Axios Blog

Support & Maintenance Review

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Written by Rory Canavan, SAM Charter

The professional silos that have sprung up in IT, resulting from the focus of attention demanded to take Information Security, Service Management or Software Asset Management to the next level have resulted in professional bun-fights that are to the detriment of providing secure, cost-effective and well managed IT services to the business.

What many frameworks fail to account for is that virtual USB-port that permits interaction with other ways of thinking or achieving good IT service that might not have been considered when the framework was originally crafted. This can be particularly challenging of the goals sought between different disciplines do not seamlessly align.

So, what practical guidance can be offered to Service Management professionals to help out their SAM colleagues? As a SAM protagonist, this is never more prevalent than when a company wishes to review a software contract for signature. A sizeable chunk of any enterprise contract that is signed with a software vendor will focus on Support & Maintenance for those software titles named in the contract. Yet SAM does not own the data that will support a procurement function to make an informed decision – the performance of a software vendor providing support and maintenance will reside fairly and squarely with service management.

First off, a unified approach needs to be conducted – Procurement, SAM and Service Management all need to be aware of:

  • What data is required
  • When is the data required by
  • Who requires the report
  • How it is to be presented

What data is required?

Service Management might well be used to offering summary call data that demonstrates ongoing call data, or reports based upon company structure. In this instance though, a vendor-filtered perspective on support calls over the life of the current/previous contract will greatly aid SAM and Procurement in making an informed decision on the direction to take with a software contract.

Call data should be split by the bands of support within your own company (1st/2nd/3rd etc.) and then by the number of escalations that went to the software vendor.

A success rate of the calls that were escalated should also be presented, including those calls that when escalated were declined by the Software Vendor.

Offering an analysis of the calls managed by the business should not be under-estimated. This could highlight that certain titles are resulting in a “service bleed”; demanding too much time and resources of the company. It may well also highlight a training deficit – if too many incidents are being escalated to the software vendor for resolution.

Conversely, such an analysis could also highlight that titles under a software contract were conspicuous by their absence – which shines a light on the value paying for support and maintenance offers to your company.

Procurement and SAM will greatly appreciate the insight that could be offered by Service Management in presenting support call data.

A final top tip: In collecting data for a given vendor, you might also highlight a service management load for software titles that fall outside of the software contract being considered for renewal. It could well be that such titles might benefit from being included in the revised contract, as they will have reached an install/purchase tipping point, which means it is more cost-effective to consider volume purchases as a method of procurement rather than single instance acquisitions.

When is the data required by?

Clearly, the size of the contract will stipulate the effort that is put into reviewing and renewing such an important piece of commercial activity. Accordingly, the data Service Management provides should also be scheduled with equally priority. Depending on the size of your company, contract reviews could be taking place anything up to six or eight months in advance of the renewal date, so being one step ahead of producing a support & maintenance review report (and demonstrating the flexibility to repeat the generation of the report with refreshed data) could show Service Management in a truly positive light.

Who requires the report?

Clearly your Procurement and/or Contracts Department will benefit from having this intelligence; but we also have to cast our gaze in the direction of the ITAM/SAM Team. The ITAM Team will be required to produce an ELP (Effective License Position) which states a company’s position in regard to the software installed vs. the software they have paid for. Allied to the typical support & maintenance service management might experience, the ITAM function has to weave in those terms and conditions that permit software upgrades, downgrades, moves, rights to virtualization, etc. that gets bundled into support & maintenance. Being able to demonstrate the value (or otherwise) received by the support & maintenance caveat could sway a negotiation more favorably for your company.

How is it to be presented?

If your company is large enough, and you have a dedicated Vendor Relationship Management function, then they may not be so bothered about the finer details of the data, and so a summary chart could suffice. The same might be said for Senior Management, who merely wish to know that the software contract is offering some degree of value for money.

The Procurement/ Contracts Department and ITAM, however, may wish to refine and work raw data should it become part of a higher/wider report.

Stakeholder expectations should be taken into consideration when the report is called for, so that repeat tickets aren’t raised if the format of the report is deemed not fit for purpose. 

Summary

Depending upon the volume of tickets raised, you might find that conducting this activity quarterly not only gives a periodic understanding of how well/badly software is performing for your company, it will also highlight the direction and focus of any service management/technical training requirements that could have been overseen when the training budget was being apportioned at the beginning of the financial year. Hitting a rhythm of producing these reports will lend itself to trend analysis, spotting peaks of demand (perhaps incidents spiked after the roll-out of a service pack?), which in turn could help with resource management come the time of the next service pack release.

Ultimately though, assisting the Procurement/ Contracts Department and the ITAM function will surely score serious weight with those areas of the business, and a systematic approach to generating those reports will mean that such requests can be made self-service or even automated.

A final word: in respect of contract renewals, merely because the support & maintenance data might point towards a rejection of a software vendor, the final decision is with the business. Other drivers may come into play which means that the contract is renewed, despite the weight it places on service management.

How mature are your Software Asset Management operations? Find out for yourself with our complimentary assessment survey.

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