Maintenance costs represent a major part of the software budget and
the largest growing source of revenue for software vendors.   In fact,
an aggregation of the past four quarters of software vendor financial results
definitively demonstrates double digit declines in new license revenue,
even more exacerbated by the evils of currency flux from the strong
dollar for US based vendors. Not surprisingly, vendors are hard at work
vigorously protecting their 70 to 80% margin in maintenance revenues
just as clients and readers of this blog now zero in on this line item
as the major concession target during contract negotiations.  Here are
five steps (i.e. A,B,C's to software maintenance) you need to do now*:

  1. Assemble all the relevant contract information. Aggregate
    all your contract information and vendor interaction history so that
    its centrally accessible.  Determine the value of your maintenance
    agreement. Examine how often you call for support, apply
    patches, conduct upgrades, and require technical assistance.  Then
    calculate the total support and maintenance spend.  Most customers will
    find that for $1M a year, 5 support calls can be pretty pricey at $200k
    a pop, especially when upgrades aren't in the picture for the next 24
    months.   The vendor better show up the next day with white gloves and
    be there in person.
  2. Breakdown the total cost of shelfware. Simply put, shelfware
    is the software licenses purchased, not deployed that is incurring
    support and maintenance fees.  That great deal 3 years ago you got on
    1000 user licenses, when you only ended up using 800, now comes to bite
    you in the butt.  Calculate the maintenance fee you have for 200 user
    licenses at $1000/user which is $200,000 X 20% annual support and
    maintenance X 3 years.  At $120,000, you had better make up the "big"
    discount you got for buying 1000 user licenses by at least 12% this
    year and 15% the next year.
  3. Craft your overall software adoption strategy. Consider the business drivers that impact software adoption.  Assemble the domain experts, vendor management and sourcing professionals, legal experts, business owners, and IT team.   Apply a long term apps/ recession proof apps strategy and determine when and how licenses will be used in the software ownership lifecycle.  What processes will be supported? What roles will use the software?  When will you upgrade?  Can you consider an alternative?
  4. Determine all the alternatives. Depending on your adoption
    strategy, multiple paths exist.  If there are no intentions to upgrade
    or enhance the software, self support and third party maintenance (3PM) options from vendors such as Rimini Street and Spinnaker
    should be considered.  In some cases, an upgrade should be completed
    before switching over to 3PM or self support.  If the system can be
    replaced, begin vendor selection efforts so that you will have leverage
    during the negotiation.  If the system cannot be replaced, consider
    swapping out unused licenses for credit towards newer or more desirable
    modules.  Reduce your CPI for new maintenance.  Focus on reducing new
    license costs.
  5. Engage account representative at least one quarter before the contract expires. Put
    preparation on your side and begin to let your sales rep know 3 to 6
    months in advance that you are unhappy with the current agreement. 
    Based on steps 1 to 4, you now have the ammunition you need to
    negotiate from a position of strength.

The bottom line – align your contract negotiations strategy with your product adoption strategy.

Successful negotiations will require these 5 steps.  However, more
importantly, organizations should keep a current apps strategy and
product adoption strategy.  Without these two key documents, lack of
visibility into the business case will lead to shortsighted
negotiations that fail to meet the true requirements of the business. 
Sourcing, procurement, and vendor management professionals should
partner with domain experts who can provide third party, independent
and objective advice that will complement contract negotiations
strategy.  Click here for more contract negotiation strategy tips.

Got more enterprise software contract negotiations questions?  Set up a call with the inquiry team and ask for R "Ray" Wang.

Your Turn

What's your best practice in reducing maintenance costs?  Post your
comments here or send me a private email to

Contribute to the 2009 Enterprise Software Licensee's Bill of Rights

Take the new poll on
what rights should be included in the 2009 Enterprise Software Licensee
Bill of Rights   Posts are preferred!  For every good idea or comment,
whether or not we use your idea, we'll send you a copy of the final
report.  Let's put the collective wisdom of the web to work and help
our end user clients create a fair win-win playing field with the
vendors.  We'll be publishing the official update in Q2 2009.  Thanks
and look forward to your input!

*Caveats are as follows:  1) This does not constitute legal advice. 
Please consult your legal counsel for an official opinion and wording. 
2) This does not consider any procurement or vendor management rules
that must be applied to your enterprise.  Please work with your vendor
management teams for compliance.  3)  Contract negotiation support
provides insight into overall trends and price points.  Benchmarks are
not provided as each user scenario is unique.

Copyright © 2009 R Wang. All rights reserved.

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