NHS Trusts (and their predecessors) have always been some of the most loyal and regular users of IBM SPSS Statistics since its launch in 1968. Back in 1968 the process for buying SPSS was straightforward but as time has gone on the product itself has become much more sophisticated and the options for how to license it have become more complex. This has led to a situation where many NHS Trusts are paying much more than they need to for SPSS Statistics, whilst finding that users don’t always have access to the tools that they need at the time that they need them. In this blog post I’m going to briefly explain how this situation has arisen and then show how licensing SPSS through NHS Trust libraries can help avoid these problems, offering a much more efficient and effective way of accessing SPSS within NHS Trusts.
How has SPSS licensing been historically managed in NHS Trusts?
Historically licences were purchased as needed by individual departments within the Trust. There would often be multiple departments in the Trust who might need SPSS Statistics and way back in the 60’s when it all began there was only one place to buy the software – directly from SPSS Inc. This meant that the single SPSS Account Manager dealing with the NHS (which for some years back in the mid 2000’s was in fact me!) would know how many people across different departments needed access to the software and would make the most appropriate recommendations so that licences could be as cost effective for the Trusts as possible.
Without meaning to give a history lesson on the life and times of SPSS Statistics, it is helpful to understand how this situation has changed over the last 50+ years, and how this change has led to potentially increased licence costs for the NHS.
In 2010 SPSS Inc was bought by IBM which meant that all licences then had to be purchased via IBM. Over time IBM set up partnership agreements with organisations such as Smart Vision Europe and others, which meant that there were other ways for the software to be purchased. Whilst this is of course a good thing overall, it has meant that different departments within the same Trust might well have bought SPSS Statistics software from different places. Whilst meeting the needs of the individuals who require access to the software, this approach is probably not the most economical way of buying software for the NHS. There are several reasons for this:
- Access to discounts: Buying from different places means that the Trust may not have access to the cheapest price for IBM SPSS Statistics software. If multiple licences are bought from the same place, then discounts can be offered on the software, saving the NHS money.
- Usage patterns: Many people who access SPSS Statistics software might only need it for specific projects at certain times. This means that when licences across a Trust are tied to individual people, there may be times where these licences are not being used and there may be others in the Trust who can’t access the funding they need to buy their own licence.
- Confusion about licence renewals: When licences are bought by different departments, they may have renewal dates spread across the year. As time passes the originally named contact may leave the Trust, leaving the procurement team having to unpick what is needed and by whom when renewal invoices arrive. Sometimes this means that licences are cancelled when they actually shouldn’t be. And sometimes this means that licences are renewed when there is no longer a need. Neither scenario is ideal and both come with unnecessary additional financial and administrative costs.
- Installation challenges: As part of our customer care programme, we try to speak to all our customers within a few months of them buying IBM SPSS Statistics software from us to make sure everything is working as needed. It is not uncommon for me to speak to Trusts who purchased SPSS licences from us many months previously but who aren’t yet able to use the software because their IT teams are stretched and software installations take time to reach the top of the work queue. Given that the software has already been paid for and the licence term on these licences has begun, this means that money is being wasted.
What can be done differently?
So far I have painted a picture of potential inefficiencies and higher-than-necessary costs in the setup of SPSS licences across NHS Trusts. My intention from this point onwards is to be a bit more positive and make some suggestions for possible change and improvement! Over the last few years, Smart Vision has started working with NHS Trust libraries to offer centralised licences of IBM SPSS Statistics. This means that the Trust library owns the licence but the software can be accessed by employees from across the Trust. There are a couple of options that we recommend depending on the needs of the Trust:
- Either the software can be installed on computers in the Trust library and accessed by anyone visiting the library
- Or the software can be installed on the computers of any Trust employees who need access and the licence is managed centrally so that only a certain number of employees can access the software at any given time. This means that the software can be used across different locations so offers great flexibility
What are the advantages of this approach?
Managing your NHS Trust’s SPSS licences centrally via the Trust Library offers a number of significant advantages that will help ensure that the Trust gets maximum value from its investment in SPSS Statistics.
- The Library can promote the availability of SPSS licences to staff across the Trust to maximise use and value for money
- Managing the licences centrally via the Library means that there is a single point of contact for procurement and IT
- Centralising the Trust’s licences means it is easier to calculate the size of licence needed and scale up and down as needed from there
- A single licence with single renewal date makes administration of the licence much easier
- Buying a trust-wide licence from one place means the Trust will be able to take advantage of greater discounts and get much better value for money from investment in SPSS