There is a lot of history and evolution of a Support contract. At QGate, the aim of providing a support contract has always been, to provide our customers with security and peace of mind by having access to experienced professionals who can assist when something unexpected happens – something was working and is not now. This can be at any time and is usually unpredictable. The cause of such an event can be many: Data, integrations, Windows updates, security, hardware, and user experiences are a few potential causes.
In contrast, a maintenance contract would be to take proactive action to mitigate such risks, where preventable through being expected, and fund the continual improvement of the product and its features.
Traditionally, with perpetual licenses, such as for on-premises Software, a customer would be offered a Support and Maintenance Contract to provision the Support and Maintenance of the product, providing versions to upgrade to, perhaps once a year or so. This would typically be charged at an annual fee as a percentage of the purchased perpetual licenses increasing in line with inflation. Some partners would also add a percentage of the customisation costs to cover the addition complexity to support when required.
With today’s Cloud, SaaS based Business Software such as Dynamics 365 CRM on the Power Platform framework, maintenance is easily identified as being funded by part of the ongoing license subscriptions. The Vendor, Microsoft in this example, continuously invests in its products to improve, enrich, and add functionality and features as well as maintain compatibility with other key software, operating systems, and browsers, when roadmaps are known and understood. These are released in Waves of updates to the product across the year. Documentation on upcoming changes is released twice a year (Wave 1 and 2) for customer review against their system(s), to assess and consider and plan any necessary action when features change or are released. These changes can spread over hundreds of pages of documentation and will cover more than one technology.
When something does go wrong, you would hope that the Vendor will be willing to fix it. They will…sometimes…if the system is vanilla…. exactly out of the box and is not configured and someone can explain to them clearly, the circumstances of what is being experienced, and how to replicate on demand. This will involve investigation and can take considerable time both conducting and communicating with the vendor if the platform is the cause. Should the Vendor’s Software not be the cause, their support teams will not be able to help without significant cost. Unfortunately, even then, unless you are lucky enough to be a large enterprise, paying top premiums, your request will be in a queue and progressive responses can have days between them and you can feel you have answered the same questions before.
Most organisations employ the services of a partner such as QGate, to provide custom development to meet the needs of, stated customer requirements. This cannot be seen in the same way as a product. It is not maintained as a product and has no maintenance plan or roadmap for continual review.
Support Plus is our latest offering providing our best solution to this conundrum yet. As well as knowing you can speak to one of our experts in a timely manner, when your users are applying pressure and valuable time is being lost. When needed you have the budget to assist with making changes to maintain your system. And Support Plus is packaged with some invaluable proactive value-added services, in the form of Storage, license and Wave update reviews.
The ability to investigate a reported issue without charging on a metered basis is invaluable. Previous support contracts have been provided on a metered basis, resulting in some issue investigations being put on hold when the contracted support hits its monthly limit. How much can be done in a couple of hours stretched over a single month? Subject to fair use, Support Plus allows investigations to continue unfettered, sometimes over many hours. The previous support was constrained by the reflection of how much you can do in a short number of hours. When dealing with Microsoft, hours of frustration is taken on by QGate, as part of the investigation.
QGate maintains expertise in supporting the evolving software. In addition to this there is the customisations made by either the current partner, a predecessor, or the customer themselves. These customisations would be to resolve a requirement and will be designed and created to do so, compatible with the known universe at the time and that known, to be expected on the horizon.
Why can this cover not be provided by a warranty? QGate’s approach is for customisations to be approved during User Acceptance Testing. If a customisation is not approved, should it make it into a production system? We think not. This may mean longer testing cycles to get to that confidence, which should be planned for accordingly.
Should something work one day and not work the next, there will be a reason. Something must be different to break it. That reason will require investigation to locate, to identify what corrective action is necessary. Support Plus provides the ability for this investigation to take place. Without it, caveats would be necessary to allow for additional recharging, post investigation dependant on the identified cause. An example could be some data imported in an unusual manner by a privileged user or an integration sending data different to that expected and developed for when the customisation was developed – both could take many hours to understand and simply identify, before any necessary corrective action can be worked out, and validated.
The way I look at Support contracts is not looking at the calm the system is running at now, doing what it should do, without issue, but rather like an insurance policy for what I don’t know could happen in the future and whether we are on our own or have someone to call on to help. That thinking give the reason for retaining a support contract, and QGate’s Support Plus give you that Support, Plus the ability to administer and maintain or service it.