When investing in an ERP software package, you are typically responsible for two charges: the initial software purchase and ongoing maintenance fees. Whether you pay annually or on a month-by-month basis, maintenance costs are traditionally a percentage of your total software purchase. Unfortunately, what you get in return for your payment varies greatly from ERP vendor to ERP vendor.
The industry average for maintenance costs can vary anywhere from 18 to 22 percent of your software investment. IQMS comes in at the lower end of that industry average. For your payment, what should you expect to receive in return? IQMS believes that your maintenance fees should include technical support, upgrades, input into software development, self-help tutorials and videos, technical documentation, user groups and more. Let's take a more in-depth look at these benefits:
It seems logical that your maintenance payment would include live technical support, but some ERP providers find it necessary to charge every time you call in. Others offer a tiered technical support option that allows only for a certain number of calls for free before additional fees are incurred. The quality and availability of the technical support can also vary by ERP vendor. For your annual payments, are you receiving live phone, chat and email support options? Is the technical support team available 24 hours a day/7 days a week or do you have to pay inflated rates to receive weekend or off-hours assistance?
Unfortunately, not all ERP vendors offer free upgrades, but rather charge you to stay current. To add insult to injury, some software upgrades are neither frequent or useful! When you receive a software update, are you simply provided with bug fixes or does the ERP vendor deliver new functionality and modules? Are you offered an upgrade only once every few years, or are service packs and large updates occurring regularly?
Customer-Driven Software Development:
Going hand-in-hand with the useful upgrades is the opportunity to offer input into the development and direction of the ERP solution. At IQMS, customer-driven development is a cornerstone of our company and we allocate significant resources toward a strong programming team. Our manufacturers feel comfortable coming to us with their challenges and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with them on solutions.
Training and Documentation:
Continual training is proven to result in better retention and performance. But sometimes it is difficult to find the tools and manuals you need to improve. When it comes to training, does your ERP vendor offer a database of prerecorded self-help tutorials and videos, as well as personal one-on-one training sessions, either remotely or in your facility? What about documentation such as help files? Are the user manuals and tech notes detailed and easy to understand? Does the ERP vendor offer a database of commonly used reports, scripts, alerts, templates, labels and more that you can download and utilize?
Access to other Customers:
Finally, your maintenance payments should give you access to other manufacturers for support, best practices and crowd sourcing. Are there forums or discussion boards where you can ask questions? Is there a central customer hub with all of your training, discussion and support resources in one place? How about an invitation to an annual users conference, where you can gather with fellow manufacturers to gain a greater understanding of the ERP solution?
Sound like a lot of benefits when you see them all in one place? It can be. Unfortunately, too many ERP providers don't reinvest maintenance payments back into the software or other departments like customer service, resulting in manufacturers who feel it necessary to drop their maintenance contracts. No maintenance means an inability to upgrade and elimination of technical support - A scary prospect! Instead, seek out the manufacturing ERP provider with a reasonable maintenance rate that offers as many of the benefits above as possible for the greatest return on investment.