August 2, 2017
Tomás O'Leary

For many SAMs, software maintenance is a necessary evil. Aside from being extremely expensive and consuming a significant portion of the annual budget, IBM® software maintenance is a major drain on resources.

The SAM is in an impossible situation. They cannot afford to leave software unsupported – but current IBM® contract pricing is eating into budget that needs to be invested in strategic projects.


What are you paying for anyway?

Annual price increases are hard enough to justify – but when your business seems to get almost nothing in return, the renewal fee is particularly frustrating. Constellation Research reports that nearly 30% of customers get nothing in return for their annual support fee – just another bill on their anniversary.

Those same 30% of businesses have had to resort to providing their own support, because it is quicker and easier to resolve problems in-house than it is to engage with their supplier. This is a damning state of affairs; for the OEM increasingly reliant on maintenance contract revenues to prop up earnings, and for the customer who is paying for nothing.


Poor support experiences and high costs

The same Constellation Research quoted by R. Ray Wang claims that a third of businesses dislike their software providers – often because of poor support experiences in the past. An inability to get effective support within timeframes acceptable to the customer simply adds to user frustration.

For legacy systems, or applications that are not directly related to line of business operations, the apparent cost of maintenance is even higher. A low volume of support calls annually means that each contact with IBM® may cost as much as £10,000 each – possibly even more for stable applications.

For businesses reliant on legacy contracts, their perception of a lower quality of service received is probably not unjustified. IBM® has little interest in helping businesses maintain older versions of their software. Instead they will do whatever they can to prompt customers to upgrade – including providing less-than-stellar support.


Just another account in the crowd

IBM® is a massive organisation, with thousands of customers across the globe. In order to manage and streamline their support provisions, it is necessary to create processes and frameworks that standardise their offering. Obviously this reduces IBM®’s account management overheads – but it also prevents them from offering any kind of personalised service.

Templated support means that customers become just another account, with calls and support issues handled by an ever-changing team of engineers. This lack of dedicated engineers greatly increases the time taken to diagnose and fix faults, simply because each member of the team does not have hands-on experience of your environment.


How to obtain a better quality of service

If customers want to receive the level of support they actually expect for all of their IBM® assets, their best chance is to partner with a third party maintenance provider. Not only will the annual contracts be lower (up to 90% less), but the quality of service offered should be better than that received from IBM®.

Most third party providers have a genuine desire to help customers realise the full value of their IBM® software assets. But because they do not have IBM®’s additional revenue stream (sales of new hardware and software), the onus on them is to keep customers engaged by outperforming IBM®’s own support teams.

Despite offering IBM®-class support, third parties tend to have far smaller team of service engineers. But this is not actually a bad thing – a smaller team will come into contact with your environment more often, allowing them to build up a good level of hands-on experience on your systems. When you do make a support call, many of the early stages of diagnostic and troubleshooting can be expedited because the engineers already understand many of the environmental factors involved.

Ultimately third party providers offer a batter class of service for many businesses reliant on IBM® software because:

They can and do support older versions of IBM® software.They have a vested interest in delivering a top-class maintenance and support service.By using smaller teams of engineers, they can offer a personalised service targeted to the needs and idiosyncrasies of your operating environment.

To learn more about third party maintenance and how you can beat IBM® at their own game, please get in touch.

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