Unwitting pirate makes a public confession

The Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) this week staged a public confessional of piracy putting on parade a company that had been caught in the act of using illegal software.

Admitting his company was caught with shareware, adware, spyware and every other kind of 'ware', In Learning managing director Richard Gordon said it wasn't an intentional mistake.

"My attitude to IT was like that of many. It was the IT guy's thing and I took care of running the real business," he said describing his attitude toward software piracy as apathetic.

His inattention to IT led to a lawyer's letters wanting to know what the company had on its computers.

"As a manager it was a very sobering experience; there were hundreds of MP3 files; we didn't have sound policy and procedures," Gordon said.

"I suspect there are literally thousands of other companies in the same situation."

To fix the problem, Gordon decided to follow BSAA's recommendations to the letter, which included installing auditing software, collection, collation and secure storage of software assets and installation of a firewall.

“The results have been nothing short of spectacular. We estimated that we saved $18,000 just by having the strength and capacity of knowing what we wanted,” Gordon said.

“We have had a 33 percent increase in productivity, and savings of $210,000 annually; we now have peace of mind and we’re in control of the software assets in the company.”

BSAA chairman Jim Macnamara admits the association has a secular interest in making sure illegal software is minimised, but believes if Australia is ever to develop a local software industry then piracy must stop being a problem.

He said the real problem is a lack of effective software asset management (SAM) within most organizations.

“And in addition to major economic losses to industry, business and the economy, lack of SAM exposes businesses to major risks like viruses, worms, security breaches, and downloading which results in lost productivity, higher support costs and higher software costs,” Macnamara said.

Deloitte partner Mark Sercombe said SAM is not easy to introduce in businesses and initial attempts weren't successful.

“The first couple of shots at this were a set of procedures to identify usage and they failed,” Sercombe said.

“The devil is in the detail. Financial, contractual and technical details were ignored in first attempts.”

Sercombe warns that an electronic monitoring tool is not the silver bullet, and simply following this approach means that SAM efforts are likely to stall.

“[The answer is] a mixture of people, process and technology. For the organizations that have got this right, there has tended to be five stages,’ Sercombe said.

“I recommend that organizations assess their own circumstances, look to a phased implementation, and adopt the most appropriate elements, because every business is unique.”

Sercombe also warns organizations to leave plenty of time to assess their software assets.

“The average length to work out what you’ve got will be two or three times longer than you think,” Sercombe said.

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