Maintenance Support Contract

A typical support contract can include :

Support on a wide range of desktop applications :

  • Telephone Support with guaranteed response time.
  • Email Support with guaranteed response time.
  • Working solutions to problems with business critical files.
  • Onsite assistance with business critical files.
  • Advice on best practice when setting up complex spreadsheets / projects / documents and presentations.

IT Support services

Consider carefully exactly how much IT support you need. This depends on how much IT expertise you have in-house, how important it is to keep systems running smoothly, and how much you can sensibly afford for a support contract.

Services to consider include :

  • Installation and configuration.
  • Telephone support.
  • Email support.
  • Site visits - does the supplier provide on-site support? If so, how much does it cost?

Negotiating the contract for your IT system

Make sure you're completely clear exactly what the contract with your supplier is and isn't going to provide. Hidden extras can be expensive.

Check whether you'll receive :

  • On site service calls - a certain number may be included or charged at a reduced rate.
  • Preventative maintenance.
  • Remote monitoring and diagnosis of system problems - if included, will you have to purchase any extra equipment or communication links?
  • Telephone support - there may be a limit on the number or length of telephone calls.
  • Warranties - what, if any, are included?
  • Software upgrades - will upgrades be free, do you have to repurchase the entire package when a new version appears or do you pay an annual software subscription instead of an initial purchase price?
  • Software support - the ability for you to report problems and receive help, patches and bug fixes.
  • user training - some suppliers include a limited amount of training in the system's purchase price, but others charge extra from day one.
  • manuals - you may need them if you end the relationship with your supplier in future.

When purchasing IT services you should draw up a service-level agreement (SLA) with the supplier. This is particularly important if you outsource any part of your system.

If possible, the SLA should be linked to the benefits you want from the service, not the technology. For example, you may need to know that a trading website can process a certain number of customer orders per hour, without unacceptable delay. Bits, bytes, bandwidth and engineer response times aren't measures linked to your business' performance.

Benefits of an effective IT supplier relationship

Building a successful relationship with your IT supplier is essential to your system's success.

Trying to purchase IT systems and services at the lowest possible cost - with no regard to your business goals for the project or the overall cost of ownership - is likely to lead to a strained relationship with your supplier and cause system problems.

Ideally, your supplier should have a clear view of your business goals and the role of IT in achieving these. This will help you build a relationship that can deliver a number of benefits :

  • It will help ensure that service-level agreements are met and that system availability is high.
  • It will help in the speedy resolution of problems or queries.
  • The supplier can provide valuable guidance on your business' future IT direction through their knowledge of your industry sector and the latest IT developments.

To build a successful relationship with any IT supplier you should be clear from the outset about what you both expect from the arrangement. Make sure that:

  • You both have clear expectations of exactly what you'll get in terms of hardware, software and services.
  • The business relationship is mutually beneficial - your supplier will have no interest in whether you achieve your business goals if you just want goods as cheaply as possible.
  • There are specific targets to be reached at set dates representing what your business gets out of its IT systems - not the delivery of boxes and cables.
  • The supplier provides regular reports of progress towards the agreed business objectives for the system.
  • You hold regular reviews with your supplier to keep tabs on how things are going.
  • You have enough flexibility to accommodate change - whether this is through new technologies, the business environment or refined business goals.
  • You have a signed contract which you both agree to, that includes details of each party's obligations and what should happen in the event of a disagreement or dispute.