If you are looking for an assurance to keep a brand new, freshly deployed PowerBI deployment or set of Power Apps applications going, you are probably considering signing a support contract. Even though the platform itself is mostly self-managed, there are various stages of the information flow were making a manual intervention is required. Sometimes the scenario is that you have capable people in your organization, but you want to focus on the build, not the operations.
In most cases, you will be having the conversation with the same team or vendor who developed the solution – which makes perfect sense because they know the product the best. Support pricing and intricacies are often a mystery – not only to Clients but also suppliers are sometimes truggling with how to structure support service and to put a price tag on its individual components.
Here is a quick rundown of support aspects that you might consider using while talking to your Modern BI supplier about getting a support contract in place.
1. Ticket management and point of contact
The most common way of support contact is the email address. However, you expect that it is never an account of an individual but an alias tied to a particular support group. Moreover, those mailboxes are not handled manually but operated automatically through a specialized application which converts email request to entities called tickets. Service Management software is available in many different flavors and options, but you should expect your support vendor to have one in place. Most of those solutions (sometimes called ITSM applications) also provide something called a Client Portal, where you can log in and review the status of your tickets.
Examples of such applications include Zendesk, JIRA Service Management, Caizu, Freshdesk. There are also enterprise-grade software packages that offer a lot more than just ticket management – for example, Manage Engine or Service Now (considered de facto corporate standard).
2. Response or Reaction times
This is a time between you submitting a request and a live support agent confirming that he is working on it. Automated responses do not count. Obviously, everybody expects to have an immediate reaction of 15mins. Still, from the vendor perspective, it means that people need to be allocated to a project to provide that kind of guarantee – this means you will pay more. Consider expected reaction time vs. business criticality of the issue. If you built a vacation acceptance solution, you do need 15 mins of reaction. 8 working hours should be fine in most cases unless the issue is critical and business breaks down. You might also talk about different response times depending on the severity of the issue.
3. Resolution times
Clients often say that having only a Response Time guarantee is not a good value because they do not know when the issue will be fixed. Well, the truth is that the Supplies does not know it either. Consider medical perspective: unless the doctor gives your an examination, they can’t say whether your headache is related to atmospheric pressure change or is related to a more serious issue.
Don’t worry – the supplier will want to resolve the issue as soon as possible because it wants you to be happy about the value you are getting from the support contract. Enforcing resolution times for minor issue types will not help.
Consider guaranteed resolution times only for critical workloads and high-impact scenarios. Otherwise, you will not benefit from the higher pricing associated with guaranteed Resolutions times.
Good support engagement should allow flexibility in terms of work that can be conducted within its scope. The way how we structure our support contracts is that besides SLA guarantees, Clients get a „flexible pool” of hours per month that can be spent on any ticket types: bugfixes, but also expert assistance, configurations alignments, or even small development tasks. Expect your supplier to be flexible, but agree on the types of activities that will be done upfront.
These are the scenarios where a support contract will be more financially effective than having your own team – it is on the vendor side to provide an appropriate mix of people, skills, and resources to assure the job is done.
5. Proactiveness and prevention
In my other articles, I reminded of a popular notion that a good support team is not visible. One of the ways of achieving that is preventing problems before they happen. For example, Modern BI environments can be proactively monitored for the proper execution of data flows and ingestion processes. Virtual machines can be checked for memory and storage consumption – surprisingly, many problems still occur because someone neglected to clean up log space on the virtual hard drive. Custom applications deployed on Azure can also be equipped with „heartbeat” functionalities. Ask your future supplier about what kind of preventive measures can be implemented as a part of the support engagement.