Reducing The Cost Of Application Support

Reducing expenditure remains one of the top priorities for companies as they try and ensure their survival as the economy emerges from a painful recession. Companies have become so reliant on computer systems for day to day communications and operations that downtime is extremely costly and it is imperative that these systems are up and running again quickly.

Large organisations will generally have their own in-house teams who can step in as soon as something goes wrong. For smaller companies or medium sized companies facing reduced revenues and profits an in-house team of highly technical individuals waiting for a phone call would certainly be seen as a luxury. It is not an efficient resourcing model to employ such a team which may work on smaller projects when they are not dealing with bugs but are to all intents and purposes a very expensive helpdesk.

Third Party Support of Business Specific Applications

One way companies can deal with this problem is to outsource infrastructure support to a third party specialist. This will typically cover pc and server hardware, simple software packages like MS Office, the company network and internet connection and so on.

A less common practice is to outsource support of business critical applications to a support company who can provide you with a high level of service and speedy response time at the same time as reducing your overheads and making your IT department more efficient. The advantage here is that there isn’t the outlay of salaries to consider and retainers for the contracts are generally a lot lower than employing a qualified programmer.

In addition to cost benefits there are also benefits related to the utilisation of experts in the field of application maintenance and support. These teams will be trained to respond to a whole range of issues and to a guaranteed quality of service plus ensuring the Service Level Agreements (SLA) are met. Enforcing adherence to an SLA is also much easier to enforce in an agreement with a supplier than in an employment contract!

Another advantage of such outsourcing is that it eliminates the risk of having to rely on key members of staff in the event of something going wrong. If your in-house team only contains just one developer skilled in a particular application but are on holiday when a problem occurs, it can take days to get a problem fixed which will cost your business valuable time and money. If you outsource your support this will not happen as the support provider will have an array of support developers on hand who are all trained on your software.

Already outsourcing?

If you outsource your application software development then the quality of your ongoing support contracts should be an essential part of the business’s decision making process to select a supplier as the quality of the support you receive can have a big impact on longevity, stability and reliability of the software solution. Supporting bespoke software solutions should not be approached in the same way as support of an ‘off the shelf’ solution.

Traditional support contracts of package software solutions will normally give you free upgrades and technical support. This is not appropriate with bespoke software solutions as you will not normally get them unless you specifically want and ask for them. For bespoke software solutions, bespoke contracts need to be drawn up and you need your supplier to be flexible as business situations change.

Outsourcing of application support can save you money and give you a better quality of service than an in-house team. However, for some businesses outsourcing is not an option. For these businesses it is very important to get the best out of their staff in these testing economic times.

Make Your In-House Team More Productive

If your business decides to maintain an in-house team it pays to reduce stress on the individuals. Relying on too few people to support the business critical systems for example can make those individuals stressed and may leave them feeling that they cannot take holidays.

In addition support is often perceived to be boring by IT staff and anything you can do to deploy them away from support and onto new initiatives can help boost motivation and team morale by making them feel like they are not just helpdesk operatives. Like any skilled professional they gain more job satisfaction from being challenged and asked to be creative to aid business performance. This will lead to increased return on investment as it allows teams to help with strategic change which will add value to the company.

Outsource if you can, motivate if you can’t

In conclusion, outsourcing your application support will guarantee decreased overheads while at the same time quality of service will be guaranteed by SLA’s. However, if outsourcing is not appropriate for your business your challenge is then to keep staff motivated and minimise stress in order to maximise productivity.

Richard Jenner is Marketing Communications Manager at MSM Software, a software development company specialising in custom software development, database design and application maintenance.