The Audit Before the Audit
If the Microsoft (MS) audit process was as innocent Sam unexpectedly popping the question, we’d all be shouting “Yes!” Too bad “SAM” is a less-than-innocent MS salesperson and the word “Engagement” has connotations that are anything but marital.
There are few things less appealing than the audacious Microsoft audit. If the thought of this process makes you cringe, unfortunately, you may have some work to do. Luckily, we’ve been there, done that countless times, so detailing what this engagement process entails is secondhand nature. After all, it is wedding season.
There’s more to (aud)it than meets the eye
Getting into the nitty gritty of the auditing process requires us to break down several important facets that are not always easily identifiable by the MS Software consumer. Note there are both optional and mandatory steps in the audit process and it’s crucial to differentiate between them, so your company remains in compliance. Further, MS audits have different levels. Senior Consultant Paul DeGroot emphasizes:
Microsoft has a continuum of audit levels,” DeGroot said. “There’s a self-audit, mentioned in some volume licensing contracts, where Microsoft sends them a form to fill out. There’s a Microsoft-paid SAM engagement. There’s a mandatory audit. If you elect to not do the first, you will get an ‘invitation’ to do the second. If you decline the second, you will get the third. (Computer World)
Microsoft has levels ranging from the optional, self-audit or Software Asset Management (SAM) Engagement, to the mandatory MS Software Licensing Compliance audit or Legal and Contracts Compliance (LLC) Audit.
How do you know when the time has come for the ominous audit? Microsoft will promptly send you a compliance letter and the best thing you can do for your company is to address it immediately or risk hefty fines – a detail which hides in the fine print.
The Microsoft-paid SAM Engagement option is basically the preliminary screening round, which, according to MS compliance managers, “helps customers gain data insights, optimize licensing, minimize risks, and be more productive with their IT investments” as well as “[…] save on cost and free up time and resources[…]” This entails a form sent from Microsoft that companies fill out, detailing their software procurement and licensing records.
Learn the lingo
At first glance, SAM Engagement and LLC audits appear independent of each other. However, further inspection reveals they are closely intertwined with the SAM Engagement leading to the eventual compliance audit.
Microsoft specifically states “Customers who […] have a robust internal Software Asset Management (SAM) process are likely to be better prepared for license compliance verifications,” in which “license compliance verification” is just a fancy term for audit.
Don’t get “SAM-ed”
Prompted by rapidly increasing MS Sales Goals, employees “kindly suggest” companies undergo the SAM Engagement option because SAM proposes ways in which companies may effectively upgrade or expand operations, such as substantial investments in MS Cloud Migration. And yet, on the back end, Microsoft Azure details: “when migrating to the cloud an organization must evaluate its security and regulatory compliance needs.” Regarding risk mitigation, you will be hard pressed to perform this level of company upheaval without some major form of software license auditing.
That’s when you start to wonder – do all roads (even the seemingly friendly routes) lead to a Microsoft audit? Are hefty investments and licensing fines inevitable?
If you are not in a place to undergo an invasive audit process, you should address this fact before pushing the company towards a decision that will eventually result in one.
Upon the initial notice from Microsoft that your company is due for license screening, conducting a pre-audit review of your enterprise through an outside party such as SLA is your best option to avoid unexpected fines and compliance fees.
Software Licensing Advisors specializes in the rationalization, optimization and negotiation of:
- Enterprise Agreement and Renewal Rationalization and Negotiations
- Other Microsoft Volume Licensing Purchase Program Considerations
- MS True-Up Reviews
- Price Sheet, Concession and Discount Validation
- Consideration of Purchase Programs
We utilize commercially available tools such as the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), LANDesk, and Altiris to gather multiple perspectives on inventoried software.
Software Licensing Advisors’ consultants are uniquely positioned to provide a great level of insight into these scenarios having had direct experience as Microsoft Employees. Our consultants have worked directly with the Microsoft Software Asset Management (SAM) and Licensing Contracts and Compliance (LCC) teams and World Wide Licensing and Pricing (WWLP) management and therefore know the delicate intricacies of these interactions.
Having instituted, conducted, and negotiated both types of audits for Microsoft, our consultants will teach you to expertly navigate the audit process with confidence, and at the same time, empower you to enact a Software Asset risk-mitigation process to protect you in all future cases. It’s a win-win.
So, the next time Microsoft pops the question, resist your automatic affirmative response and have them hold the phone while your company takes time to review the best course of action.