Three simple software maintenance strategies that can save you millions

Software ownership costs continue to escalate as vendors accelerate their efforts to capture support and maintenance revenues. Some vendors have gone to the extreme to eliminate third-party options for their customers. This best practices report examines three strategies to free up unnecessary costs to fund innovation and new projects.


On average, IT budgets are down from one to five percent year-over-year, yet software support and maintenance costs continue to escalate ahead of inflation. Hence, continued pressure on IT budgets and a growing need for innovation projects have top business and technology leaders re-examining their software support and maintenance contracts for cost efficiencies.

Based on experience from over 1500 software contract negotiations, Constellation suggests three approaches to reduce the cost of software support and maintenance. Key strategies include third-party maintenance, shelfware reductions and unbundling maintenance contracts as part of every organization’s tech optimisation strategy. Successful implementation can lead to savings from 10-25 percent of the IT budget, freeing up cash to fund innovation initiatives.

Research findings- Why every organisation should consider third party maintenance, shelfware reductions and unbundling maintenance contracts

Most organizations suffocate from the high and hidden cost of support and maintenance. On average, Constellation’s surveys reveal global IT budgets trending down from 1-5 percent year-over-year since 2008. Consumerisation of IT, rapidly changing business models, and aging infrastructure have exposed the high cost of software support and maintenance.

Because most organisations allocate from 60-85 percent of their budget to keeping the lights on, very little of the budget is left to spend on new projects (see Figure 1).

Organisations can unlock millions by considering third party maintenance (3PM), reducing shelfware and keeping support and maintenance contracts unbundled. Each strategy on its own creates opportunities to drive cost savings. All three strategies combined, provide a roadmap for funding innovation.

  1. Third party maintenance (3PM) delivers the most immediate cost savings and opportunity for innovation.Third party maintenance describes support and maintenance offerings delivered by non-OEM providers. These vendors can provide a range of options from basic break/fix to bug fixes, performance optimisation, tax and regulatory updates and customisation support. Keep in mind, 3PM does not provide access to upgrades and future versions of the OEM’s product. One big driver is the lower cost of delivery, as much as half the cost of the original vendor’s pricing.  The report shows a survey of 268 respondents and why organisations choose 3PM and who the key vendors are.
  2. Reduction of shelfware remains a key pillar in legacy optimisation strategies.  Shelfware (i.e. purchased software, not deployed, but incurring annual maintenance fees) is one of the biggest drains on operational expenses for enterprises. The simple definition of shelfware is software you buy and don’t use. For example, an organisation that buys 1000 licenses of Vendor X’s latest ERP software and uses 905 licences, becomes the proud owner of 95 licences not being utilised. That’s 95 licences of shelfware because the user will pay support and maintenance on the licence whether or not they use the software or not. The report details four successful and proven approaches.
  3. Unbundling maintenance contracts prevents future vendor mischief. About a decade back, vendors would offer support and maintenance as two separate line items on their contracts. Support would run about 5-10 percent of the licence fee and so would maintenance. Keep in mind, average support and maintenance fees were under 15 percent back then. Unfortunately, many users have expressed a growing and concerning trend with support and maintenance contracts. Vendors concerns about support and maintenance contract retentions have led to new initiatives to consolidate contracts. At first glance, this may appear to be proactive and beneficial to customers, but the report details three rationales vendors provide and three strategies how to avoid bundling.

Figure 1. Visualising the high costs of support and maintenance

The Bottom Line: Users Must Advocate for Third-Party Maintenance Rights Across the Technology Stack

Vendors continue to conspire to remove third party maintenance as an option for their customers. What’s extremely disturbing is how vendors are working hard to prevent customers from having third party maintenance options.

The notion of perpetual software licence rights should include the right to self-support software or engage in a third party to provide tax, regulatory and additional updates. As many vendors try to close up these loopholes, customers are left in a no-man’s land position of being forced into de-facto maintenance contracts with only the vendor.

End users need to band together and collectively demand clear rights to third-party support options. Based on survey data, most already believe or feel that 3PM should be a right. Otherwise, users will face a situation similar to auto makers forcing drivers to only go to them for maintenance. If some of the industry’s largest systems integrators actively entered the third party support market, it would effectively disrupt the balance of power and put more money into the hands of the end-users and the system integrators.

Report links

Learn the secrets to saving millions.  Find out how to win against any software vendor including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Infor, Lawson, Epicor, Exact,, etc..   Buy the full research report on the Constellation Research website.

Your POV

Need help with your software contract?  Contact us throughout the vendor selection process.  We can help with a quick contract review or even the complete vendor selection.  We provide fix-fee and gain sharing arrangements.

Let us know your experiences.  Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) com.

How can we assist?

Buyers, do you need help with your apps strategy and vendor management strategy? Trying to figure out how to infuse innovation into your tech strategy? Ready to put the expertise of over 1200 software contract negotiations to work?  Give us a call!

Please let us know if you need help with your next gen apps strategy efforts. Here’s how we can help:

  • Providing contract negotiations and software licensing support
  • Evaluating SaaS/Cloud options
  • Assessing apps strategies (e.g. single instance, two-tier ERP, upgrade, custom dev, packaged deployments”
  • Designing innovation into end to end processes and systems
  • Comparing SaaS/Cloud integration strategies
  • Assisting with legacy ERP migration
  • Engaging in an SCRM strategy
  • Planning upgrades and migration
  • Performing vendor selection

Related Constellation research

Scavo, Frank & Wang, R. “Big Idea: Constellation’s Business Value Framework.” Constellation Research, Inc.  January 31, 2012.

Wang, R. “Best Practices: Why Every CIO Should Consider Third-Party Maintenance.” Constellation Research, Inc. August 7, 2012.

Wang, R. “Market Overview: The Market For SAP Optimization Options.” Constellation Research, Inc. May 11, 2011.

Wang, R. “Best Practices: The Case for Two-Tier ERP Deployments.” Constellation Research, Inc. February 28, 2011.


Reprints can be purchased through Constellation Research, Inc. To request official reprints in PDF format, please contact sales (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com.


Although we work closely with many mega software vendors, we want you to trust us. For the full disclosure policy, stay tuned for the full client list on the Constellation Research website.

Copyright © 2001 - 2012 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC All rights reserved.

Published by R "Ray" Wang


Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

8 highly useful Slack bots for teams
Shop Tech Products at Amazon