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Software Contracts: Is This What Stockholm Syndrome Feels Like?

During a bank robbery in the Swedish capital in August 1973, two men, Olsson and Olofsson, took the employees of the Kreditbanken hostage. By the time the hostages were released six days later, a new sociopolitical and cultural phenomenon was born. Stockholm syndrome: where captives form an emotional bond with their captors. It is generally considered to be an irrational, if understandable, response in the light of the danger hostages face, where they interpret a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness.

According to the FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System, some 8 percent of hostages will exhibit some form of Stockholm syndrome. Unfortunately, in the world of software this figure is much, much higher.

Businesses are suffering because they’ve been conditioned by their software vendors to believe that they have absolutely no choice but to lie down and accept the increased use of revenue-generating audits, annual maintenance charge uplifts, and subtle changes in terms and conditions, among other tactics. In fact, so “captive” have many of these businesses become that they don’t take on these vendors for fear of having more financial retribution inflicted upon them for doing so.

This unhealthy client-supplier relationship has been exacerbated by the now near-impossible task of understanding and decoding software licensing rules designed to cater for virtualisation, cloud computing, and mobile software usage. How can businesses even start to understand the labyrinthine software licensing pricing structures?

Businesses urgently need to take their courage in their hands, stand up, and fight back; they need to adopt a no-nonsense approach; they need to strip down to the waist, get the white vest on and channel their inner Lieutenant John McClane, NYPD, of Die Hard fame. Because the world of software is awash with Hans Grubers and FBI Agent Johnsons with their short-sighted vendor-approved solutions and services – “I figure we take out the terrorists and lose 20, 25 per cent of the hostages.” But the hostages can be saved.

The solution lies in the wise and experienced Sergeant Al Powell, with his hunches based on real-world knowledge gleaned from years on the street. He may have upset the establishment at one point, but he’s exactly the sort of guy who can help set these “hostage” businesses free. He can give them back their negotiating power and offer them genuine alternative options. In the world of enterprise software Sergeant Al Powell is the third-party software maintainer, he’s the secondhand software broker, and he’s the independent SAM specialist.

In the immortal words of John McClane to Deputy Chief of Police Dwayne T. Robinson, “If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Quit being a part of the problem and put the other guy back on the phone.”

Maybe this situation does not apply to you. But if you are feeling kidnapped, break away.

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