Firms should grasp software asset management nettle

Accountants have been urged to make the management of risks associated with
software and IT assets a top priority, as a new survey reveals the number of
companies in the UK using illegal software rose by 25% last year.

The Business Software Alliance has revealed that it opened 420 investigations
into UK businesses reported to be using software illegally, but it also found
the accountancy sector had among the least reported cases of software misuse,
highlighting how accountants can lead the way in tackling software asset
management within businesses.

‘Accountants are in a strong position to manage software licensing,’
according to Siobhan Carroll, regional manager northern Europe at BSA.

‘They must understand that it’s a significant asset and it should climb up
the business agenda,’ she added.

She said that there were many IT tools available to aid the measuring of a
company’s compliance with both software licensing and IT asset management.

Paul Booth, technical manager at the ICAEW IT faculty, said that accountants
often have broader responsibilities within a business to manage asset risks
relating to IT.
Booth highlighted two main areas of risk relating to illegal software.

First, pirated software often has viruses attached to it, which can crash
systems and lead to expensive downtime. Second, inadequately licensed software
could lead to its author suing the company.

The IT faculty’s own survey, in association with Microsoft, found that most
finance departments of UK businesses were not engaged in the management of their
software assets.

Its survey of more than 400 finance professionals involved in IT
decision-making found that although two-thirds had processes in place to manage
their software assets, 69% of checks were undertaken manually by staff with no
auditing software or third-party support, and only 4% undertook monthly checks.

‘It is important that businesses take a risk-based approach to their use of
licensed software,’ said Booth.

Paul Williams, IT governance adviser to risk management firm Protiviti UK,
said FDs should carefully check license fees ­ which can be heavy ­ to make sure
they are not paying too much for them.

‘You can pay more than you should. There are asset management tools to keep
track of licences,’ said Williams.

Concerns about recording IT assets were not just limited to software.

A report by XOU Solutions found that 36% of IT directors believed only a
quarter of their business’ IT assets had been recorded, with items most likely
to be missing off registers including mobile phones, PCs and laptops.

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