Microsoft announces its Software Asset Management partner of the year

REDMOND, Wash. — May 20, 2013 — IT security is one of the main goals of organizations in establishing a software asset management (SAM) program — especially the ability to recover quickly from catastrophic IT failures. It’s worst-case scenario preparation, a sort of insurance plan businesses hope never to need but can’t afford to be without.

Geir Gulliksen
Geir Gulliksen, director of asset management for Crayon.

That need was brought into sharp relief two years ago, after a tragic series of events in Norway: A deadly bombing and shooting rampage in July 2011 claimed 76 lives and destroyed the executive offices of the government’s IT organization, Departementenes servicesenter (DSS), knocking multiple government ministries offline.

In the wake of the attacks, disaster recovery became the No. 1 IT priority — a task greatly complicated by the fact that at the time, there was no standardization of IT among the different ministries. The Norwegian government turned to Microsoft Gold Certified SAM partner Crayon AS for help.

“The customer had to suddenly move several of its locations to more or less ad-hoc offices throughout the city,” says Geir Gulliksen, director of asset management for Crayon, an international IT consultancy based in Oslo, Norway. “There were 12 different ministries operating as 12 different IT entities. For DSS, software asset management wasn’t a matter of compliance at all; it was a matter of being able to quickly redeploy its infrastructure in new buildings.”

Crayon quickly worked to set the ministries on a path that would streamline and standardize software administration, management and licensing across the ministries. The solution includes set policies and procedures for software asset management, as well as a simplified licensing structure that allows for optimizing and reducing the number of agreements, and redeploying licenses between ministries. The new program eases maintenance and technical support and is scalable to allow for rapid growth.

“Crayon’s work with the Norwegian government really illustrates how critical software asset management is to IT security,” says Dinis Couto, general manager of Software Asset Management at Microsoft Corp., which today announced its partners of the year. “The company’s swift, careful and thorough work in getting DSS back online after the bombing — and functioning even more efficiently and securely — really epitomizes the potential of a good SAM plan.”

Downtown Oslo, Norway
Downtown Oslo, Norway. Two years after the bombing destroyed its offices, the Norwegian government has fully rebuilt its IT infrastructure.

Crayon’s support of DSS also included providing three advisors, who for nearly a year worked solely on streamlining IT communication between ministries. Today, the dozen or so ministries — now on the same standardized and secure software asset management plan — are reaping the benefits of improved intraministry coordination and communication.

But beyond cost and time savings, DSS’ new solution has improved the ministries’ disaster recovery and continuity outlook. “If you have a standardized, mature IT environment, good security is a side effect of that,” says Gulliksen. “We were able to provide the customer with a framework for effectively standardizing its IT platform, which makes them more secure and better able to quickly recover from a system failure.”

Creating the vast, complex solution for DSS required a certain finesse, but Crayon’s team has a lot of experience working with government customers, according to Gulliksen. “What we find the most challenging working with governmental entities is that, since each ministry works as a separate entity, it requires much more effort from us in aligning and synchronizing everything. You need to find the right balance of respecting the policies and procedures in place combined with the ability and willingness to try to optimize the procedures within the framework given to you.”

Crayon’s approach is to start by ensuring that a customer has sufficient people and policies in place to implement a SAM program, before there is ever a discussion about tools. For example, at DSS, Crayon worked to establish the concept of license harvesting and reallocation within the organization, and software-usage metering to support license optimization. A training program was established, and roles and responsibilities around licensing were identified and documented throughout the organization. The standardization has resulted in lower support, maintenance, help desk and interoperability costs, as well as giving the various ministries a common platform on which to connect. “If we fix everything else regarding software asset management — people, policies and procedures — we find that organizations become what we call ‘compliant by design,’” Gulliksen says.

Compliant — and better able to quickly respond to IT disaster. After the bomb blast, every day the Norwegian government’s IT infrastructure was offline was a day too many. That’s a timeframe the Crayon team has worked to shorten, by creating a solution that makes it possible for DSS to respond and restore its IT infrastructure much more quickly now than it could when disaster struck in 2011.

Crayon and other Microsoft Software Asset Management partners will be taking part in the Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston, Texas, July 7–11, 2013.