Extended software support 'immoral and indefensible'
Gartner analyst outlines alternative plan for software maintenance fees
Are extended software support fees immoral and indefensible? That’s a question that one Gartner analyst has just, in a roundabout way, answered in the affirmative.
The analyst in question is Rob Addy, a research director in Gartner's Technology & Service Provider Research division whose bio says he specialises in software and hardware support services, plus the provision of desktop support services in an outsourcing context.
Addy recently blogged about the question and didn’t hold back labelling the fees “a hefty fee to ‘encourage’ users to migrate forward onto a ‘supported’ version” and advancing an argument that “… extended support fees are a cynical ploy by the ISVs to extract more cash from their customers.”
But Addy feels it doesn’t have to be this way, either in reality or in users’ perceptions of these fees.
Explaining why, he writes that “Extended support offerings are perceived badly because they are generally badly defined and poorly executed. But they don’t have to be. If provider’s [sic] could show incremental activity and value from extended support then maybe their customers would be less enraged when required to pay an uplift.”
He kindly offers five things he feels could make users less grumpy about extended support fees, namely:
1. Guidance on how to isolate the system from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (as well as security risks from the outside world). Systems that have gone out of formal support cover may need to be placed into a state of stasis if they are to remain stable and deliver value reliably.
2. Provision of low level forensic configuration change auditing capabilities to help enforce tightened change management processes.
3. Operational risk assessment services to help customers evaluate the threats associated with proposed changes and give guidance on the types of control measures that should be put in place.
4. Systems value drift assessments i.e. analysis of how far the capabilities of the installed system have diverged from the business requirements and the associated opportunity costs.
5. Migration readiness services that help customers to prepare for the day when (and if) they decide to upgrade.
With such changes in place, extended support fees might even become a differentiator, he concludes. ®
immoral and indefensible?
"2. Provision of low level forensic configuration change auditing capabilities to help enforce tightened change management processes."
I don't know about extended support but uttering phrases like that is definitely immoral and indefensible.
"If you don't pay to update your software every 9 to 16 months, our corporate providers might not provide us a paycheck."
Ta, Gartner. At least we know where you stand on the subject.
Me, I'll stick with FOSS. For the most part, it just works.
 I use ecomstation for several contracts. It also just works.
What about the cost of upgrading ?
Item 4 -" Systems value drift assessments" should also be carried out before upgrading - i.e. analysis of how far the capabilities of the installed system already meet the business requirements and the opportunity costs of re-training and "feature bloat" if updating.
Here, of course, I have in mind a certain "Office Productivity" suite, let alone other products.
And..... Dare I say that using FOSS/Libre software would nicely avoid these issues. I mean truly free software, not stuff where the features that actually make it usable are closed.
Finally - how about initial contract negotiation, ensuring that the escro arrangements (you did make sure those were in place ???) cover access to the source code for ongoing support purposes if excessive charges are levied ? It's only the business practices and conventions of software suppliers that mean this isn't a standard contract condition. If all the users demanded this together......