The go-live date of your EPR system will usually be etched in the minds of everyone in your organization. However, it is rare that your brand new system will be running at full capacity at this milestone moment. We all know the traditional hitches: a bug appears, your users make additional requests, and then you start on improvement programmes. All the more reason to get a clear picture of the desired level of support in advance.
Various types of maintenance
When you deploy an ERP solution, it is a good idea to also reserve part of your budget for service after the implementation. A common rule of thumb is 10% of the total budget for the first year after start-up. This is usually distributed in four ways:
- Corrective: typical incident management.
- Preventive: a pro-active check of your system’s health, so that you can make any appropriate adjustments.
- Adaptive: tuning the software to users (e.g. people who regularly perform an action differently) via procedures or a customized solution.
- Perfective: improvement programmes to realize the full potential of your ERP suite.
In addition to the various types of support, the actual service window when your partner can provide this support is also important. For instance, will support only be needed during office hours or do you operate 24/7?
The various phases of ERP support
Once your system has gone live, you enter the support phase. This will evolve in a logical fashion: as time passes, your ERP partner will usually have less and less to do, and you may take on some support, such as training, on your own account. To a large extent, this is a matter of choice. You can discuss with your ERP partner how fast you can provide your own standard support, and even whether or not you would want to do that.
- Phase 1: outsourcing. Your vendor deals with all your queries while you focus on problem-free adoption by all the end users.
Phase 2: co-sourcing. Your partner helps you with specific projects, e.g. a roll-out in a new branch or specific optimization, but you tweak certain features or add new users yourself.
- Phase 3: expert support. You only rely on specialized consultants for very specific issues, such as sudden peaks or significant changes in your organization. You handle everything else yourself.
When you are scouting the market for ERP suppliers, ask them how they deal with these three types of support in practice. Then assess their answers against your current and future requirements.
Recommendation: flexible support
In the first year after the go-live, the biggest part of your support budget will be used on incidents and preventive and adaptive maintenance. In other words, continuous improvement programmes will receive less attention. In time, of course, incident management will diminish and you will be able to focus more on improvement programmes. As your business continues to evolves, your ERP system should be following your vital processes and not the other way round.
In the meantime, you will want to keep your support budget under control without compromising the quality of support that you get. This is where you should be able to fall back on people who know you and your solution – people who will not only resolve incidents quickly and effectively but will also contribute ideas proactively and steer you towards continuous improvement, while still paying attention to your budgetary restraints. Is your ERP partner set up to do that? Does your support team offer flexibility and guarantee to give you optimum support for both incidents and continuous improvement?
Start with this questionnaire
The RFP template is a useful guide for questioning potential ERP suppliers in a structured way, The support and service checklist includes the following crucial questions:
What types of support do you offer? For instance, incidents, requests for change, service requests or secondment of employees.
Which profiles of expertise (dispatchers, engineers, functional and technical consultants) work in your support department?
How can your customers submit notifications or requests? For instance, by telephone, through portals or via other tools.
Can the partner assign permanent support staff who will have knowledge of and expertise in your solution?
What exactly is the workflow, from notification to solution?
What are the contract options? Are they fixed prices, payment in arrears based on performance, by credits or one or more other ways?
How locally or internationally do you operate? Are there multiple support teams spread over a wide region or continent, or is everything handled centrally?
What service window can your partner offer? Office hours? 24/7 support?
How broad is the support? Is it restricted to the application, or can you offer support for everything, including the server? Can you deal with one partner for all IT matters?
Take a look at the full questionnaire in the RFP template, or start preparing in more detail now. You can read everything about the success factors, risks, criteria and pitfalls of assigning an ERP in the free e-book ‘the ERP Selection Process’.
Sales Manager with over fifteen years' experience in business applications. Passioned about helping companies advance through software and technology so they can quickly respond to opportunities and the ever-changing market. Every company is unique, yet they are part of an industry. I believe that delivering an industry-specific solution with, on top of that, a focus on improving their unique strengths allows them to stay one step ahead of the competition.