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Chicago Public Schools Overhauls Its Software Licensing Management

January 20, 2017

Most organizations find that keeping track of, and optimizing, their software usage to be a challenge. Public institutions like school are finding it extra hard: software assets are often spread over many locations and budget are perpetually short. Better managing of software, however, would benefit these institutions greatly by preventing unnecessary spending on licenses that simply aren’t needed.

The Chicago Public School system, the nation’s third largest, recently sought to implement a plan to better manage software assets. The district has 130,000 Windows devices (in the schools and administrative offices) and an increasingly diverse infrastructure that was becoming too much for its understaffed IT department. Until recently, it had a serious lack of insight into what software was installed on these devices.

The district was using Microsoft (News - Alert) System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) for discovery, but the enormous amount of data being collected required a lot of manual sorting, categorizing, and collating to build an accurate inventory of software titles and versions. When management asked for the number of installations for a certain application, it often took over four man hours to come up with an accurate figure to satisfy the request. With an average of 50 such requests each year, the team, led by Paul Valente, Managed Services Support Lead at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), was finding it necessary to spend 200 hours per year manipulating system center data.

“While we are centrally managing IT, we have a decentralized software procurement model, so each school has the autonomy to go out and buy whatever software they want,” said Valente. “And they’d had this for 15 or 20 years. So there’s been a lot of going out and buying whatever they want, but our team is very small.”

Ultimately, CPS chose a software asset management solution from Flexera Software to provide visibility over its software estate. The solution allowed  the district’s IT personnel to easily see what was installed and where, reduce its cyber security risks, reduce new software purchases and make more informed IT decisions. Valente noted that before the installation, the school system simply wasn’t having discussions about software. Those responsible for client computing were trying to streamline service delivery; procurement was trying to optimize spending; and IT security was trying to mitigate vulnerability risks. Communication and visibility were lacking.

“It’s something we’ve found on the procurement side, on the security side, on the cloud computing side” he said. “It’s valuable for us, all three, to come together and talk about that. Now we can all collectively have a conversation on it and try to figure out a plan of attack for whatever software-based issue we’re looking at.”

Ultimately, greater visibility into software assets is saving the district money and taking some of the pressure off IT resources by improving the workflow and centralizing control. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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