back to article Global bean-counting behemoth PWC tells vendors: Now would be a great time to audit your customers

You know how it is: the economy is in meltdown; half the company is working from home and the other half is furloughed. What is there to look forward to? Software audits, that's what. Yes, audits are among the advice global accountancy and consultancy PWC has delivered to a software industry beleaguered by the economic impacts …

  1. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Audits? Now? Really?

    At times like these when many companies are struggling to stay afloat and have many staff WFH any vendor rocking up with a 'we'd like to audit you now' is going to lose any goodwill the customer may have towards them in 5 seconds flat.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Audits? Now? Really?

      Let them visit each employee one at a time at home, at their expense, with masks and disinfectant...

      Although they can't do that in Europe because of GDPR. "It is classified, try again in 6 months."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Audits? Now? Really?

        All staff working from home, other households not allowed in someone else’s house in the UK. Good luck with that...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Audits? Now? Really?

          > All staff working from home, other households not allowed in someone else’s house in the UK. Good luck with that...

          <phone rings> Hello, yes... you'd like to do an audit? .. That's fine. I'm working from home at the moment, do you mind coming round to my house? You don't? That's great. By the way, one of my tarantulas escaped his cage last week and I still haven't found him, but don't worry, the pit bulls usually start growling if they see it.

  2. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    What a surprise

    There is a reason why a nickname for PricewaterhouseCoopers was Prize Slaughterhouse.

    Remember accountancy and consulting firms are NOT your friends - they are bloodsuckers along with lawyers and taxmen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a surprise

      Private Eye is always a good source for highlighting the high quality "work" undertaken by these firms.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: What a surprise

      A surprise would be an accountant making an enterprising suggestion to improve goodwill, value for money and means to stimulate sales.

      Beancounters are all about cutting expenditure and penny pinching, banks are little different.

      1. BenDwire Bronze badge

        How do you get a big accountant to run a small company?

        By putting them in charge of a big company...

    3. Jamesit

      Re: What a surprise

      Remember how well they treated the researchers that found vulns in some of their systems.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    From the vendors' point of view, it's a good time to be get customers licenses set to numbers of seats that might well never be filled after things start up again.

    From the customers' point of view it would be a good time to look at license-free alternatives but I doubt they will.

  4. IGotOut Silver badge

    Don't worry...

    just sling PWC a few quid and I'm sure they'll happily pass an audit without actually carrying it out.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    I wonder if licencing terms will change.

    In the light of WFH likely to become permanent for many, at least on a part time basis, whether some s/w licencing terms will change to reflect that. eg remote working will be a different licence to local working.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if licencing terms will change.

      Already exists. Look into MS cals as an example.

      You may need a long rest afterwards.

  6. YetAnotherJoeBlow


    I remember when MS$ was using the BSA as a weapon. I technically successfully defended several companies from their extortion attempts, including to sue MS$ in small claims court (no lawyers.)

    1. BenDwire Bronze badge

      Re: BSA

      I remember those days well. After one exhausting call I vowed never to buy (or use) any microsoft program if I could find an alternative. As a small business owner I could mandate what we used, what the servers ran, and train the users. It was a bit tricky in the early days, but we did it.

  7. grizzlybaz

    Of course PwC are going to advocate licence audits...

    ...they act as a 3rd party auditor for several of the major vendors, especially Microsoft and VMware. This is just as much about generating revenue for them as it is for the vendors. That said, if you know your contracts, there is usually a way round it. Most vendors will have a statement in the audit clause of a contract about not unreasonably impacting on your business so, at a time like this, it's very easy to argue that an audit now would be an unreasonable impact; especially when most of the techs will be focusing on keeping the lights on during the pandemic. Here's a blog post about this very issue I wrote a couple of months back...

    The time to watch out is post-pandemic - lots of vendors have made free stuff available to help customers execute business continuity plans (Microsoft, Zoom, Citrix to name some of the more prominent ones) and they will be looking to collect on that when businesses are back up and running fully.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked for a global "household name" organisation with many thousands of users of an operating system and some office software. A 3rd party auditor was employed to see if we had exceeded the specified number of users. We were warned that such audits had always found in favour or the software company and the proposal was that the problem would go away if we chose to pay an annual fee at a cost designated in the £millions. That would get us and unlimited corporate license rather than one with a numerical allocation at a much lower annual cost. We declined. The audit found we were not in breach, in fact the guys doing the work congratulated us on our approach to license management, the best they'd seen. I was very pleased as that scheme was put in place at my instigation, I'd never trusted the warm words of reassurance when we signed up to the license.

    However the auditors were working on commission so their bosses sent the team back with orders not to come back empty-handed.

    The original audit had concerned itself with the office software licenses, now the focus moved to the OS.

    Some PCs, now several years old, had been delivered with a newer version of OS than was our standard at the time. In order to comply with the license terms we'd had to pay an "upgrade fee" to permit us to downgrade to the older version. Yes I know that sounds incredible, but true, we'd argued at the time but the software company was very keen to get people to move to the newer version. We wanted consistency across the fleet and of course had thousands of PCs for which we would definitely need to pay the version upgrade fee should we undertake that fleet-wide upgrade.

    That meant we held physical downgrade licenses to the older version. We had subsequently upgraded our entire fleet but hadn't considered it necessary to re-license the downgraded PCs as we were only reinstating the licenses the PCs were shipped with. The original licenses had been OEM licenses that came with no formal documentation. At that time any manufacturers that shipped PCs without OS licenses were given such a hard time by the software provider that they had no rational choice but to ship everything with a license.

    The auditor's stance was "fine we've seen the downgrade licenses but you can't show us evidence of the original licences you downgraded from". The PC manufacturer was no longer in business so unable to provide "proof" of the original licenses. Paperwork from those original PC orders might have itemised the included OEM license. That would require digging through years-old files which, even if the documents could be found, might not adequately clarify the issue. The outcome: we were unable to prove those, now rather aged PCs had valid OS licenses.

    Some top-level horse trading ensued. Our bosses didn't want to fall out with the auditors and cooperation with the audit, as required by the license terms, was costing us a lot of management time.

    We agreed to the technical violation and resolved the issue by a one-off payment in the region of GBP100,000 A trivial amount relative to my employers annual profits. It did leave a feeling of grievance toward the software author and a brief review of whether alternative software might be worthy of consideration. The intermediary in the supply chain who had encouraged us to sign up to the office software license fell out of favour.

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