Ship shape

Acquisition is among the chief enemies of efficient, streamlined IT. But for VT Group, the Southampton-based defence and civil-contractor, it was an acquisition that precipitated the centralisation of its IT infrastructure, and in turn the optimisation of its numerous software assets.


VT Group needed this makeover more than most. Having diversified over a number of years, the company’s five business units – which offer services ranging from shipbuilding to educational skills – had developed idiosyncratic, discrete software functions and processes, explains Paul Freemantle, director of IT service delivery for the VT Group – a predicament that created inefficient IT silos and duplicate functionality.


As he was to discover however, it was the confused nature of the organisation’s software distribution that would prove most pressing. “We had a problem in one of the acquired businesses where, having completed the acquisition and having gone through due diligence, we began looking at integrating it into the group.” As it transpired, Freemantle continues, the division had “a poor licensing position,” but furthermore, “we didn’t really have a clear picture of what we had across the entire group.”


But when the company’s newly centralised Group IT function attempted
to tackle its licensing problems independently – via Microsoft’s ‘self-start’ Software Asset Management (SAM) programme – it quickly became apparent that the scale and complexity of the task was too great. “In some areas the licences came with the machines, but in others they were off-the-shelf boxed products, or even a select agreement. Like a lot of these things, the question was where do you start?”


Teksys, a Microsoft services consultancy, helped Freemantle answer this question. By bringing in LANDesk’s Asset Manager product, Teksys enabled VT Group to gain visibility on its installed software assets across 5,000 PCs. “We could then go into the office and count up the number of licences or disks that we had to see if the two matched. The third dimension, of course, is what the software vendor thinks you’ve bought from them as well,” says Freemantle.


Gradually, Group IT was able to align these three numbers, and discovered that in many cases the group owned more licences that it previously assumed, effectively representing “money in the bank”, says Freemantle. But in addition to providing an inventory, LANDesk also allowed Freemantle to view how regularly end users were actually deploying software tools, and in some cases highlighted products that had not been used since installation.


“Users being users will often say they need an application that gets installed but never used. So we’ve uninstalled those products and brought them into the pot to be reused elsewhere,” explains Freemantle. In addition, the project has allowed Group IT to create new, ongoing rules around software use, meaning products that have not been run within the last six months and are unlikely to be used in the near future, are also uninstalled and deposited in the central software pool for use elsewhere.

With improved visibility and control over its software assets, VT Group has made significant savings, and has been able to scale its operations at a reduced cost. Going forward, says Freemantle, the organisation is in a strong position to optimise all its software assets, particularly because end users are now more aware that unused products represent a cost to the business.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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