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In my sales role, I am often asked this question by prospective customers, as they evaluate a cloud application for the first time: “what does/should the ongoing support model look like?” Their question is understandable, given that they are moving from a proven model where they could “pet their server” in their own data center, to relinquishing that control and relying completely on 3rd parties to keep the lights on.

I answer this question by recommending they consider more than one mode of support, and take care to ensure they have complementary support “lifelines”.  The basic lifeline is the common break/fix support that the application vendor typically provides as part of the subscription contract.  The depth and breadth of this break/fix support varies widely by vendor and by product, so it’s important for customers to take the time to fully understand what is and is not included.

The second support lifeline is the most overlooked one.  Our firm calls it “Expert-on-Demand Consulting.”  Simply stated, it is an on-call consulting service for customers to use on an ad hoc basis for numerous reasons (refresher training for users or sysadmin, configuration changes to match business changes, etc).  Cloud applications are not installed in a customer’s data center, nor are they heavily customized, and consequently customers do not have the burden of training internal resources on how to do the daily sysadmin or make configuration changes. 

However, customers inevitably will need to modify or extend the functionality that has been set up as their business evolves.  Because the frequency by which this will happen is unpredictable, customers tend to neglect their readiness to accomplish these tasks until they have an urgent need.  Establishing an Expert-on-Demand consulting arrangement is a cost-effective way to ensure they have the lifeline needed when the time comes.

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