Avoid the Over-Licensing IBM Trap

Under-resourced and over-worked, the software asset manager (SAM) always has a lot on their “to do” list. Despite the unquestionable professionalism of SAMs, this pressure may mean some corners are cut, or genuine mistakes made.

Perhaps the easiest, and most costly, error comes in the form of over-licensing your software assets. With so many factors fighting for attention, it is very tempting to have a guess at the number of licenses required, add some extras to provide a margin for error, and move on to the next task.

Assuming you best guess provides a large enough margin, the license overspend is invariably cheaper than failing an IBM audit. But with license budgets continually under pressure, every penny counts – can you justify overspend at the cost of other strategic IT projects?

When IBM do get around to auditing your business, the discrepancy will be uncovered. The OEM may not be too worried about overspend, but your own management will be.

The following x steps will help you eliminate overspend without compromising coverage.

1. Prioritise your own license audit

No matter how busy you are, carrying out an audit must be a priority. You need to know:

  • How many licenses your business owns.
  • How many licenses you actually need to cover your systems fully.

Even if the process takes months to complete, setting aside a few hours per week will be a worthwhile investment – particularly if it reveals that your current coverage levels are insufficient.

2. Don’t rely on solely on automated tools

License discovery tools are helpful – to a point. Tools can create a baseline inventory quickly, but the total count is usually less than 100% accurate. Every report will need to be checked – probably manually.

3. Don’t rely on numbers alone

IBM licensing terms are intricate, and notoriously difficult to adhere to. It could be that you do have the right number of licenses, but that they are the wrong type – which would result in a failed audit.

Your audit needs to include a count and the type of each license held.

4. Don’t go it alone

The complexity of license types adds yet another layer of bureaucracy to a task that takes you away from other projects. With time and resources already in short supply, outsourcing to a third party releases you to re-focus.

A third party like Origina will be able to conduct the necessary license count and provide advice and guidance on your current level of coverage. Our Software Asset Readiness Assessment (S.A.R.A.) gives a complete snapshot of your IBM estate – it can even be used as evidence of your licensing coverage for an official IBM audit.

The bottom line is that a third party will give you an exact number of licenses so you can better plan future purchases down to the individual unit.

5. Stay up to date

Your audit is only a snapshot in time. The license count must be regularly updated to ensure you keep track of every new purchase – or if you retire or sell any redundant units.

Maintaining accurate records will help you avoid best-guess license purchases in future. So you can keep more of your budget for other projects.

6. Don’t guess at future requirements

As your business grows, so too will the number of licenses you hold. Wherever possible you should avoid licence pack bundles; this will simplify future administration and ensure you do not over-license by only ever buying the exact number you need.

If you do go back to panic buying licenses based on a best guess count, you will also need to restart this whole audit and inventory process from scratch.

For more help and advice about license counts and provisioning, please get in touch.


Many questions arise when thinking about whether or not to make the move to a third-party software maintenance provider for your IBM® estate. Read on for answers to some of the most common questions about TPSM.

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