Axel Springer streamlines SaaS costs with intelligent Software Asset Management

Logo Axel Springer

At a Glance


Axel Springer SE




  • Approximately 16,000 employees across the group
  • Advertising sales 2.04 billion euros, 73% of which are digital (2020)
  • over 250 brands

The Challenge

The strong growth of digital products in particular made it necessary to optimally plan and control the high costs of business software over the entire life cycle. Especially with the cost-intensive SaaS licenses, the aim was to achieve savings without sacrificing performance. The existing solution only provided inventory data, and so it was necessary to establish a professional license management tool with a high level of automation in order to be able to implement software metering at all.

Axel Springer Statue

The Solution

The selected USU Software Asset Management solution showed promising results in initial tests in the proof-of-concept phase. As part of the software metering project, the focus was on the large SaaS vendors Adobe and Microsoft. Unused software licenses could be automatically identified and added to a license pool for reuse. Active communication with the specialist departments involved was particularly critical to success.

Axel Springer Innenbereich

The Results

The project promise of achieving six-figure savings with software metering at Adobe and Microsoft was exceeded in a very short time. The USU solution today provides a detailed, comprehensible, and transparent overview of the entire cloud environment and allows automated software asset lifecycle management with immediate cost optimization. Despite low capacities, this ensures a very high value contribution.

Axel Springer neues Gebäude

Software metering is active software asset management! However, this is not possible without the support of a fully integrated SAM tool.”

Holger Weber, Head of Contract & License Management, Axel Springer SE

Transparency instead of a black box

The customer is an institution. And it has the license to write and print - the Axel Springer publishing group is now one of the leading European media companies. The transformation from a classic print media house to a digital publisher has been successfully mastered in recent years. The associated strong growth of digital products went hand in hand with the more intensive use of software-as-a-service solutions. This made it necessary to optimally plan, manage and control the high costs of important business software. The solution used so far only allowed managing the license inventory, but not proactive license management. Many manual processes, for example, caused a lot of effort in manufacturer audits. The old solution was unable to meet the shareholder's requirements to carry out a software metering project to obtain reliable data on the group-wide and economic use of important software. Therefore, those responsible at Axel Springer evaluated the market for a professional solution for Software Asset Management (SAM).

The aim was to gradually build a strategic license management solution with which all processes and infrastructure could be controlled transparently to continuously optimize costs and effort for company software - over the entire life cycle. As part of the selection process, USU not only scored points with a powerful overall SAM system, but also with the technical expertise of its consultants. “At the end of the test phase, we had a comprehensible, concrete result in hand and were convinced that we could only achieve it with USU,” says Hannes Nitsche, license manager at Axel Springer.

Software metering requires intensive communication

The project team started with the promise of achieving significant six-figure savings within a few months through successful software metering - without any loss of performance. Software metering should ensure that a needs-optimized number of software licenses is used and while enough licenses are available for new software requirements. The utilization of the license volumes is checked, and the usage behavior (exclusively last login) is analyzed based on rules. This results in precise planning of the required license quotas.

After it quickly became clear that precisely adapting the license types to different user groups was too time-consuming in practice, the project focused on inactive licenses for both the software suites and individual applications from the large SaaS vendors Adobe and Microsoft.

One of the goals was to be able to return a substantial number of licenses on the manufacturers' annual reporting date. “It was important to us to leverage the potential that we measure and to deliver a visible value contribution even as a small team,” explains Holger Weber, Head of Contract & License Management at Axel Springer. To do this, we developed our own ideas for quantities, contractual clauses and conditions as a basis for negotiations with vendors.

The works council was also able to be convinced by the project approach, as there was no behavioral control, but only the date of the last software use was recorded. The criterion for “inactive accounts” was non-use during the last 90 days.

Two aspects were crucial for the acceptance of those affected. A reactivation process was implemented, which made it possible to simply obtain the corresponding license again at the push of a button. And the second factor critical to success was intensive communication with colleagues in the departments.

For example, the production areas of the media flagships “Bild” and “Die Welt” were actively informed. In addition, the project team took the trouble to comprehensively check the plausibility of the results in the form of employee interviews and to explain the measure. The acceptance and success of these measures is reflected in one number particularly impressively: at just 4 percent (of around 2,000 optimizations), the license reactivation rate was extremely low.

On the technical side, the prerequisite for achieving the demanding goals was the integration of the USU tool into Axel Springer's complex infrastructure. Interfaces to many source systems such as AD, Intune, SAP, or the central IT service management system supported the automation of the process and helped to provide up-to-date user reports and complex software balance sheets.

In addition, further improvements were successively made. For example, the project team developed a license ordering automation based on the PowerPlatform, the data of which is sent to the USU system via an interface and processed there. The internal customer automatically receives an “order form” for the order, which not only serves as an overview, but also contains all relevant data for internal service billing.

Automation as key

Today, the license management tool provides consolidated data for an up-to-date overview of company-wide cloud environments. It enables automated inventory, SaaS license optimization and, as a result, immediate savings effects.

Automation is generally the key to success for Axel Springer license management. Many manual activities were consistently digitized and thus increased efficiency and productivity, for example the ordering and approval processes mentioned and - associated with this - the internal service billing of the connected software manufacturers. Not only license management benefits from this, but also other departments such as IT controlling.

With the limited capacity of 2 FTEs, Axel Springer's SAM team achieved extraordinary things within 18 months. The project promise of “Cost Avoidance” was clearly exceeded. And the success extends further, because the departments have great confidence in taking the next steps and connecting other relevant software manufacturers in addition to Adobe and Microsoft.

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