The adoption of cloud services and virtualization may add layers of complexity to product licensing; therefore, customers must be become even more diligent with volume licensing practices. To better understand the challenges and opportunities that customers are facing, Microsoft (WWLP) has established a Volume Licensing Customer Advisory Board to solicit and track feedback on licensing programs, elicit new ideas and validate strategy, in order to build long-term satisfaction among customers.
The board is made up of 80 highly engaged worldwide customers, including executive decision-makers from IT, corporate strategy and strategic sourcing, across a range of industries and organizational sizes. The Volume Licensing Advisory Board meets regularly under NDA in both in person and virtual meetings. The board represents an expansion of efforts that were begun with the European CIO Association, when Microsoft WWLP corporate vice president Joe Matz and the general manager of the business and marketing group for WWLP, Richard Smith, met with CIOs from a number of European companies focused on supplier relationships. Recently, the North American and European boards held two day-long sessions on a series of licensing-related topics.
During the meetings, three key issues emerged that are top-of-mind for customers as well as vital areas of focus for WWLP:
- Cloud-ready licensing. Customers have expressed concern that the transition from on-premises to cloud solutions can result in complexity and budget unpredictability for licensing. The majority of customers expect to be managing hybrid environments for many years
to come, and participants are looking for a licensing structure that provides both on-premises and cloud environments that enable customers to transition at their own pace.
- The consumerization of IT. This is very much a reality for our customer base; a significant number of board participants said they are planning for device proliferation, and specifically for a future in which the majority of users are bringing their own devices into the workplace. Some participants even believe that within a few years, all devices will be employee-owned. Customers are looking to Microsoft to help them develop a strategy for managing a consumerized IT environment.
- Customer tools. This was an area where the advisory board discussion was truly educational for Microsoft. We’ve recently made significant investments in online product use rights, licensing briefs and other self-serve licensing planning tools —in the advisory board meetings we learned that there is a lack of awareness of these resources among many of our members. Participants who learned about the tools available agreed that they provide real value for planning and licensing compliance.
Planning tools that Microsoft has recently made available include these:
- MAP Toolkit. Customers work to be compliant, but at the same time do not want to over-license. The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is an agentless reporting tool that helps customers securely assess actual usage and licensing in IT environments; CAL Tracker and CAL Tracking Briefs help customers better track licensing and align purchasing with usage to avoid overspending or mis-allocation.
- Updated Product Use Rights (PUR). We’ve provided a number of tools to help customers better understand and manage PUR, including dependency guides and online tools for receiving use rights. The updated PUR design improves use and readability so it’s easier for customers to find information on rights for specific products and cross-reference related products.
- Licensing document library. An updated document library lets customers find specific guides and case studies to understand their licensing options and requirements.
All these resources are designed to help customers get full value from their licensing and more easily implement the most appropriate options for their organizations and budgets.
Advisory board members also wanted advance information on critical licensing changes, so they can prepare their organizations for transitions and manage budgets — an area where many customers have limited flexibility.
We heard this and much more during the advisory board discussions, and are already taking steps to implement much of the feedback and suggestions. It’s important to Microsoft to make sure that customer voices are heard, and that as products and programs evolve to keep pace with a dynamic marketplace, they do so in ways that not only meet customers’ needs but anticipate and solve their problems.
In upcoming posts we’ll be sharing more topics that the advisory board members discussed, along with steps Microsoft is taking inresponse to customer input. The advisory board will continue to meet throughout the year, supplementing in-person meetings with virtual meetings, one-on-ones and workgroups to continue to help Microsoft better understand customer needs and goals.