For larger enterprise applications, you typically sign (and pay for) an annual maintenance agreement covering day-to-day support and/or updates. Or do you?
Perhaps one way to look at software maintenance is to think about how you maintain your vehicle. Once you drive off the dealer’s lot, it’s your call whether you get your oil changed at the dealer, at Jiffy Lube, or heaven forbid, do it yourself. The dealer might try to scare you into using their high-margin service department, but you’re certainly under no obligation, right? You decide to put in a new stereo. Can you go to an after-market audio dealer? For those who lease, there is a contract clause requiring that you properly maintain the vehicle, but I’m not aware of any leasing company that requires you to take it to a certain repair shop.
Same does, or at least should, I think, hold true for software. I got thinking about this in the context of Lawson’s software after seeing this article recently:
For some off-the-shelf software, such as Microsoft Office, the publisher (i.e. Microsoft) publishes the patches (and oh boy, do they ever!) and you just install them. No need to contact Microsoft every time you install one (although I have a feeling they might just be tracking you when you do).
For enterprise applications, you typically sign (and pay for) an annual maintenance agreement covering day-to-day support and/or updates. And that’s just when it gets interesting.
For lower tiers of enterprise software, this service is probably only provided by the software vendor. But for larger packages with broader client bases, such as Oracle or SAP, there is a healthy “after-market” for support.
Depending on your comfort level with the product, you might forgo want to forgo the support part of the maintenance agreement, and just take delivery of updates. You might go to a third-party for any support you can’t handle internally.
Perhaps you’re so customized, and therefore locked in to a particular version, that you’ll never be able to properly upgrade, so you don’t need upgrades, nor can you even get support. But you still might need some help keeping current with regulatory requirements.
Those are but two scenarios that might get you thinking about using a third-party vendor. So, I ask you, for what task do you trust a third-party?