By Ryan Peatt, chief product officer, Kivuto.
Academic institutions face many challenges due to how the ever-changing nature of technology affects the management and distribution of licenses. No longer can schools afford to leverage traditional models to ensure their students, faculty, and staff are equipped with the right technology to succeed. Innovative and scalable new IT solutions must be developed to create the backbone for academic success and greater user experiences. This includes such things as exploring sustainable licensing criteria, centralized funding models, and risk reduction initiatives.
Sustainable Licensing Criteria
Faculty at higher educational institutions need the freedom to choose the tools they use to teach. But when resource procurement is decentralized, there is no visibility into what tools are being ordered, in what quantity, from which vendors, and at what price. This makes it impossible for institutions to optimize their budgets and ensure compliance with all laws, terms, and conditions.
It is crucial for institutions to develop enforceable and sustainable licensing criteria that include clear guidelines around what products their faculty can license, in what quantities, and from which vendors. Organizations can accomplish this by giving faculty more visibility into what resources are available and what terms and conditions they come with; or by establishing a request-and-approval process for faculty wanting to adopt resources their school has not already licensed.
The University of Utah did both, setting up a secure, centralized repository containing all assets available to faculty. Educators have self-serve access to all resources the school has already licensed, and requests for new assets can be submitted directly through the repository and are visible to other users who may need the same resources. By ensuring faculty are aware of what’s available and what’s been requested, and by requiring them to get approval for new resources, the university has established a more efficient and less risky way for educators to select their teaching tools.
Central Funding Models
In an ideal world, all software would be procured and funded centrally at the enterprise level, ensuring that compliance requirements are met, and that the lowest prices are secured. Unfortunately, central funding models can be too rigid for many institutions as they often require that a certain level of demand for a product before any licenses are ordered. This can result in frustrating waits for faculty and students who need resources that aren’t in high demand. Alternatively, these models may result in institutions over-ordering certain products and losing money on unused licenses. So institutions often allow individual departments, or even individual faculty, to handle the procurement of their own resources.
To counter this, Queen’s University explored the option of implementing a cost-recovery plan. Under their model, software would be procured centrally at very high volumes to get the best pricing available. The school could then ‘sell’ licenses to individual end users for far below the equivalent retail price or other volume-license/academic pricing. These chargebacks, combined with the savings the school sees by purchasing in bulk, would save Queen’s a significant amount compared to the cost of ordering licenses on an as-needed basis.
Software licensing is complex, and with complexity comes risk. Institutions are responsible for ensuring compliance with all terms and conditions attached to every piece of software they license, from campus-wide essentials to niche products used by a single faculty member. This is already an uphill battle. As vendors transition their products to the cloud, move to time-based delivery models and inflexible clickwrap agreements (which are often updated without notice), software management and distribution will become even more complicated – and riskier.
IT teams need visibility into what software is being purchased, installed, and used at their institutions. They must ensure that the number of licenses installed does not exceed the quantity purchased. All stakeholders should clearly understand all usage rights and restrictions attached to every product they use, and comply with them diligently. Procurement and IT teams need to vet service agreements against their own legal, privacy, accessibility, and computing policies, as well as applicable laws.
Risk reduction must be a core priority in any college or university’s software licensing strategy. Aggregated and centralized management of software licenses can help with this by reducing the overall level of risk to schools through visibility and education.