Software self-audit for Australian businesses: more than child’s play

Recently, I was shown a Microsoft letter requesting a company carry out an internal software audit. Searching for details, the letter appeared to be a resource made available to Microsoft Licensing Experts. Martin Thompson had dissected the letter in the past to highlight the benefits of controlling software license costs and obligations for those involved.

Talking to Grandparents
Software self-audit not child’s play.
CC BY 2.0

However, although online public information was available, I was still asked questions from the person who sent me the letter, which I replied to:

Q: From what I understand, we are not obliged to conduct this audit – is that correct?

A: No, this is not correct. Businesses should comply with the request (refer to How to survive a software audit – White paper).

Q: If so, do you think it necessary to do so?

A: Yes, doing so is necessary.

The reason being that Australian law has changed to help software companies such as Microsoft address software piracy. Attached is a whitepaper providing background and guidance about software audits. I think the following indicates how highly esteemed software audits are considered here in Australia.

“Software audits are such big business that not one but two industry associations are devoted to keeping track of the action. Both BSA | The Software Alliance and the Software & Information Industry Association represent major software vendors, including Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Adobe, Symantec and Autodesk. Acting on the behalf of their member software vendors, both organizations are alert for situations of software noncompliance. When found, they notify the software vendor, which authorizes a letter requesting a software self-audit by the organization. The results of such a self-audit may lead to a formal audit request.” How to survive a software audit – White paper

“Calls on local businesses to undertake regular software licence checks AUSTRALIA –November 25 2014 —
BSA | The Software Alliance (BSA) has settled a case with Planning and Design Pty Ltd, an architectural drafting business based in Preston, Victoria for its unlicensed use of a number of software programs.” BSA | The Software Alliance settles $118,000 illegal software use case

Based on the information gathered, it was important to show good will throughout the self-audit process and aim to comply with the request as soon as possible. The minimum requirements to comply with the request were to fill in and return the spreadsheet (shown below) provided:

Software deployment spreadsheet
Software deployment spreadsheet

The information requested included:

  • The Software details
    • Product name
    • Version
    • Licensing (FPP/OEM/VLS)
      • FPP: Software purchased at retail stores without hardware;
      • OEM: Pre-installed;
      • VLS: Volume Licensing and
    • Quantity and
    • Comments and
  • general questions about expanding and consolidating, software assurance and future purchases and upgrades.

This seemed straight-forward in theory but, when the task was started, there were complications. Most were because practice processes relied on the computers to handle documentation and information. So the solution had to allow staff to use their computer while the software was being scanned:

  • Subsequently, the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) service had to be configured on each computer to automatically extract the hundreds of software names on each phone, tablet, workstation and server without interrupting anyone using their device, not be tedious and be considerably less prone to errors
  • Also, getting someone to extract software details was not possible, because:
    • Permanent staff had other roles
    • Some were away and
    • Access to PCs were limited during business hours.
  • In addition, the software names on the spreadsheet did not match the names gathered automatically or manually from the Program and Feature lists, or the Program directories.

However, the issues were resolved and the WMI was configured so that the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) tool could run from a networked workstation and automate the software audit. Making it easier for all involved.

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