By Vic DeMarines
Adobe’s strategies to combat software piracy are some of the most innovative in the world, and they’re all based on a simple, yet somewhat unknown, fact—software pirates are often unintentional victims who thought they legitimately paid for the software.
Almost 80 percent of software pirates actually fall into this category. Hackers have become so sophisticated that landing pages to purchase what are actually cracked versions often closely resemble legitimate channels, turning up at the top of search results and wooing customers with attractive offers on recent releases or legacy versions.
To push these customers back into the pipeline, Adobe uses a combination of compliance and usage intelligence, plus in-application messaging to drive online conversions. Its customer conversion program leverages embedded code in new releases that detects pirated deployments, reports on them, and automates a response that alerts a user to the fact that the version isn’t legitimate. This pop-up message educates and guides the customer on next steps, with the goal of leading them to an ecommerce landing page where they are presented with discounts on legitimate versions, according to an Adobe blog titled, Adobe Genuine Software Pilot Adds Support for Creative Products.
It’s a strategy that has enabled Adobe, once one of the five most active auditing software publishers in the world, to largely eliminate its traditional licensing audit program. A Gartner blog titled, What Does an End to Adobe Auditing and License Compliance Activity Really Mean? by Stephen White, reported that in 2016 that the vendor saw the program as being at odds with good clients and vendor relationships.
Tips for a Compliance Strategy
Vendors that set the tone for the industry increasingly grasp the power of data in recovering previously undiscovered revenue, leveraging compliance analytics to avoid an audit altogether and encourage companies to bring their entitlements into compliance. You don’t have to be an Adobe or a mega vendor to implement and leverage the benefits of an analytics-based compliance strategy.
First, understand your target audience. By better understanding the motivations of your users, you can take steps that will bring them into compliance. Accidental software pirates are well-intentioned users who may not understand the scope of the license agreement or have purchased pirated software from a site that seemed reputable. The accidental pirates have both the willingness and ability to pay for software. For bargain shoppers, biggest priority is value, and not the provenance of the software. While they may take longer to convert, they’re still worth targeting with your conversion program. True pirates have no concern that their software is unlicensed. They’re not likely to convert to paid customers so a strong compliance program approach would focus on prevention rather than conversion.
Gather the right information. Perhaps your compliance strategy is currently based on a “phone home” telemetry approach, mostly aimed at gathering IP addresses. But that’s not enough to confidently identify unlicensed users, nor to figure out which of those personas they represent in order to craft offers that will urge them into compliance. A robust compliance analytics strategy collects Mac addresses, detailed module use data, specific known-pirated version data, and domain names. It also leverages geolocation data and mapping APIs to deliver aerial views of physical locations of WiFi connected devices.
Additionally, you can supplement your compliance data analytics with other internal data, like customer and prospect lists, CRM outputs, or third-party data feeds to develop a robust user profile of your potential infringer.
Empower your team to access the data. Once you have all of this information, you want to make sure the right people have access to it. Your ideal data environment should assemble this information automatically, without requiring extensive SQL queries, API calls, or technical resources. A best practice is to integrate compliance data with the CRM system, to push the information out to appropriate team members in a familiar environment for smooth case management.
For compliance managers, software should lend the ability to manage the case pipeline through a portal that lets you assign leads internally and externally, approve cases, review program status, and analyze results by market, geography, and more. Once your compliance tools are linked to your CRM, you can track performance across multiple products, channels, and partners. You can view conversion rates, revenue rollups, and more, without leaving your compliance dashboard.
Once you’ve ranked compliance leads, you’ll want to assign them to the right members of the sales team. Is the infringement happening in one location? You’ll need someone with local knowledge. Or, is it a widespread problem that could benefit from approaching a business leader or someone in the C-suite? Data helps you make informed decisions that will build customer relationships.
Leverage data to build customer relationships. Any situation in which you’re asking a customer to pay for something they already thought they paid for can be challenging. But the data you’re gathering is also of huge benefit to your customers. Having a complete, end-to-end view of their technology landscape benefits your customer in several ways. It helps organizations ensure all assets are protected and regularly updated to guard against cyber security incidents and data breaches. Having accurate entitlement views ensure consistent budgeting processes, leveling the playing field for business units reporting legitimate licensing usages and those underreporting fees. This ensures projected technology spend is accurate across subsidiaries. And accurate entitlement pictures protect the huge investments the customers have made in technology by ensuring that they’re receiving the benefits of R&D efforts through upgrades.
Unleash the benefits of data-driven compliance. Engineering.com caught something quite interesting in one of AutoDesk’s earnings calls this year. In talking about one of the CAD giant’s “biggest opportunities,” co-CEO, Andrew Anagnost, pointed to Autodesk’s efforts to convert software pirates into licensed users. The publication reported that Anagnost told those on the call, “The … interesting number is the six million plus pirates who are actively using our software—and by the way, we know that they’re using the software because we’re able to track the pirated serial numbers and the pirate activity. That’s a more interesting number for us long term … four million of those pirates are in mature markets, and about 1.2 million of them are in accounts that we know and have worked with in the past.”
Companies like Adobe and Autodesk leverage data-driven compliance to drive value across their ecosystems and demonstrate its benefits. Software usage analytics and a blend of the right people and processes can deliver these benefits for software vendors of all sizes.
Vic DeMarines is the VP of products and strategy for Revulytics.