An Overview of Software Support

SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

When start­ing a new soft­ware pro­ject, it is of­ten very easy to get caught up in the ex­cit­ing world that is de­vel­op­ment. It is im­por­tant to en­sure you are keep­ing your eye on the fin­ish line and more im­por­tantly, what hap­pens af­ter your pro­ject ex­its de­vel­op­ment.

In this ar­ti­cle, we will ex­plore the world of soft­ware sup­port, the dif­fer­ent kinds of sup­port avail­able and some of the con­sid­er­a­tions you should make when bud­get­ing for sup­port­ing your cus­tom soft­ware de­vel­op­ment pro­jects. We have pre­vi­ously men­tioned the on­go­ing op­er­a­tional ex­penses as­so­ci­ated with soft­ware pro­jects. This ar­ti­cle dives deeper into sup­port costs and more specif­i­cally, dif­fer­ent sup­port mod­els.

The dif­fer­ent types of sup­port

Software sup­port, ac­cord­ing to the BusinessDictionary, is de­fined as “after-sales ser­vice pro­vided by a soft­ware pub­lisher or ven­dor in solv­ing soft­ware con­flicts and us­abil­ity prob­lems, and in sup­ply­ing up­dates and patches for bugs and se­cu­rity holes in the soft­ware.” People can of­ten get con­fused be­tween that de­f­i­n­i­tion and end-user sup­port. End-user sup­port is pro­vid­ing help for cus­tomers util­is­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion on fea­tures of the ap­pli­ca­tion. This is an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion to make, as it is of­ten easy to get the two con­fused.

A com­pany like Salesforce, that are both the de­vel­oper and sup­plier of their soft­ware so­lu­tion will usu­ally of­fer both types of sup­port to their cus­tomers, as they have the in-house de­vel­op­ers for deal­ing with soft­ware sup­port is­sues and cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives to han­dle the end-user sup­port. However, in the world of be­spoke and cus­tom soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, one or­gan­i­sa­tion will usu­ally pro­vide soft­ware sup­port and an­other com­pany will pro­vide end user sup­port. For ex­am­ple, you build a new learn­ing plat­form us­ing a cus­tom soft­ware de­vel­op­ment com­pany. That com­pany may pro­vide the tech­ni­cal soft­ware sup­port while you pro­vide end-user sup­port for your clients. In this ar­ti­cle, we will specif­i­cally be re­fer­ring to soft­ware sup­port, not end-user sup­port.

Software sup­port mod­els

Not all sup­port is cre­ated equal. Not only are there dif­fer­ent sup­port ser­vice lev­els but there are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways sup­port can be of­fered.

Fixed cost model

The most com­mon and tra­di­tional ap­proach to sup­port is usu­ally re­ferred to as fixed-cost sup­port. It is of­fered as mul­ti­ple lev­els or tiers of sup­port. For ex­am­ple, ba­sic, stan­dard and ded­i­cated are com­mon sup­port tiers. Each level of sup­port may come with its list of fea­tures such as; stan­dard re­sponse times, ser­vice lev­els, how many re­quests can be made, ac­cess hours and pri­ori­ti­sa­tion clas­si­fi­ca­tions.

This type of sup­port mech­a­nism can work well for some or­gan­i­sa­tions, es­pe­cially those who re­quire high-avail­abil­ity and ex­pect to utilise the sup­port of­ten. Despite this, there are some key draw­backs. The most ap­par­ent is the cost­ing struc­ture. This sup­port will usu­ally come in the form of a fixed monthly fee de­pend­ing on the level of sup­port you are on and can of­ten be quite ex­pen­sive. There is also the pos­si­bil­ity that some months you may never even have to utilise the sup­port, so in ef­fect, are pay­ing a fee for no ser­vice.

Pay as you go sup­port

There is an­other kind of soft­ware sup­port of­fer­ing and is one of the mod­els of­fered by WorkingMouse. Pay-as-you-go sup­port dif­fers from the tra­di­tional ap­proach by dras­ti­cally low­er­ing the fixed monthly sup­port costs. Instead, clients only pay for when they ac­tu­ally re­quire sup­port.

Using WorkingMouse as an ex­am­ple, we charge a low flat monthly or an­nual fee and strip away cost pro­hib­i­tive fac­tors such as re­sponse times and ser­vice lev­els but pro­vide you with un­lim­ited 2 hour time­boxes to rec­tify is­sues. If the is­sue can’t be re­solved in that time, then you have the op­tion to have the sup­port team con­tinue work on a time and ma­te­ri­als ba­sis. This cre­ates a more flex­i­ble and scal­able sup­port so­lu­tion that puts you in full con­trol over your us­age of sup­port and bud­get.

Budgeting for soft­ware sup­port

So you’ve de­cided which sup­port model is right for you but now comes the task of bud­get­ing for sup­port­ing your soft­ware. Regardless of which model you have de­cided works best for you, our ex­pe­ri­ence in soft­ware de­vel­op­ment and the re­search on soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tion main­te­nance has taught us at a min­i­mum, you should al­lo­cate 15-20% of the cost of your soft­ware so­lu­tion to op­er­a­tional sup­port each year.

For ex­am­ple, if you spend $100,000 on build­ing a cus­tom soft­ware so­lu­tion, as part of your bud­get­ing, you should set aside $20,000 per an­num to sup­port the ap­pli­ca­tion. If you were to use the pay-as-you-go sup­port model, this does­n’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you will be spend­ing $20,000 for sup­port as there is no large fixed-cost, but that should be bud­geted to use on time and ma­te­ri­als tick­ets as re­quired.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oliver Armstrong

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