options for software licence management applications developed specifically for business users.

What should be considered when purchasing software licence manager applications?

When buying licensing management software, users must first ask themselves if they're looking for a vendor-specific tool or one that's geared toward general business users. While vendors seek to monetise their SLM tool, regular users only aim to boost efficiency and lower software spending within their company through asset management. So, the type of tool should be their primary concern. But vertical markets aside, users should check that a licencing tool can offer everything required, which might include the following questions:

  • Does the software have real-time, automated notifications? Automated licence alerts for deployment, usage, conflict, expiry, and compliance are must-haves. Without this basic capability, administrators will find it hard to keep track of unauthorised, inefficient, and incorrect usage.
  • Are our tracking capabilities included? There are various ways to track software and hardware assets, and each has its merits. For instance, licensing software tools may impose QR code login, automated RFID check-in when employees enter company premises, app-enabled Bluetooth connections between devices, and GPS updates for field sales staff and other technicians. But companies need to consider how employees or outside operators may tap into these technologies, exploit their vulnerabilities, and gain access to company data in real-time.
  • Are there trial options? A licensing tool should be seen as a long-term investment, and companies should strive to find reliable developers, given the sensitive nature of the data they'll be sharing. This partnership is not to be entered into lightly, and any serious vendor should offer a time-limited trial version as a taster of things to come. Whether it's full-featured or it only offers a limited set of functions, the trial should be able to introduce even inexperienced users to the basics of licence management, ideally with the use of set-up wizards, chatbots, and pop-up guides.
  • Are product activation, renewal, and deactivation offered? Licencing tools can help administrators activate and renew their licences. Some integrate with popular software developing tools to facilitate product activation from the main dashboard. They may also be able to assist administrators as they terminate a contract for a software application that has reached its end of life.
  • What level of data security and privacy is ensured? Developers of licence applications have access to a treasure trove of user data. Knowing what software tools businesses are using is a privilege that can be abused and weaponised by competitors. For this reason, businesses need to demand that licensing software developers don't access or monetise their private data.

The most relevant software licence manager trends apply to the software industry as a whole. They reflect a growing demand for software that's more powerful, convenient, and competitively priced than in previous years. In the highly competitive and low-margin field of licence management, companies tend to outsource this service rather than build licence managers of their own, which only makes the market more competitive. With so many tools to choose from, managers should bear in mind these established or emerging software licensing trends:

  • Licence management is mobile: The demand for mobile access and mobile readiness continues to grow. It should come as no surprise, as administrators can keep tabs on licence purchases, installation, and usage more easily with mobile-friendly apps. From their smartphones and tablets, managers can monitor consumption and compliance remotely, taking immediate action if there are oversights, conflicts, or unauthorised activities.
  • More Artificial Intelligence (AI): Using AI, licence management tools can make dynamic forecasts and budgeting reports, pinpoint cyber threats quicker, and identify software misuse instantly. AI tools can also help administrators visualise their software expenses, issue smart corporate cards, manage subscriptions remotely, process invoices, reclaim VAT, and prevent fraud. But AI tools have their limitations, the most notable of which is their inability to interpret and address new scenarios, which is a vulnerability cyber attackers can take advantage of.
  • Built-in chatbots: Some users appreciate having a pop-up chatbot in the introductory stages, and some expect to use them indefinitely. As not all licensing team leaders have a background in IT management, chatbots can help companies even the playing field and give more employees access to their licensing tools. But there's a risk of over-reliance on bots, which don't always have the correct answers.