Will #ThirdPartySupport be disrupted?

Rimini Street CEO, Seth Ravin, said the Oracle court case was a ‘watershed moment’ for the third-party support industry. I agree, but for very different reasons.

During an interview, Ravin also said that the court case decision was his Napster moment — a very effective comparison, indeed. Problem is — after eight months the US Court decision, the market has not experienced that proliferation of companies that want to enter the third-party support marketplace. Why?

Napster really disrupted the music industry, even if in illegal terms, because nowadays almost everyone consumes music from the Internet and new services like Tidal can be considered a kind of “2 decades after” legal version of Napster.

You may wonder…

where’s the disruption in Third Party Support business? If you don’t see it, it’s probably because there is none.

Third Party Support made its appearance in the market in order to fill a gap where companies were unsatisfied by the support directly offered by the Software vendors (principally Oracle and SAP) but at the time had no choice other than… no support at all . So, in a way, they were a necessary step in the IT industry… but they did not disrupt the industry itself.

I am not sure, in fact, how Rimini Street having to pay $50 millions can represent an example to follow or — using Ravin’s words — a codification by the courts of “road’s rules” that can inspire others to replicate that business model.

Lowering the cost of a service and offering an opportunity where there is none is not disruption, it’s simply called… business ; and Rimini Street did well in exploiting that moment.

Once realized that the #thirdpartysupport has not represented a disruption in the IT support industry, we have to ask ourselves if that is actually a business that can or should be disrupted. Let’s first focus on the

“if it should”…

U.S. District Judge Larry R. Hicks on Jun the 13th rejected the Rimini’s contention that the $14.4 million award wasn’t supported by evidence, saying Oracle’s damages expert credibly argued that clients left Oracle for Rimini because “defendants were able to provide the necessary library of technical and support files to service that customer’s software at a fraction of the price charged by Oracle .”

…”Further, defendants advertised to prospective clients Rimini’s ability to completely service all Oracle Enterprise software programs by explaining that Rimini had the full library of support and technical materials for all software programs on its own systems and without a need to access Oracle America’s website,” the judge wrote. “ Because of defendants’ conduct in taking entire libraries of support materials, prior Oracle clients were able to have their Oracle software serviced by defendants at a 50% discount from Oracle’s services. “

So here’s the point — if I copy all the necessary documentation related to the product and an entire database containing years of support cases and I don’t have to pay for it, I can surely invoice my customers less. If you add to the equation the fact that with #thirdpartysupport you won’t receive any software updates — then the result is obvious: if you cheat by not respecting the rules and you don’t offer a piece of the cake — that is software updates — surely you can be cheaper.

So, what’s your point of view? I personally see this approach in particular to #thirdpartysupport as something that should be disrupted…

Now let’s focus on the…

…”if it can”

Well, even if you don’t like it, #thirdpartysupport disruption will be an inevitable consequence of the Cloud and SaaSsolutions — despite the Ravin’s bold statement about Oracle focusing a lot on support for its revenue, Larry Ellison has moved Oracle with a key turning point strategy — move all Oracle business to the Cloud — therefore stopping the very initial idea of #thirdpartysuppot at its roots.

But in any case on-premise solutions will stay here for a very long time and — as I warned Cloud services to pay attention about their now-commonly-accepted practice of putting customers’ data on their Cloud (while the service should be about the software, not necessarily its data) — I would warmly suggest vendors like Oracle and SAP to correct the current offer gap and enable customers to decide between support and software upgrades . In an era of Cloud computing and SaaS this makes even more sense than ever — customers should be able to decide if they want to upgrade their software without the need to also pay for that specific support.

the separation between Support and Software upgrades is almost a must for vendors like Oracle and SAP

It is true that by doing so they would justify and formalize the #thirdpartysupport existence, but at the same time customers would understand the difference between paying to receive support and paying to receive software upgrades and innovations — also making appear support cost fairer.

But when it comes to support that is external to your corporation, there is always the chance of losing control and track over what exactly has been efficiently supported and the functional and technical knowledge of the application — whatever you may save today, that is going to bite you back with the interest in the future.

e-Up — Unified Perspective saves the day, offering a double vision to meet both the above mentioned points — Software as a Service that brings innovative features to automatize the support of Enterprise applications .

e-Tools, for example, allows Oracle Siebel customers to build their own visual data-knowledge repository of their CRM platform for the following phases of a project:

  • Use Cases / User Stories for Requirements
  • Business / Functional Processes
  • Business Domains Maps
  • Visual Architecture solution

While I have already presented the 9 steps to support Oracle Siebel in a “Do It Yourself “ way, the list is being extended by new features that have been enabled thanks to a closer collaboration between e-Up and the guys at Oracle Siebel development team, who are introducing new capabilities to their CRM platform.

The possibilities offered by this innovative CASE tool for Siebel and latest Siebel releases are tremendous and will be presented in the coming weeks and months to the general public. Enough to say that all the above mentioned artefacts can be automatically generated — so, for example, you don’t need to define your requirements or business processes from scratch, but you can start from the ones that will be automatically generated from the Siebel CRM application itself.

years of customization have tailored your corporate application to meet your corporate strategy

This is as revolutionary as the advent of Packaged Applications vs. greenfield development: you don’t need to start every time from scratch, rather from a repository of best practices . And this time these are your best best practices — you should customize that, not basic CRM features.

It’s time to substitute current passive approach to support with a proactive one — every customer and service provider that develops for a Siebel Oracle customer will be able to understand exactly what the users experience as issues without the need to reproduce the process manually on the application! Less wasted time and more proactivity in issues resolution.

Current support approaches are still too passive and customers tend to pay too much just for their support to understand the application and its hidden issues.

users want their problem to be understood and solved fast and with the minimum effort on their side

Innovation should not be stopped and customers should evaluate the progress of latest innovations — as I said inanother article, these are times of change for Siebel customers and the best way to face it, is embrace it.

The journey has just started.