Support Models

You have some shiny new software, whether off the shelf or bespoke, and you have invested a lot of time and money in your special system. Everyone is happy, productivity will improve and the software will pay for itself in no time. What can possibly go wrong?

Beyond the inevitable teething problems, there will always be something that is not quite right, or even properly on the blink. For complex or all-encompassing business-critical solutions,  problems are often generated by (inadvertent) misuse of the system rather than a problem with the software itself — and if everyone in your organisation hooks into this software, something will go wrong. Usually every week. Certainly every year end.

Your business will need software support

First, what is support? It is not an insurance policy, nor is it some sort of investment. Ultimately, provision of software support is simply a way to balance maximum productivity with minimum cost.

Choosing a support model is always a compromise, and depends on many factors: how business critical is the software? how much experience does your in-house IT team have with the relevant technologies? how large is your budget? how generic or industry-standard is the software?

Support Models

There are a few standard courses of action you can take with regard to supporting third-party software, and it is not always easy to compare each type, but none should be considered ‘better’ or ‘cheaper’, just better suited to your needs.

  • In-House

Keeping support under your control can be a very sensible choice, depending on the nature of the support needed. You can recruit a dedicated support team; support could be absorbed by your existing ‘Helpdesk’ team; or if your business is small enough to have informal in-house support, you may find your unofficial IT Manager is happy to add another application or technology to her CV.

Do not forget, these last two variations on the in-house model aren’t free: other business areas will suffer at any time support for this software is needed, and you may need to draft in a professional for serious issues.

  • Support Contract with the Third-Party Supplier

This always looks like the most expensive option, but these guys know their software, AND can identify and suggest improvements — after all, any further development is income generation for them.

  • Outsourcing: Small-Scale

For small organisations, it is often worth considering a small business or local expert to provide support. The contract model can take many forms and as you are negotiating with another small business your needs and expectations are often well aligned.

  •  Outsourcing: Global Consultancy

In addition to the core requirements, your prospective global support consultancy offers the many fabulous services or features. However, there are hidden costs that are revealed only once your business is committed to the consultancy; these will be investigated in a forthcoming post.

  • The Ostrich Approach

Alternatively, you can always hope that nothing will go wrong, ever, with your new bit of system, and if it does, you can always ask some geeks via Google. However, no part of an IT system works in isolation, so unless nothing else in your IT infrastructure changes: no server patches, no firewall upgrades, no network reconfiguration, no users actually using it… your shiny new bit of software is bound to have some problems at some point.