In a document published on August 13, 2019, Microsoft offered some “guidance” regarding licensing concerns around tenant-level services. “Guidance” is in quotes because the document is very unclear.
Some background first: Microsoft defines “tenant-level services” as those online services that when licensed for any user in the tenant, it becomes available – activated, in Microsoft terms – becomes accessible for all users in that tenant.
The Microsoft document includes the disclaimer:
Some tenant services are not currently capable of limiting benefits to specific users. Efforts should be taken to limit the service benefits to licensed users. This will help avoid potential service disruption to your organization once targeting capabilities are available.
On two levels, this can be disconcerting news to organizations who make use of tenant-level services. We’ll look at the second one first: a potential service disruption. This is technical in nature but also holds some business ramifications. That is, when Microsoft does implement targeting capabilities – likely without any warning or pre-announcement or grace period – it could cause some failures within the company’s business operations.
The second issue addresses license compliance. More importantly, it addresses an organization’s lack of controls in the management of their software estate. Unless that organization has a sound software asset management (“SAM”) program and/or regular monitoring and/or a software compliance officer, it could easily fall prey to unanticipated expenditures in the form of software licensing and subscription services.
Tenant-level services can ease the management of users with differing capabilities. But since Microsoft is not aware of the extent to which these capabilities – such as information protection – would be used, they enable these capabilities for all users within the tenant. This is risky! And Microsoft acknowledges this, prompting the distribution of their guidance.
Proper management of this environment – and, in fact, the entire Microsoft estate – is essential. Miro can assist clients in helping them to understand the caveats associated with the tenant-level services they are considering for subscription. For more information on this or any Microsoft topic, please contact Miro Consulting.
 Be aware that Microsoft, like any vendor, can implement governance tactics to protect their own intellectual property. With this guidance having warned that “efforts should be taken to limit the service” the continued, unlicensed use of the capabilities can be considered both flagrant and non-compliant.