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Webinar Transcript: How to maximize your return on Office 365 licenses

21 May 2020 by Finn Searchfield

Office 365 licenses webinar

This post is a brief transcript of the webinar that took place in March 2020. You can watch the on-demand recording here.

Doug: Welcome everybody! Let’s talk from a technology perspective for the next little while, as Quadrotech has introduced into the market a product called Nova.

Nova has five core pillars so it’s a multi-pillared approach to Office 365 management/infrastructure. From the perspective of what we’re going to be talking about today, we are focusing on two core pillars. Firstly, the Reporting & Adoption tools.

This allows you to report heavily across all your workloads and a lot of the underlying configuration and settings of Office 365. And then, also enforce and move forward adoption which is part of the License Lifecycle Management that we’re talking about today.

The underlying technology for a solutionThen, Delegation & Policy Control. Which is, down to a very granular level, the ability to push policies and actions down to the people that are the most impacted by them. In the context of licensing, we’ll see how this applies as well.

So, for the next little while, we will be going through how Nova implements this License Lifecycle Management approach. Let’s dig a little bit deeper into how this looks from a process point of view, as with a lot of lifecycle management approaches, there’s a lot of different factors, a lot of different people, and a lot of different domains that come into play.

License Lifecycle Management

In this particular one, we’re going to start with the licensing reporting. This fits primarily within the finance domain, as they want to understand the question of, “Buy only what you need”.

What are we actually going to need to enable our workforce to deliver functionality and value within the Office 365 framework? But then I’m going to have to look at that and say, “I need to make sure that I maintain control over this”, and this is really where that gap that we’ve been seeing is quite clear. We’re not keeping the level of control that we need to for this.

So, we’re going to take a look at internal billing. How do we understand how we do our billing for internal components of our organization? Be it a business unit or at any line of business approach, it’s still within the financial domain, so at the end of that particular part of the lifecycle I should understand what I have and I understand how it’s filtering down to the individual lines of business.

And then, I’m going to switch over to the user domain: I must get the users to also buy into this lifecycle. The first part is, I need them to adopt what we’ve bought, and I need them to understand that these things have been purchased. There are significant financial implications to have purchased these licenses and we need the user to use them, so that the value filters back up to our initial investment. I need the users to take charge of understanding where these licenses are being assigned and push this down to the lowest level that makes sense within my organization.

Then, I come back, and I start all over again. Do I still need the licenses that I purchased? Within a Microsoft enterprise agreement some of them are 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, no matter what, there will be a point where they’ll come back and you’ll have to make sure you have a pretty good understanding of where that occurs.

So, let’s break each one of these lifecycle chunks into how it gets applied within the Nova technology, starting with License Reporting.

License Lifecycle Management solution overview

License Reporting

License Reporting is really the nexus of all this, it all starts with understanding what I have. I need to understand my subscriptions, I need to understand the current state of usage, I need to understand what licenses I’ve been purchasing but haven’t been assigned, I need to understand who is actually using it from a perspective of workload by workload and be able to understand what is actually not being used. Then I can calculate and define an adoption plan to move to a more agile model, where I’m continually eliminating surplus licenses or assigning new licenses as they come in at a business level.

Not just doing what a lot of us do, which is just buy a lot of licenses, put some buffer in there, where the buffer right now seems to be around 18% that aren’t needed. That needs to be shortened, which we can all see if you put some financials against that, it would be a significant saving.

So, let’s now go through how this works and looks within Nova itself. Nova has a very rich reporting framework; you’ll see as we go through a lot of these different slides there are multiple ways that I can display the data. The way that we display it might not work for your organization, but that’s the beauty of Nova Reporting & Analytics, you can break it apart, redo it, clone it, do anything you want with these reports.

License Reporting

Baseline Reporting

We have some pretty standard baseline reporting and one of them is, “What do you have?”. This is a question that is often hard to answer within an organization, so a report like this is pivotal. Where I have my actual SKUs I’m using: how many licenses I have within those SKU’s; when they were created; when did I actually purchase them. You can see in this particular model that 2014 was the initial purchase, but I have some other things that have been assigned in 2019. So, some fairly recent additions as well.

Don’t forget, Microsoft’s flow – you see this one here ‘flow per user’ – which was introduced in 2019. Sometimes that’s actually given out as an individual service and initial cost is free, or it will always be free, so this is continually changing. You have to make sure you go through it. A lot of these things might not be costing anything, getting bundled up into something else, but understanding what those are and where they are is important. This is the what drives Microsoft to give users access to particular services. So, be able to do that.

Each one of these subscriptions could have been across multiple purchases. We can aggregate these by SKU type or aggregate by creation type, so a majority of them were given out in 2014. Beyond this, how many are trial or other types… I continue to unpack this any way that I want. The core technology behind all this is a very rich report designer that allows me to select the data fields that I want to display and show it.

What we’ll do in the next slide is show how I start unpacking some of this information. Now I have a formal understanding of the SKUs that I have available to me, how are they actually being assigned? I can use Nova Reporting to start unpacking that. I can do it in a lot of different visual ways, so I can see it by charge down here at the bottom, how many people within my organization have Exchange licenses, Teams licenses, I can also unpack it by particular license set. I have 100 Power BI Pro licenses, but I only have two people that are using it. I have eight Visio clients, but I have almost full utilization there.

Baseline Reporting

Assigned Licenses

I can start taking those, look at these, and even though we will be very focused by nature on our E3 and E5 – our core licenses that we usually have in place – some of the savings are in these lower components. I think, “I’m excited about using CRM or Power BI, that’s a significant cost,” so I buy a lot of licenses to start with and after six to seven months, I now know that nobody is using it or they’re not needing the license models that we have.

So, at the end of this process, you’re understanding who has assigned licenses within your organization and what is being potentially under-utilized or over-utilized. That’s just within the assignment component. Assignment doesn’t mean usage. So that’s the thing that we will come back to a little bit later on in our discussion.

License Reports - Assigned Licenses

Disabled users with licenses

You then want to start understanding about really quick wins for people that are, for example, disabled users with licenses. We find that we run this report for a lot of our customers, they’re surprised and they always say, “Oh, that guy left like four years ago, why does he still have a license?”. There’s always an assumption that when we disabled the user the licenses get unassigned. It depends very much on how you disable the user.

If you’re doing it through a PowerShell script or something like that, a lot of the automated scripts in the background will not run. You’ll end up with this process where you’re a little bit challenged with understanding why you have this long list of people that still have licenses assigned but are disabled. This is also pivoted – we can always pivot the data – to inactive users or people are still enabled but they haven’t logged in for a year. There’s a lot of churn at organizations and it’s very hard to keep up to date with that, we’ll often find that we get out of sync. Nova also can help with that.

Reports - Disabled users with licenses

License Delegation and Policy

Just taking one step back, automating and breaking up all these administrative tasks and having policies and automation around them, helped. For example, Delegation & Policy Control within Nova can be used to help with that disabling of accounts to make sure that everything gets unassigned properly. In this particular case, we’re talking about how it fits within the lifecycle. License Delegation and Policymaking pushes that down properly within our organizational units.

What I do here is I automate my license assignment by policy. I’ll create specific license policies, the particular license set within my overall subscriptions can be applied to a particular set of users; by role; department; location; any Active Directory attribute that makes sense can be used. I can say something like, “PowerBI gets applied to the logistics team but only in the United States,” so I can have that policy created and I delegate that down to the person who’s closest to that.

It’s very hard for an IT person to know who needs to have PowerBI within the Sales or other departments within a geography. So, I can actually push it down to a line of business owners, either managers or people that are on the sales floor, and then they are the ones that decide where/who those licenses should give access to.

So, for example, at the end of this, I’ve given engineering a number of E3 based licenses but I also need a Visio that can be assigned to the engineering manager, rather than IT. An engineering manager can give that out. They have 10 Visio licenses and they see that somebody doesn’t use it that much, so they need to take it away from that person and give it to another person. They still keep within their 10 user License framework, but in the traditional model somebody starts to give them Visio and you end up having this license creep over time of people that aren’t using it.

That’s now in place and that’s been torched down to the lower levels. How that works within Nova is very simple. I go into this very specific area for license policies. I go into that and I create a license policy. For this so this particular one it’s for my business unit leads, I can define who those people are and who they are within their delegation unit. I’m saying that basically, this business unit lead can deploy 15 PowerApps and an unlimited number of PowerBI Pro ones. I can have a lot of different ones here, so I have Marketing license policy, CEO license policy, you can go in here and define. It knows what licenses are available.

License Delegation and Policy

It uses that same SKU reporting framework and says, “You have 1,000 of these licenses available, I’m going to give 50 here, 50 here and 50 here.” Now you have this nice process of understanding, automating, and deploying this policy that has to be adhered to within those individual business units.

The added value is that this work has been removed from you. We always want to say that the people should always be focused on, they should focus on the most important things that they need to do. So, keeping those IT services running and available, that’s a lot better work than trying to decide who gets a license in a far-off department or division of your organization.

So, let’s come back to the internal billing side of it. It’s hard to bill somebody until you have that process in place, so getting this part of the lifecycle in place does require the License Delegation to be in place first. People get very territorial, naturally, about billing and pricing. They want to understand, if you get a particular chargeback bill within the organization, you want them to be able to push back and say, “Well, I don’t have control on this, you know how to do that.”

You’re able to then go back and say, “No, you have ultimate control because we’ve defined that back to you.”

You can use the data that we’ve gathered within the context of Nova to set up these billing procedures and approaches. You would define and refine your chargeback model; you can do it really in any way that makes sense to you. There’s no one chargeback model that works perfectly, it can be done by line of business; by user group, by role; by the country; by anything that makes sense that allows you to create that.

License policy example

You create reports that support accurate billing without the manual work. You have all the data at your hands to understand who’s actually within a particular business unit as it’s deployed within a Nova policy. You also have the data of where individual users actually slot in to. Now, this does require that your Active Directory is fairly up to date.

One of the sidebars here is that for any dataset to work effectively, you do need to make sure the Active Directory is properly kept up to date. If you’re using departments managed by X, whatever you’re using, you have to be able to do that. Then the teams that are being billed will understand exactly what they’re paying for because they have this concept of, “You’ve asked for this and we’ve assigned you X number of licenses, these are the licenses that are currently assigned, and whatever our internal pricing model is, is what’s been assigned to you.”

Internal Billing

In the next slide, I’m going to show you an approach that you can slice and dice a lot of different ways but I’m using Nova reporting’s heatmap capability here to show you the same data being segmented a lot of different ways.

To continue the session with more guidance on Office 365 License Management, please click here to access the recording.