OEM Software Maintenance: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Part I

Today’s guest post is from Torey Guingrich, a Project Manager at Source One Management Services, who focuses on helping global companies drive greater value from their expenditures.

As a strategic sourcing consultant, the very broad category of “software” seems to always be an area in which companies are looking to reduce costs. The spend categorized as software is usually compromised of some net new licenses purchases, perhaps annual subscription based licensing, but almost always has a large portion of spend that is actually ongoing maintenance and support for previously purchased licensing. But is there an opportunity to substantially reduce maintenance costs if you want to continue utilizing the applications?

While third party maintenance providers are expanding their ground for many hardware and software solutions, one of the more prominent areas of expansion has been in managing annual support costs associated with ERP systems where the cost of maintenance can be a staggering, and ever-increasing, amount. While there are some conflicting opinions on the future of ERP third party maintenance given the ongoing legal battles in recent years, there is a strong case to be made that third party maintenance as a concept will not being going away anytime soon. While Procurement professionals may be enticed by the opportunity to slash a software budget, does it make sense for your company to cut to ties with native maintenance services from the software publisher and how should you go about evaluating this option for your company and/or discussing it with the stakeholders who manage those relationships?
The areas below will help Procurement frame questions and discussions with IT to better determine if third party maintenance is a potential solution for your organization:

Application Lifecycle:

  • What are the current owned licenses and associated maintenance costs/structures? Gaining visibility into the current software and maintenance environment is key to determining the scale of software maintenance costs as compared to other areas of spend within the IT budget.
  • What is the roadmap for the current software system in use? Once you have isolated the primary solutions that drive maintenance costs, it is important to set the stage for measuring stability in the environment. If a particular system is planned to be replaced or retired in the next few years, it may be a great opportunity to explore third party support for a limited time on the system being decommissioned before the new system is put in place.
  • How long has the solution been in place?/Have you recently launched or upgraded the solution in questions?/How stable is the environment? Immature and unstable environments tend to rely more heavily on OEM updates, upgrades, patches, and other content than those that have been in place for many years. Stability of the current environment is a key component in evaluating opportunities for third party maintenance as any change may be disruptive without the comfort of patches and regular updates from the OEM.
  • Is there a desire to keep the current system beyond the period the OEM offers support or are we being forced to upgrade where we would rather not? If you discover that the environment is very stable with no planned upgrades, you may have the option to actually extend the life of a certain application or release by leveraging third party maintenance where an OEM is no longer offering support.

These necessary questions are just a few of the key questions you need to ask. If the answers to these would allow a third party provider to be considered, the next step is to assess value, customization, and response. We will discuss these issues tomorrow in Part II.

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