Properly tracking and organizing software licenses are major responsibilities of every IT manager. Organizations that have a clear understanding of their software assets and how they are utilized will be equipped to remain license-compliant and to make better purchasing decisions. Managing software assets effectively can also save enterprises thousands of dollars per year.

But many businesses have discovered that their software asset records are neither accurate nor current. Although the awareness of the importance of true asset management has increased, organizations often don’t do an adequate job of managing the risk associated with being noncompliant. Many businesses also purchase unnecessary, excess application licenses, which could result in overspending and inaccurate budgeting.

To avoid noncompliance risk and reduce software costs, businesses need to deploy a software asset management program that includes a process to ensure all applications are appropriately recorded and categorized. Here are five tips to help IT managers meet this challenge.

1: Automate the process

IT departments have historically placed an emphasis on enterprise efficiency by relying on learned best practices. But when tracking software assets, many administrators rely on antiquated manual tools while running from computer to computer. An automated solution reduces the excessive time spent on managing software assets while eliminating the manual reporting processes. With the greater insight into software allocation, as well as usage and license compliance, IT is prepared for vendor and internal inquiries. IT departments can also proactively make accurate software budget recommendations and assignments.

2: Integrate with asset management

To be cost effective and easy to use, software license management tools must be integrated into an organization’s overall asset management solution. This solution should also include software distribution, OS deployment, patch management, and remote management, since all these challenges are so closely related. Having integrated solutions has become increasingly important as IT departments face external vendor audits and internal budget cuts. An automated software license management solution that is a part of an overall asset management plan helps businesses improve efficiency and remain compliant while reducing software purchases and support costs.

3: Prepare for vendor audits

Technology vendors have recently increased their efforts to eliminate the unsanctioned use of software by performing surprise audits. Removing installed software or purchasing more licenses after an audit notification has been given is one of the worst mistakes you can make when dealing with an auditor. Organizations should conduct practice audits on a regular basis using software license management tools. In addition, they should designate a response team to ensure that their software license management practices are enough to pass an audit. An automated solution provides fast and clear access to application portfolios by generating detailed reports at any time.

4: Align software purchases, contracts, and support

Underutilized software wastes IT dollars. A software license management program can help you accurately plan your budget and gives you accurate insight into software usage. It should not only help you find out what licenses you currently have but also show you how often they are being used and by whom. Effective software management tools enable IT to free up software and negotiate the purchase price of software products. They can also help you develop a comprehensive strategy for aligning purchases, contracts, and support. This in turn avoids unnecessary purchases and keeps maintenance costs to a minimum.

5: Rely on an easy-to-implement tool that offers a one-year ROI

When researching options, look for software license management tools that are easy to implement and for which the solution provider can demonstrate a return on investment within the first year. Leading solutions should offer cost-efficient controls as well as compliance monitoring by combining processes, resources, and regulatory requirements into a single management framework. Also look for a solution that provides easy-to-read, customizable, on-demand dashboard reports to assist with vendor audits and to gain a greater understanding of product usage.

With the right solution, IT departments can avoid the risk of noncompliance using a process that does not strain staff resources. IT administrators can also improve the company’s bottom line by saving thousands of dollars per year in licensing fees.

Adee McAninch is the product marketing manager at Numara Software.