From a network point of view the impact of application usage monitoring software is small. That's because once a small piece of client software has been installed on each computer on the network, the only extra network traffic is a small amount of delta information the deviation from the previously held data which is returned over the network to a collection server.
There are other benefits as well. Your organization may allow certain applications, but expect them to be used only occasionally. If the company puts in place usage policies, then application usage monitoring can flag when applications like these especially bandwidth hogging ones are being used too often, or when their usage becomes too widespread.
"This enables companies to control who gets what and who's using it according to the policies you put in place," says O'Donnell. "Clearly there are privacy issues, but it comes down to corporate culture. My own view is that these are corporate resources being used and the company has the right to protect them from abuse."
One company now offering an application usage module as a bolt on to its core inventory management product is Tally Systems. Its TS.Census Usage Module is aimed at companies with 100 to 5,000 PCs, and John Mahon, a vice president of sales and marketing, highlights another benefit of usage monitoring software: it can provide important information to use in license negotiations with large software suppliers. "A lot of organizations are getting ready to have license negotiations with Microsoft, and they need accurate information or they are in a weak position," Mahon says. "Everyone uses Word, about half use Excel, and no one uses Access. That's the saying and it holds true for other licenses as well. If you know your precise usage figures, it puts you in a much stronger position to negotiate."
It's likely that as Microsoft increases the use of subscriptions-based licenses, usage monitoring will become more popular, but even ignoring Microsoft, the point is a valid one: The more you know about the pattern of usage of a particular application in your organiszation and the more accurate the data you can provide, the easier it is to talk to software vendors about license matters from a position of strength.
Internally too, accurate application usage statistics can be valuable. It's easy for employees to think that they need an application, but it often turns out that some of these employees never actually use it. With the right information it becomes easy to make decisions to re-allocate a license for a particular application from one employee who never uses it to another who probably will without needless arguments and memos.
It's certainly true that network administrators have enough demands on their time without being in charge of asset management as well. But if you do happen to land this added responsibility, using automated inventory tools over the network you run can make the job less painful. And if you save your organization a large sum money, some of the savings just might find its way in to your next fiscal year's budget making your job a little bit easier in the future as well.