HR policies need to cover software compliance, warns FAST

Industry body believes software compliance issues need to be covered in company policies.

HR directors have been urged to do a better job of educating employees about the importance of steering clear of unlicensed software.

The warning comes from industry watchdog the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) after training firm TLE was found to be under-licensed to the tune of 28,000.

Regular software audits give you important data to put you in control of your software costs.

Updating policies to include information and guidance around what software compliance is and what it is not should be something all companies do from now on, FAST warned. Such policies need to be complemented by user education and reinforcement of that information.

The fact 14-year-old company TLE was caught unawares by the under-licensing shows just how easily non-compliance can occur. A former employee blew the whistle and FAST then wrote to the company's IT director to request a detailed audit.

"We worked closely with the IT director to identify any potential under licensing issues and as a result we are pleased to report that some 28,000 of licenses were procured. The fact that this is a skills and training provider has highlighted to us the increasing importance that employment policies are in place to advise employees on the correct use of software within the workplace," said FAST CEO Alex Hilton.

"As part of our ongoing mission to raise awareness, educate organisations and to enforce our members' intellectual property rights, we would remind all businesses about the importance of regular software auditing to ensure ongoing compliance."

 To help HR departments get to grips with compliance issues in their organisation and help steer policy amendments, FAST has produced a six-step plan:

1.            Make sure that all employees see and sign a copy of the company's policy on software use.

2.            Keep up-to-date information on this policy and processes in both hard copy and on the company intranet so everyone is aware what the correct procedures are when it comes to adding new software, hardware or employees.  

3.            Discourage employees or departments buying software on an ad-hoc or individual basis.

4.            Promote greater education and awareness around software piracy and create an easy-to-follow guide.

5.            Act within the company guidelines if an employee is found to have pirated software.

6.            Don't let the policy stagnate once created. Indeed, ensure it is reviewed at least every six months.

"Regular software audits make complete financial sense because they give you important data to put you in control of your software costs and increase productivity, let alone avoid the costs and risk associated with non-compliance," Hilton concluded. 

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