CIOs Call for Maintenance Bill of Rights

A user council backed by Gartner Inc. last month urged vendors to adopt a "code of conduct" that addresses CIOs' biggest concerns about IT maintenance contracts.

Enterprise IT buyers are chafing at vendors' annual maintenance fees for software updates, bug fixes and technical support. For example, SAP AG's 2008 move to a pricier support service was met with considerable pushback, forcing the vendor to make some concessions. But for vendors, maintenance fees provide a steady stream of income, even when new license deals are scarce.

Gartner's Global IT Council for IT Maintenance, made up of CIOs and other senior IT leaders at large enterprises, issued a code of conduct that calls for the following:

  • A right to regular, predictable updates to software products.
  • Response times and support levels that match the application's "criticality."
  • Annual fee increases that fall into "reasonable, predictable percentage ranges," as well as long-term caps on cost increases.
  • The ability to stop or alter support at any time for products that aren't in use.
  • Predictable and reasonable support levels for the entire life of a product or contract.
  • Clear timelines for how long older software will be supported.
  • Contracts with a detailed breakdown of exactly what kind of support the vendor will deliver and at what cost.

Analysts praised the initiative as a good start but said the code should add the right to get maintenance from third-party providers.

"Some vendors are attempting to preclude customers from seeking service and support from third parties," said Frank Scavo, managing partner at IT consulting firm Strativa Inc. "A customer-friendly maintenance contract should explicitly allow customers the right to go to a third party for software maintenance without jeopardizing warranties."

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that first appeared on Computerworld.com.

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