Monday, February 6, 2012

Software - Maintenance, Training, Documentation, Media

As with any service, software maintenance required that you have clearly defined scope of what the licensor is required to perform and the services that they provide as part of the purchase of maintenance services. For example what type of errors is the licensor required to correct during the maintenance period. Here the definition of material defect versus minor defect or bug is very important as many times the commitment is primarily to correct material defects in the software and provide revisions that they routinely provide to all customers.
For material defects you want to know the response times they will provide for correction or a work-around. For major problems you may want to include a specific escalation process based upon how long it is taking to correct the material defect. As part of maintenance just like any other service you want to establish how problems get reported and how the licensor provides support. Are there on-line help or hotlines available? Are they 24x7? Do they maintain a user accessible data base of common problems and solutions?

Maintenance services do normally not include Upgrades. (changes that add substantial value) but they may include enhancements (changes that improve the product without adding substantial value). It’s important as part of understanding your potential life cycle cost to understand whether enhancements are included as part of the maintenance fee and that you have clearly distinguished enhancements from upgrades. Licensors have a variety of ways that the may want to charge for maintenance services. What you want to pay should be consistent with the value you will receive. For example, if a licensor wants to charge for both
Enhancements and Upgrades, your costs will be more and the value they are providing is less.
Another key question to ask and make sure you include in the maintenance portion of the license agreement is the period that they will continue to support the version of the license you purchased once they introduce enhancements (if not included in the maintenance fee) and upgrades. This has a major impact on how long you can use the application without being forced to purchase an enhancement or upgrade. The reason why that’s important is once they discontinue support for a specific revision you are left with two options. You either must purchase the enhancement or upgrade or you will need to operate the product on an as-is basis without support. As maintenance services are traditionally billed on one year increments in advance what you don’t want is to be paying for maintenance services and not be getting support as they no longer support the revision level you have.

Prior to negotiating a license for software you also need to understand all the specifics about training as training costs can also a significant potential portion of the life cycle cost of the licensed software. I would first want to understand what all the recommended levels of training are for users and personnel that will need to support the software. What are the courses involved? What is the cost of each course? Where are the courses held? How many students are involved? What is the instructor to student ration. I would want to understand what if any of the training is included with the payment of the license fee and what the costs of additional training would be. Since it is a cost issue this is one area where you may want to push for either a reduced license fee because of having to pay for the cost of the training or looking to get free training as part of the license fee. If there is a competitive application use the life cycle cost of what you would have with that application as leverage to get a better deal.

Documentation, Media and Method of Delivery.
Before the internet and on-demand printing the issues of documentation and media were significant. As computer memory devices used different types of drives, you needed to specify a media format that was compatible with your operating system and drive. Documentation would also come in a box or many boxes of manuals, guides etc. With the internet many smaller application are delivered over the internet and much of the documentation is also
On-line with access available to customers. While you still need to make sure that the software
Is compatible with your operating system. For major applications you would still need to specify the specific type of media that the software will be delivered on for installation.

For documentation the key issue you may negotiate are:
a. What documentation is provided with the initial license fee? What is the cost to purchase additional documentation? This again is a life cycle cost issue
b. Can you reproduce excerpts from the documentation for internal training? Whether this will be a problem for a supplier will depend upon how much they want to force you to purchase their training or purchase more documentation. This is another life cycle cost to take into consideration,
c. Do you have the right to make derivative works of the documentation so that it better fits your needs? Whether a licensor will allow you to make derivative works of copyrighted material is up to the licensor. The licensor should not have a problem with allowing it as long as they get a license to use the derivative work royalty free. The use of that derivative work is limited to training your employees. Plus the requirement that you include appropriate copyright notices and legends on the work to show their underlying copyright.
d. Do you have the right to make and keep archival copies for things like disaster recovery. This should not be a problem.

For media the only issue you may negotiate is the right to make copies for both back up and archival purposes, Both of these you should get.