Avoid these 3 common licensing mistakes companies make with Microsoft 365

The results of the “pandemic panic,” where many businesses in 2020 rushed to purchase cloud-based solutions for their employees to enable working remotely during lockdowns, are now being felt by CIOs—along with their CFO and CEO counterparts. Because many tech companies offered extreme discounts on cloud-based software licenses during the 2020 crisis, the understanding was that those prices were introductory with a time limit. The more normal our lives become in 2021, the more those businesses enjoying the reduced licensing fees for cloud-based software will begin to feel the pinch of what will be in some cases drastic price increases for cloud-based productivity software tools.

As a Gold-level Microsoft partner with over a decade of experience deploying cloud-based Microsoft solutions to businesses, Amaxra consultants have helped CIOs, CFOs, and CEOs to optimize their software license spends strategically. The fact is that license deployments can be complex. To help, Amaxra has gathered the three most common licensing mistakes businesses often make when deploying Microsoft 365 For Business solutions in 2021—and how to ensure your business stays compliant for the least cost.


One of the easiest mistakes to make is also the easiest to correct. The term for buying and deploying a Microsoft 365 license to a user is “provisioning.” Overprovisioning is when an organization purchases more Microsoft 365 user licenses (includes the various Microsoft 365 Business Basic/Standard/Premium, Microsoft E3/E5/F1/F3, and Educational SKUs) than needed. Why would a company do this? Often companies that plan for growth. For example, in anticipation of hiring ten new employees, a company might pre-provision ten Microsoft 365 licenses in order to get those new folks the resources they need immediately on their start date. There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead, and at larger companies budgeting and IT deployment processes can be complex and time consuming.

However, the actual process of provisioning a Microsoft 365 user license especially through a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider such as Amaxra, takes minutes. This is one of the great advantages of modern cloud-based software versus the old way of buying “boxed” software on plastic discs with printed licenses. We strongly recommend that CIOs provision for the organization that you have now rather than buying those licenses based on what your needs may be in the future.

Amaxra also recommends evaluating your company’s provisioned licenses in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center (available to IT managers and other authorized users at your company) on a quarterly basis. The list of assigned Microsoft 365 licenses in the Admin Center helps to see exactly who is using each license, their role in your company, and whether you’re paying on an annual basis or a monthly basis. Reviewing this information ensures a company is not overprovisioning but also helps at budget time to “right size” your spend.

“License creep”

License creep is when more licenses are assigned than needed for the users that a company currently has. There are a couple of ways that this happens, but the most common we see at Amaxra is through double licensing users via an add-on. For example, even though every Microsoft 365 For Business user license includes 1 TB of OneDrive for personal cloud-based storage a manager of a business unit inside the company purchases an additional OneDrive For Business license so that her team can have a shared OneDrive. This is unnecessary because shared cloud-based storage for teams is included in Microsoft 365 and this is paying more than needed. Other examples of license creep occur during a merger and acquisition that results in duplicate licenses assigned by the two separate IT organizations at the pre-merged companies, and conference room equipment licenses—woefully underused during the 2020 pandemic when the majority of office buildings were temporarily shuttered.

Amaxra recommends paying attention to all forms of license creep but pay special attention to the conference room equipment licenses as well as their appropriate administrative accounts (usually a shared Outlook mailbox given to an administrative assistant or facilities manager). Not only can underused conference room licenses waste money, our consultants have seen them also provide criminals with an additional cyber-security attack vector. When evaluating a Microsoft 365 licensing regime for our clients, Amaxra cyber-security specialists recommend only provisioning licenses to human beings who are logging into a service or an application. Avoid providing administrative access to shared mailboxes for room equipment shared mailboxes or administrative accounts that are not being logged into and used by human being to perform the work that there are signs don’t need a license they don’t need to have a license they do have a mailbox in the back end especially with the room and equipment accounts those are your conference rooms that may have a calendar that you scheduled meetings with an reply to all attendees as well as your fax machines and your office copiers and things like that and the shared mailboxes you know for instance your info or your sales or what have you we have multiple users logging in to check the mail and respond there’s no need a license in most cases

Licensing overlap

While on the subject of conferencing, it’s no secret that Microsoft Teams quickly became a must-have collaboration solution in 2020. However, even though many companies already had Microsoft 365 For Business licenses that included Microsoft Teams at no additional cost, identity management provider Okta’s 2020 Business @ Work report showed that of the 1,000 enterprise IT leader surveyed, 32% deployed Zoom and 31% deployed Slack along with Microsoft Teams. This is known as “licensing overlap,” where companies purchase third-party products and services with the same features provided by Microsoft 365.

To be clear, Amaxra is absolutely not shaming any company that went with non-Microsoft collaboration software during the pandemic panic in order to quickly get employees working remotely. We are merely pointing out the tremendous value that a single Microsoft 365 For Business license includes: messaging, video conferencing, and real-time collaboration with Teams, easy appointment scheduling with Bookings, simple automated online form/poll creation with Forms, along with all of the must-have knowledge worker productivity apps such as Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word. Amaxra can evaluate the third-party applications your business currently pays for and then comparing those features with all of the Microsoft 365 apps and services provided at no cost to give you a sense of your organization’s licensing overlap—and the amount of money you are likely overpaying.

Avoiding the traps of Microsoft 365 licensing

Whether your organization is a small learning center, mid-size business, or global corporation, there is a cloud-based Microsoft 365 solution for you. Amaxra’s expert consultants can evaluate your organization’s specific needs to reduce the costs of licensing overlap then mix and match the software licenses for Microsoft 365 that best meet your users in their roles. And we always maximize your existing software license subscriptions to get the most out of what you paid for—re-deploying unused licenses to users in your organization to eliminate overprovisioning and license creep.

Contact me at rosalyn.arntzen@amaxra.com or call 425 749 7471 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.

about the author

Rosalyn Arntzen

Rosalyn Arntzen, President & CEO of Amaxra, founded Amaxra in 2007 after a successful career working for several multi-national companies around the world. Under her leadership, Amaxra is proud to have been on the Inc 500/5000 fastest growing companies in 2013 and 2016. You can contact Rosalyn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosalynarntzen.

Limited time offer: Let Amaxra manage your Office 365 licensing and we will configure security such as multi-factor authentication at no additional cost. Email technology@amaxra.com or chat with us on this website to find out more.

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