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Extended software support 'immoral and indefensible'

Gartner analyst outlines alternative plan for software maintenance fees

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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. ®

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