Many systems management tools such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 have the ability to monitor application usage.
When combined with tools such as AppClarity from 1E, this can be used to find and reclaim unused software. This technology enables organizations to make substantial savings in their software spend, but sometimes the politics can be more complex than the technology.
Works Councils are prevalent in Germany (Betriebsrat), and are also found in France (Comité d’Entreprise), the Netherlands (Ondernemingsraad) and many other countries across Europe. They are primarily intended to protect and promote the rights of the employees and can wield a great deal of power within an organization. These lobbying forces can often prevent IT changes that have a perceived impact on end users. Understanding the motivations of the Workers Councils can be key when it comes to moving forward.
Workers councils have traditionally been very strict about ensuring that any new monitoring tool cannot be used to prove that a worker was not using their PC. It is usually argued that this information could be used to unfairly persecute workers and at the least make working conditions unpleasant and at worst result in unfair dismissals. Unfortunately this has meant that many IT projects that would be great for the business have stalled because of concerns raised by the Workers Councils.
Application usage monitoring such as Software Metering in Microsoft SCCM is a classic case of something that could be used to monitor user activity on a PC and hence is often met with much scepticism by the Workers Council. Many organizations believe that this is an impassable obstacle. It doesn’t have to be.
To move forward two steps are recommended. One involves people and the other involves technology. The former involves working with the workers council to help them to understand that this will not result in worse conditions for workers – and could substantially improve them. The latter involves enabling Software Metering in such a way that user information is minimized, but it can still be leveraged to eliminate software waste.
Understanding that the Works Council exists to defend against possible job reductions or people being put under unreasonable pressure is key. It is important to help them understand the goals of the project, what data will be collected, what it will be used for and who will have access to it.
Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager contains a central control file (called SMS_DEF.MOF) which tells the system how much information to capture. An engineer can edit this file before activating the Software Metering Agent to instruct the system not to gather any user data. The process is very simple; most administrators should be able to review the file and change any user related lines from “TRUE” to “FALSE”.
Once the software metering agent is enabled a review of the permissions should be done. It is recommended that the objects containing metering data be secured so that only the chosen tool can access them. This means that there is no possibility of any data being used by unauthorized admins.
Finally, metering traditionally requires that rules be set up for each and every application that will be monitored. This gives rich information about frequency and duration of usage – more than might be acceptable to Works Councils. AppClarity has a proprietary analytics algorithm that do not require these rules.
With a little persuasion and some technical expertise, your tool of choice and Microsoft ConfigMgr can be used to save significant amounts of unused software within organizations that have Works Councils.