Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
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Gary Audin | September 28, 2011 |


Third Party Maintenance; The Right Choice?

Third Party Maintenance; The Right Choice? Going with TPM may be considered a risk. It really is not. There are values of third party maintenance that go beyond reducing cost.

Going with TPM may be considered a risk. It really is not. There are values of third party maintenance that go beyond reducing cost.

In today's IT and communication environment, money is tight. Maintaining the installed technologies is a must. Looking forward, the TCO looks like it cannot be reduced. Retiring equipment and software is one choice and can work when the workforce is downsized. This helps a little, but there are always minimum system requirements even when there are fewer users.

Your budget is slim. You need to look at cost cutting alternatives. One candidate is maintenance. You can:

* Stay with your OEM
* Upgrade or replace the technology to reduce maintenance costs with the OEM or
* Look at third-party maintenance

Professionals who are used to long-term operation of systems like a TDM PBX have been able to avoid new purchases because of the support provided by the OEMs. These OEMs, in the past, allowed the customer to keep, operate and upgrade their systems at the user's own pace.

Enterprises that do not have the capital to replace the older technologies want to extend their system's life. The OEM, on the other hand, is trying to force customers to replace their aging technologies. In some cases, this is accomplished by informing the customer that maintenance will be terminated on the enterprise’s existing systems, forcing the purchase of new systems.

Going with the third party maintenance (TPM) organization may be considered a risk. It really is not. There are values of third party maintenance that go beyond reducing cost. The enterprise can:

* Design a custom contract that meets their requirements rather than accepting the cookie-cutter approach of the OEM.
* Receive more personalized service.
* Avoid unnecessary costly upgrades that may be pushed by the OEM.
* Provide a contract that covers multiple products from different OEM vendors, thereby increasing the customer's maintenance efficiency and offering a single point of contact.
* Extend the life of the aging systems, thereby avoiding new capital expenses.
* Avoid hidden fees.
* Receive an unbiased assessment of the exiting systems and their potential for continued operation and support.

The market that has developed for TPM has become multi-tiered in operation. The largest TPMs offer one stop shopping to their customers. This type of TPM already has many partnerships, a large staff covering a wide geographic area, and is supporting many types of customers.

The medium sized TPM may have nearly as much capability as the large TPM, but may be limited in geographic coverage. This TPM commonly pursues government contracts for maintenance.

The small TPM is probably the most flexible in its offerings. When the enterprise is not geographically dispersed, then this size TPM may be just as attractive as a larger TPM. The executives of this type of TPM are usually more focused on the customer and work more closely with the customer to ensure satisfaction and loyalty.

If the customer has selected products primarily from one OEM, then the boutique TPM may be the best choice. This TPM is more specialized in one OEM product line and may have engineers that have come directly from the OEM that they support. Spare parts for these OEM products may be more readily available from the boutique TPM because of their limited focus.

There are two types of maintenance agreements. The on-site agreement has the technician arriving at the customer premises, diagnosing the problem, either replacing the part or fixing the software or ordering the parts and installing them when they arrive.

The second form is depot maintenance. In this case the enterprise has to diagnose the problem, contact the service company and order the replacements to be shipped. The enterprise staff has to perform the installation and then ship back the defective parts. This is less costly, but it’s time consuming and assumes the enterprise has the necessary expertise.

What if the enterprise chooses to have the TPM or OEM on call rather than a contract relationship? The costs can be very high. It is common to pay $150/hour to resolve the problem with a TPM. This does not include parts. OEM rates can be as high as $350/hour plus parts.

It is a money decision in the end. The enterprise wants to maintain the systems but also reduce costs and make the maintenance costs a predictable budget item. Going with a TPM should be analyzed when the enterprise comes to the end of the present OEM maintenance contract.


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