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Software Usage Monitoring and Works’ Councils – It Can Be Done!

“With a little persuasion and some technical expertise”

This article has been contributed by Amelia Collins, Product Manager at 1E

Introduction

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

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.

Tracking User Activity

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

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.

A Two Part Solution

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.

Part One: Working with the Works Council

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.

  1. Stipulate that any information gathered will only be used for software waste analysis. Offer to put this in a written agreement between the works council and the IT department.
  2. In tough times many organizations are forced to make cuts to jobs and employee benefits. Point out that this initiative is about getting rid of software that no one is using. Cost saving like this has almost no user impact. This is actually great for the employees – the sort of thing that a modern works council should be advocating.
  3. Some works councils have agreed to automated unused software reclaim on the condition that software should not be removed without giving the user the opportunity to opt out. This is a technically achievable option which may be a key negotiation point.
  4. Microsoft ConfigMgr allows restriction on who can view raw data. Using this in conjunction with a tool like ours means that a software manager could only see software centric reports and have no ability to trace this back to a user.
  5. Metering in Microsoft ConfigMgr can be restricted to collect much less information than is commonly understood. It is possible to measure application usage without any user information being captured. The following section discusses how this can be achieved.

Part Two: Enabling Metering… Safely

Amelia Collins, 1E

Amelia Collins, 1E

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.

Conclusion

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.

This article has been contributed byAmelia Collins, Product Manager at 1E

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About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.

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