What is Entitlement Management? A Definitive Guide

Chances are you're no longer selling a single on-premises software product with a perpetual license. Cloud transformation and the fiscal advantages of recurring revenue changed you. Today, you offer — or aspire to offer — lots of products with a range of license types, pricing models, and deployment methods.

A solid business strategy is driving your transformation: your products are more powerful, more accessible, and more aligned with customer expectations.

But what looked good in the strategy session can turn into a nightmare for operations.

Front and center is the problem of getting your products into the hands of authorized users. Teams usually end up using lots of disconnected tools. The systems to provision and fulfill product licenses and user rights are operate in silos. They need humans to enter data into them, they don't have consistent workflows. Automation is impossible, and data is scattered. Business plans you want to execute in weeks or months can take years.

How can you create a frictionless motion for managing fulfillment and access to your products at scale? The answer lies in systems like Thales's Sentinel Entitlement Management Platform.

Entitlement systems enable the streamlined management and distribution of software products, features, and services — no matter how complex your offering. It drives automated provisioning, fulfillment, and authorized usage, leading to smoother operations and a better customer experience. The system also provides a feedback loop with critical usage data, making it easier for companies to be customer-driven. In fact, according to IDC, entitlement management systems are a central operating system that drives growth.

Could entitlement management be the missing link in your operational tech stack? Let's go further.

Entitlement Management

What Is Entitlement Management?

Software vendors use Entitlement Management systems to orchestrate licenses and control the 'rights to use' of the products they've sold.

Entitlement Management:

  • Gives vendors the ability to control multifaceted customer permissions or restrictions
  • Reflects changes that occur throughout the customer lifecycle, including activation, revocation, and non-commercial changes
  • Operationalizes access control by executing software fulfillment and provisioning
  • Manages offerings in any environment, including on-premises, cloud, and service-based offerings

Every time an entitlement is deployed, activated, canceled, transferred, updated, or renewed, the system makes a record. Therefore, the system also contains a wealth of data about product fulfilment user behavior and is a source of truth where your customers or partners can see information about their access rights.

What Are Entitlements?

To fully understand entitlement management, it’s important to understand the concept of entitlements themselves.

Entitlements define:

  • Who has access
  • Which offerings a user can access
  • What license model is being deployed
  • How the software can be used
Entitlement Plans

An entitlement can also change whenever there is any commercial or non-commercial event, including:

  • Trying a product (trials, freemium)
  • Subscribing to or renewing a service
  • Mid-service changes including pausing, upgrading, transferring, and canceling

Answering the question "What are entitlements?" can be confusing because billing, CRMs, and ERP systems, like SAP, also contain an entity called 'entitlements.' In those systems, 'entitlements' are a record of what customers can access within their purchase. A typical customer 'entitlement' might contain warranties, services, or initial subscription configurations.

It's important to realize that 'entitlements' in other systems are static. They don't change over time. Yet how an organization or a person wants to access their products does change. Therefore, entitlement management systems like Thales's Sentinel Platform that orchestrate access to dynamic customer entitlements play a critical role in streamlining the operations of modern software businesses.


The Importance of Entitlement Management in Complex Environments


The mechanics of managing access and fulfillment can differ per product, even within the same organization. This challenge shows up consistently in enterprise companies but can also appear in smaller companies that deploy in diverse environments. For example, no matter the size, a medical company that offers its software both embedded in-device or downloadable onto third-party hardware will encounter access and fulfillment complexity.

Inconsistent processes become more glaring if you shift to an as-a-service business model which will have multiple deployment, licensing, and revenue models. For example, a company that traditionally sold software licenses for one-time fees will encounter operational challenges when transitioning to a subscription-based model.

The complexity is further amplified if you’ve grown through mergers and acquisitions.

When any of the above conditions occur, it’s practically given that the different products will have separate systems of record and fulfillment procedures. The gaps are usually filled by manual processes for managing software access and fulfillment and spreadsheets to track who has access to what.

The manual workarounds create a risk for errors and complications such as over- or under-licensing, inaccurate and missed expiration and renewal dates, or inaccurate product fulfilment. This negatively impacts operational costs as well as your customer experience.

Establishing an entitlement infrastructure simplifies how your customers do business with you, regardless of the intricacy of your products. Through Entitlement Management Systems, all your product offerings, deployment types, and configurations can be managed with exceptional precision, affording you complete control over customer access, streamlining fulfillment processes, and creating an organized record of your customers' product usage.

Where Does Software Entitlement Management Fit in Your Operations Ecosystem?


The Entitlement Management System bridges the business side of your organizational ecosystem — revenue, orders, and customer offers — and your product side — the features and specifications of products and offerings. The entitlement system sits between these two sides.

The Entitlement Management System should seamlessly integrate into the ecosystem. But too often, companies find that it doesn't. In rudimentary systems, entitlements are typically aligned with business systems. This creates a void between the entitlement management capabilities and the products.

The product side needs to become more aware of all the options and features customers want. Product engineering becomes too dependent on commercial rules.

Alternatively, typical homegrown Entitlement Management Systems are often more strongly associated with the products. In this scenario, commercial systems must define each variation of a product manually, leading to a proliferation of SKUs. This practice, while limiting packaging flexibility, also creates excessive complexity within the CRM or IT system. This in turn burdens operational teams that lack the capacity to manage numerous packages or line items. The result may necessitate enlisting the help of a third party to customize the system, as it becomes increasingly unwieldy.

Instead, a software Entitlement Management System separates all those critical activities and centralizes them into a single platform. The right entitlement management solution is designed from the ground up to bridge the gap end-to-end between your products and your back-office systems and your customers.

How Entitlement Management Impacts Your Business

As we’ve said, the Entitlement Management System handles the fulfillment of complex software offerings, including controlling permissions and restrictions.

Implementing entitlement management benefits both the organization's business objectives and the customer's satisfaction.

Here are some of the top benefits your organization will experience.

    Entitlement management is the foundational framework that allows any company to implement creative approaches to pricing and packaging products or services.

    With this system, businesses can flexibly and efficiently bundle their products and services while ensuring customers only access and pay for the required services. These capabilities are critical for shifting business models, creating new revenue streams, and establishing go-to-market flexibility.

    When organizations lack a system for managing entitlements, they must rely on their engineering teams to change their software offerings. This can be frustrating and time-consuming as they constantly communicate with the engineering teams to fine-tune their products. Furthermore, this approach may limit the adaptability and competitive edge of companies that aim to keep up with changes in the market, as reliance on engineering can hinder their flexibility and ability to respond quickly.

    With entitlement management, you have a streamlined way to adapt your pricing models and packaging. This not only saves you time and resources, but it also allows for sustainable growth by staying relevant and attractive to your target audience.

    Software vendors often face obstacles in fulfilling and deploying their products is especially true for companies that sell devices and software, those transitioning from perpetual to recurring revenue models, or for companies that offer different deployment options (on premises, cloud, and hybrid). Manual entry is the go-to solution in these scenarios, but often leads to delays and errors, resulting in frustrated customers and lost revenue.

    With entitlement management, when a customer places an order, a series of automated workflows are triggered. The integrated systems (billing, CRM, entitlement management) work together to quickly process the order, generate the necessary licenses, and provision and fulfil the product for the customer.

    This not only ensures customer satisfaction but also streamlines your recurring revenue model. It’s goodbye to manual processes and hello to automated efficiency.

    As mentioned, the Entitlement Management system records every deployment, activation, cancellation, transfer, update, or renewal of an entitlement, allowing for end-to-end visibility.

    Utilizing the usage data within the system provides valuable insight into user behavior, allowing product teams to tailor their roadmaps to resonate with users. This data-driven approach can result in more effective design decisions and better overall product success.

    Sales and customer success teams can also benefit from entitlement-driven usage intelligence. They can identify upselling and cross-selling opportunities and proactively engaging with at-risk customers to renew their engagement. Companies that leverage this data can enhance their customer experience and drive revenue growth.

    Entitlement data is not just beneficial for you. It also enables complete visibility for your customers and partners.

    Individual customers can easily measure and assess their own activities, which helps them to determine quotas and limits, ensuring they are not caught out by overuse.

    Corporate I.T. teams can benefit from global views across their organization, understanding where and how products have been deployed, and measure entitlement quota versus consumption.

    Partners can independently monitor their own customer and sales channels, manage inventory levels, and identify their most successful products and packages.

    Entitlement Management Best Practices

    Building vs. Buying an Entitlement Management System

    According to IDC, more and more software vendors are turning to 3rd party entitlement management solutions like Thales's Sentinel Platform. Here are the main reasons why:

    Time and Cost Savings

    Building an Entitlement Management System from scratch demands extensive resources, including skilled developers, project management, testing, and ongoing maintenance. These demands increase the initial investment and divert precious time and attention from your core business objectives.


    A homegrown Entitlement Management System may lack the required depth and breadth of functionality. Using a proven third-party Entitlement Management System streamlines everything from entitlement creation and implementation to software fulfillment and compliance enforcement, whether you are deploying in the cloud, on-premises, or hybrid scenarios.


    As your company evolves and expands, the limitations of a homegrown system can quickly become apparent. The digital world changes fast. It’s almost impossible to anticipate what new products you’ll add to your portfolio, how and when you’ll need to evolve your business models, and just how much use of your product will increase.

    What to watch for when buying an Entitlement Management System:

    If you are in the market for a 3rd party Entitlement Management System like the Sentinel Platform, thoroughly consider these essential elements.

    A system that accounts for the customer lifecycle including commercial and non-commercial events

    Trials, subscriptions, renewals, upgrades, cancelations, etc.

    Functionality to cover the full spectrum of business and licensing models

    Usage, pay-as-you-go, tiered, concurrent, etc.

    Strong ability to adapt to evolving business landscapes

    New products, business models, features, etc.

    Support for multiple deployment types

    Cloud, on-premises, and hybrid

    Ability to support XaaS (anything-as-a-service)

    Monetize whatever product you have, wherever it is used

    Strong enforcement capabilities

    Ensure compliance with entitlement access rules and terms

    Performance at scale

    Designed to cope with large-scale and enterprise deployments

    Well-designed integration

    Low code, out-of-the-box connectors, webhooks and events

    Reliable SLA

    A system that is always available, well-maintained, and secure

    The option of an implementation team

    Maximize the value you get from the solution by leveraging the expertise and experience of a dedicated team

    Can Entitlement Management Help You Revolutionize the Way You Sell Software?

    As the software industry undergoes a transformative shift, relying on one-time licenses no longer addresses the dynamic needs of contemporary business frameworks. Platforms like Thale's Entitlement Management platform have emerged as a critical component for success, empowering organizations to operationalize nuanced and dynamic monetization models.

    With entitlement management, your organization can stay agile and adaptable in the face of industry shifts. Embracing these concepts enables you to pivot from conventional software licensing to monetization strategies that position your business for success in the modern software landscape.

    Don't get left behind in an evolving industry. Learn more about Sentinel’s Entitlement Management Platform today.

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