Microsoft exec downplays compliance

When Microsoft's Juan Fernando Rivera visited Computerworld late last month, his title was director of worldwide license compliance. Rivera now identifies himself as the worldwide director of software asset management, or SAM. In an ironic twist, Rivera is now adamant that SAM is not about license compliance, contending that "compliance is a by-product of software asset management." Rivera discussed the role of SAM in an interview with Computerworld.

How do you decide which customers to contact about participating in the SAM program?

IIt changes depending on the marketplace. Germany is a more mature marketplace around software asset management. [Customers and partners there] talk about software asset management, and they decide on their engagement.

For the customers that Microsoft engaged directly, we do some data mining. If you look at companies, for example, that have a volume license purchase history of 300 units, yet under public records they have 1,000 desktops, we tend to think it might be a possibility for that customer to be out of control in terms of the licenses' coverage. So we want to have a conversation with them around software asset management.

Couldn't a customer get confused when compliance is mentioned in the initial e-mail to them?

Right. Probably we need to revise that. But it's part of the whole education that we have to do in the field as well around what SAM is and how to educate on SAM.

Isn't it possible that an honest person might get upset by this approach? Yeah, the possibility of that happening does exist. And I'm not going to deny that. But the records that we have are very limited. It's just limited to [volume agreement] purchases. That's why we want to sit down with the customer and have a conversation with them. We're assuming positive intent on the customer's part.

When you target a customer who may really be in compliance, don't you risk losing that customer? That could happen. [And] yes it's risky. But that's why I want to have an open conversation with the customer. And that's why we're pretty transparent about what we do.

Did you sign off on the script that the U.S.-based SAM force seems to work off -- letters that bear striking resemblance to one another and sometimes escalate with a tone that some customers perceive as threatening?

No. That's part of the autonomy that they have in terms of how they define the processes. We give them general guidance on that, and if the script calls to be revised, we should spend the time and revise it.

Is the script being revised?

We spend a lot of time educating our internal people as well. Software asset management, even internally at Microsoft, is hard to discuss because some people don't get it, in terms of being vendor-agnostic, not being about Microsoft, not being about audits. That's why we call it something different. We call it SAM reviews. It's not an audit. Even internally, some of the executives still keep referring to that as audits. I've been in plenty of meetings with VPs where they say "audits" and I have to stand up and say, "Excuse me, they are not audits."

Isn't it still an audit of sorts, without the hammer at the end?

Yeah, it doesn't have fines. It doesn't have penalties. Maybe it tends to sound like that.

Is there anything being done to change some of these processes?

We're revising processes internally. We have spent time talking with different people, educating them on what we are doing and our goals around software asset management.

Is the program really about creating an upselling opportunity using the databases of information gained through SAM reviews?

It's not about forcing the customer into buying something new. It's not about the customer moving into a different scheme. It's about the benefits to the customer. If a customer can save money getting to a volume license agreement versus buying full-packaged product, that would be a recommendation. But it's our recommendation. It's not about selling.

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