For any business looking to cut licensing, maintenance and support costs, a third party partnership is hugely attractive. Not only do they have the option to exit a vendor-defined upgrade cycle over which they have no control, but support contract costs are typically much lower.
But as a strategic decision, there are other factors to consider. Price is important, but so is ensuring you have the correct level of coverage for all of your assets.
Unsurprisingly, OEMs are not particularly keen on third party support services - every product you choose not to upgrade is lost revenue for them. So they will argue strongly to try and convince you not to choose a third party service.
You are the customer
The reality is that you are the customer, and you are perfectly within your rights to source software maintenance and support from someone other than the vendor. So long as the software licensing terms and conditions are adhered to, there is no reason you cannot make the move.
Despite being in the right however, you may be concerned about how a change in support provisions will affect your relationship with the provider. Where your strategic roadmap sees you leaving one OEM’s software for another, this is not a major issue.
Where you plan to use a mix of OEM and third party support for various applications simultaneously, there may be some friction. And it is this fear of damaging vendor relationships that worries some software asset managers.
So how do you manage the break smoothly?
Stay in touch – regularly
Business relationships are little different to personal relationships – both are heavily reliant on regular communication. Managing the (partial) break-up and aftermath means keeping in touch with your account manager.
To maximise the value of your communications, pick up the phone. Speaking to your account manager directly on the phone is far more personal than an email. It shows that you have taken the time out of your busy schedule to speak directly to them, which also indicates the value you place on the relationship.
If you are serious about keeping the OEM on board, never ever assume that they should be making the calls because you are the customer. Relationships work both ways, and need your input to remain strong.
Discuss your strategy
Going beyond basic “how’s your father?” type chats, add value to your calls by discussing the strategic direction your business is taking with IT. This will help your OEM understand where they fit into the long-term picture, and that the choice to adopt third party support for a specific project is not the beginning of the end.
From these discussions your account manager can better understand your strategic needs, only working to recommend and price products that will assist. They know there is nothing worse for their customers than poorly targeted pitches, so they will work a lot harder to identify solutions that help – and to price as keenly as possible too.
Ultimately you are training the OEM how to work with you – even if they don’t realise it.
Avoid the blame game
There are many reasons for taking out a third party maintenance contract – lower prices, better quality of service, faster response times etc – but constantly referring to shortfalls in OEM service will not be helpful moving forwards. If the vendor asks you to grade their service, then mention problems by all means – but if you become embroiled in a finger pointing exercise, the relationship will sour quickly.
Instead you should place the focus firmly on the products the OEM is still supporting. That is the point at which their involvement with your business begins and ends – anything else is unhelpful.
Everything comes back to communications
Ultimately the only way to keep a relationship with your OEM on track is through regular, honest, focused communications. Taking time out to speak to your account manager is just another thing to add to your “to do” list – but it could be the difference between an extremely competitive quote at renewal time, or a punitive rise in charges.
For more help and advice on third party IBM® software support, please get in touch.