Assurity Life Insurance markets life, disability income, and critical illness insurance through independent brokers, worksite marketing distributors, and direct mail. In recent years, Assurity has under-gone substantial growth, and IT staff saw that software assets were becoming increasingly difficult to manage. The company realized that an in-depth review of licenses and policies would support company best practices, provide suggestions for beneficial changes, and support future growth. The company worked with Software Management Systems, Inc., a Microsoft® Certified Partner for Licensing Solutions, on a Software Asset Management (SAM) consultation to inventory company software and evaluate SAM policies and procedures. Through the engagement, Assurity found ways to optimize software investments, streamline IT operations, strengthen IT governance, and prepare for future growth.
As a company with origins that date back more than a century, Assurity Life Insurance has seen many phases of growth. Started with the goal of making accident coverage available to working people and not just the wealthy, Assurity began in a one-room office in York, Nebraska. Over the next century, the company expanded and added products but never lost sight of the promise to provide help to people and families during difficult times.
Through acquisition and the addition of new in-house services, Assurity recently increased from 180 to more than 300 employees. Given this rapid expansion, the company became concerned about the potential for shortcomings in its software licensing management. Additionally, the company acquired desktop computers with diverse operating systems, which resulted in a cumbersome network environment. Assurity recognized the challenges and identified an opportunity to assess its software licensing practices and evaluate processes and policies.
Assurity Life Insurance partnered with Software Management Systems, Inc. (SMS, Inc.) to perform a Software Asset Management (SAM) consultation. The consultation’s scope included review of policies and procedures related to Software Asset Management, inventory of installed software, comparison of inventory to license documentation, review of record retention and media storage, and review of employee training and communica-tions related to SAM.
||The SAM program was not wholly focused on counting licenses, but more about reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure that we were following industry best practices.
Director of Information Technology, Assurity Life Insurance
Assurity used an inventory tool to establish a baseline of its software assets. SMS, Inc. compared the inventory with the Microsoft® Licensing statement and other licensing documentation to find gaps or instances of excessive licensing. Concurrently, SMS, Inc. interviewed key individuals within the Assurity IT department to review company policies and procedures pertaining to its Software Asset Management program. “The SAM program was not wholly focused on counting licenses, but more about reviewing our poli¬cies and procedures to ensure that we were following industry best practices,” says Kelly Murphy, Director of Information Technology for Assurity Life Insurance.
Through this comprehensive review and analysis of the company’s software asset program, Assurity confirmed some best practices and identified areas for improvement.
By acknowledging the importance of Software Asset Management, Assurity Life Insurance can optimize its IT investments. The company was pleased to find that its software asset program was a strong one and that many policies were appropriate. In addition, the consultation provided some key recommendations that will help improve the existing program. Through the SAM engagement, Assurity found that it could optimize software investments and streamline some IT operations while continuing to position itself for future growth.
Through the SAM engagement, Assurity gained an exact count of the software assets that had accumulated over years of growth and change. This baseline knowledge is crucial for efficient and effective IT investment planning. After completing the software inventory, the company realized that it qualified for a better volume licensing agreement.
By switching to Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, the company received additional benefits including discounts on licensing, training, and support. With Enterprise Agreement, the company received server license discounts and locked in license pricing for three years. “We had a number of server licenses that were up for renewal this year. The additional discount that we received by working directly with Microsoft on an Enterprise Agreement was significant compared with traditional volume licensing,” says Murphy. “We realized with the SAM engagement, that we were spending too much with our [volume] licensing plan. By moving from the Open License program to Enterprise Agreement, we realized a 22 percent savings.”
In addition, Enterprise Agreement provided the option to assign licenses to a computer or to a user. At Assurity, many employees use multiple computers to access different programs. The company could make the most of its licensing dollars by attaching a license to the individual user rather than purchasing multiple licenses for the various computers used by a single employee.
Finally, as an Enterprise Agreement customer, Assurity has benefited from Software Assurance benefits, including Microsoft e-learning offerings and training vouchers, 24x7 Problem Resolution Support, the Employee Purchase Program, and the Home Use Program through which employees can get a licensed copy of Microsoft Office desktop programs to install on a home computer. “The Home Use Program has been very popular with Assurity associates. It’s an additional perk that employees receive by working at Assurity,” says Murphy.
Streamline IT Processes
Assurity streamlined some key IT processes through the SAM engagement and subse¬quent improvements to its licensing structure.
Prior to the engagement, software acquisition methods consisted of a mix of individual unit purchases and Open License purchases. Doc-umentation consisted of receipts, license cer-tificates, Open License online management tools, and upgrade notes that were maintained by multiple individuals. SMS, Inc. recommended consolidating all asset man-agement functions under one system. Assurity chose Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, which allows the company to efficiently track all purchases online. “One big attraction of an Enterprise Agreement is that all licensing is tracked on the Microsoft Volume License Services site, regardless of who in the company makes the purchase,” says Murphy.
Another major benefit is that all Enterprise Agreement software comes with the Software Assurance offering. This provides great flexi-bility for the company in upgrading or downgrading workstations depending on business needs rather than by technology or license requirements. The IT department has systematically upgraded departments, thus maintaining control of update management. New Version Rights, part of Software Assurance, provide access to the newest versions of licensed software released during the term of the agreement. This ensures that employees are working on the same versions, thereby easing IT support and network management. And Assurity management gains peace of mind because company systems are up to date.
Improve IT Governance
Given the highly regulated atmosphere of the insurance industry, Assurity had a strong foundation of Software Asset Management policies. Still, SMS, Inc. reviewed insurance company documentation—including the Software Trial, Installation, and Use Policy; Software Acquisition, Tracking, and Audit Procedures; and Employee Handbook—and was able to suggest some improvements such as reinforcing informal, verbal policies with written procedures. In addition, Assurity is enhancing its corporate security policies to incorporate additional information on acceptable use and employee risk and asset management.
Recommendations from the SAM engagement also included quarterly inventories to continue the strong management of software assets and periodic training on best practices to increase employee awareness of Software Asset Management. The insurance company plans to disseminate new policy information in these employee training sessions.
Prepare for Growth
Assurity has prepared for additional growth by improving its processes for conducting inventories and for accessing and reviewing licensing data. The SAM program helps ease the complexity of a merger or acquisition, and minimizes the time required to coordinate and manage corporate growth. “Thanks to the Software Asset Management consultation, a review of licensing requirements for an additional merger will be a snap,” says Murphy. “Because we license desktop soft-ware by user rather than by device, we can simply adjust our licensing count under the Enterprise Agreement to match our total staff size.”
At merger time, Assurity won’t have to go through the process of inventorying all systems and trying to figure out which need upgrades, what has Software Assurance and what does not, and so on. Assurity can reconcile installed systems and versions at its own pace after the merger, without worry of systems being licensed incorrectly. Because Assurity is confident in its own inventory of software assets, due diligence in a potential acquisition can be greatly streamlined and also provide more visibility while reducing potential risk management issues.
Overall, the SAM engagement has helped Assurity be consistent in its IT asset management and prepared for future growth.
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Software Asset Management
Software Asset Management is a best practice and process that can help save money, control risk, manage unique and standard deployments of software, provide greater security and reliability, and achieve regulatory compliance. The combination of Microsoft® tools and partner services provides a solution to help you understand and implement processes to optimize your software investments, adhere to established business processes and regulatory controls, and build flexible and adaptable capabilities for the future.
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