They come in threes.
We have all heard about the software “iron triangle” – you can manage 2 out of 3 – cost, quality or speed of development.
Then there is the Mundell-Fleming model, which argues that an economy cannot simultaneously maintain a fixed exchange rate, free capital movement, and an independent monetary policy. It can choose any two for control, and leave third to the market forces.
Vinnie “Maintenance” Mirchandani has another iron triangle – this around software maintenance.
“A software vendor cannot simultaneously keep a “one price fits all” maintenance plan, a diverse customer base, and a diverse product base. It can choose any two, and leave the third to market forces.”
Customer needs ebb and flow. During implementation before they go live on software, few customers tax support lines. Often their systems integrator is the on-site “support”. Similarly after year 4-5, the support demands of most customers drop off as they stabilize their production environment.
Product support ebbs and flows. Enhancements are influenced by architectural changes, regulatory updates, bug fixes. And as products mature, support databases are automated, support moved to cheaper locations, customer calls drop off etc etc.
Now think of the ripples, waves and currents across thousands of customers and hundreds of products.
And for that software vendors expect one single rate (or a second in some cases typically even less affordable) to work across all customers and all products?
The stubborn “maintenance is untouchable” posture of software vendors causes bad will and growing hostility in customer bases, and is leading to many being lost forever to third party maintenance, SaaS, open source, BPO.
The stubbornness is similar to what many countries will do as they “manage” their currencies. When they eventually have to revalue – up or down – the effect is dramatic. They could have done it gradually, but often they are forced to do it in one fell swoop causing huge disruptions to their economies.
So, enjoy your assets – your customer bases and your products. Let the maintenance rate float. Offer a single digit rate to customers with very basic needs – bug fixes, regulatory updates and a few hours of support a year. A bit more to the mainstream customer. And more to those that want to the latest innovations and have continuous rollouts and special support needs. May be slice the customer base and offer couple more tiers – but make sure they start low.
Enjoy your assets – your customers and your products. Let the third side of the iron triangle, the maintenance rate - float.