TD Financial revises approach to software licensing

TORONTO — TD Bank Financial Group has reached the proof-of-concept stage for an IT project that could completely change the way it manages its software assets.

The bank is contemplating the use of Computer Associates’ Argis product

and has installed it on a server and is training users for testing. The team involved wants to validate the potential benefits of the system and redefine the necessary business processes. They may make the decision for a full implementation by January, TD Bank manager of software asset management Joan Sinclair told the 5th annual Technology Asset Management conference Friday.

TD wants to be able to do a better job of both keeping track of the many operating systems and applications it licenses from vendors as well as ensure it is getting the maximum value from its investments, Sinclair said. This could include reducing the degree of “”over-licensing,”” where the bank may buy more seats of a product than it needs, as well keeping better tabs on its many software contracts and what those contracts obligate the bank to do.

“”They’re all over the map,”” Sinclair told the audience. “”They could be in somebody’s drawer, they could be a file somewhere, or someone could end up taking them away in their archive box when they leave.””

As part of the proof-of-concept testing period, TD is setting up Argis with workflow notifications so that managers would receive an e-mail alert when a contract is coming up for renewal, Sinclair said. The other part of the equation, however, was taking IT staff out of the contract management process entirely.

“”We took out the whip,”” she said. “”Today if a vendor comes in and asks how many CPUs something is running, the technicians know better than to talk about that.””

TD Bank is working on the project with Sherry Irwin, president of Toronto-based Technology Asset Management Inc. In her state-of-the-union keynote which opened up Friday’s conference, Irwin made reference to a Gartner Group maturity model which ranks businesses according to their IT asset management approach. This includes chaos, reactive, proactive, service-oriented and value-generating. According to Gartner, Irwin said, 60 to 70 per cent of most organizations are stuck in the first two stages.

While many enterprises understand the value of IT asset management, in most cases the benefits aren’t realized in their initial attempt to get it under control, Irwin said.

“”It’s one thing to ask where an asset is and how to find it,”” she said. “”The other question to ask is, how are we using it? What’s the actual value of those assets?””

Sinclair said the journey has been a long one at TD, whose software asset management group began with one person in 1992 and now includes a staff of five. The beginnings of the current project started in the summer of 2001 and involved a product selection process that saw considerable upheaval in the vendor community. Intraware, for example, which originally sold Argis, was bought by Computer Associates, while Peregine, another potential vendor, filed for bankruptcy protection. “”It just added a lot of flavour and (added to the) timeline of this process,”” Sinclair said.

Improved asset management can mean considerable cost savings, Sinclair added, particularly as users make smarter decisions about how to record an asset. A company might purchase a 40,000-seat licence for Microsoft Office, for example, and record it as one record with 40,000 assets. If instead a company recorded the purchase as 40,000 individual assets, they could be charged for each one.

Irwin said many companies are also pursuing asset management strategies to handle the full life cycle of an asset, including acquisition, deployment and disposal. “”Largely companies were looking at cost reductions in the past, but we’re starting to see that expand,”” she said.

The one-day conference also included case studies from users like Sprint Canada and vendor presentations by companies like Eracent Inc.

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