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

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. . But is there an opportunity to substantially reduce maintenance costs if you want to continue utilizing the applications? Are third party maintenance providers an option?

The first step to answering these questions is to properly frame questions with IT to better determine if third party maintenance is a potential solution for your organization. Yesterday we provided you with the important Application Lifecycle questions. Today we address value from support, level of customization, and level of response.

  • Value from Support:
    • How often do we engage with the vendor support?

      Assuming you are in a stable environment that opens the door for third-party maintenance, consider the support/content you are receiving and utilizing from the software publisher directly.

    • Are we apt to upgrade with every release or do we tend to push off upgrades?/What are the pain points in upgrades and what is the perceived value we see from them?

      Third party providers provide break/fix support, troubleshoot bugs and typically provide tax/regulatory updates as well as potential support for customization, but you would not be eligible to receive updates and upgrades direct from the OEM. This is an opportunity to discuss with IT your organization’s typical appetite for change, e.g. do they immediately act on update/upgrade opportunities, or do you typically push these out for a few releases? It is not uncommon for OEMs to charge (or try to charge) back maintenance for some period of time when an upgrade is warranted, so you shouldn’t be cutting ties if you have planned upgrades or new version releases in your roadmap (assuming you are upgrading due to perceived value, as opposed to being forced off an older release by the OEM).

  • Level of Customization:
    • What level of customization does the system have and what support is in place for that custom code?

      When applications are highly customized, standard maintenance from the OEM is very unlikely to support those customizations. Many third party providers do include support for custom code in the cost of annual maintenance which may be an opportunity to alleviate the work of internal resources or other providers you may be utilizing to support customizations. Consider how customized your environment is and the level of effort IT resources (internal or external) spend to support that custom code; question your IT stakeholders on the systems that are most customized and any past issues they may have run into when it comes to customization (or if they already rely on an outsourced model to do so). Highly customization systems typically run into issues when it comes time to upgrade, so if your company has delayed upgrades or prefers to retain the current version because of the level of customization, this again may be an opportunity to look to third party maintenance.

  • Level of Response:
    • How happy are you with the level of support and responsiveness from the vendor?

      One final area to consider are the service levels/guarantees of your current support model. Third-party maintenance providers tout their strong SLAs and dedicated account management, with many offering 24×7 support and aggressive response and resolution timeframes. While some customers think this alone may be a reason to switch maintenance models, work with IT to try and quantify the frequency with which you engage the current support model and if there is truly a business impact or benefit that could come from stronger or more responsive support.

While third party maintenance providers boast large reductions in cost (many market a 40-50% decrease in annual maintenance cost), Procurement needs to work with IT to define if these providers can be used strategically given the considerations above. Considering compressed IT budgets and heavy reliance on ERP vendors, it may be high time to explore the options in the market, have the conversation with your IT leadership, and challenge third party providers to help you determine if they are a good fit given your current environment. At the very least, this option can be used as a leverage position with some of the software giants out there to negotiate maintenance percentage or mitigate increases to maintenance structures.

So now you need to decide, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>