Martin Biggs, Vice President & General Manager, EMEA
Those familiar with hardware maintenance know that service-level agreements (SLA’s) with resolution times are not unusual. This is because, after identifying and validating the problem, the hardware maintainer simply has to remove and replace the component.
For hardware, resolution becomes a function of problem identification, part availability, and engineering time to get to site. On the whole, hardware outages can be predicted by Mean Time to Failure analytics, so a hardware vendor can size parts and engineering availability accordingly.
Resolution in the software world is very different.
When software code stops working correctly, the cause may be attributed to a far greater set of possible factors. This usually means validation and identification can take much longer – as can problem resolution. And so that’s why software publishers almost never provide timed SLA’s for ticket resolution. In light of so many variables, how could they ever set a meaningful and reasonable time to resolution?
Issue Resolution vs. Forced Upgrades
One way Oracle often gets around challenging P1 or P2 support tickets is to ‘resolve’ them by telling the customer to upgrade. Whilst that potentially (but not always) solves the problem, it does leave the customer in a situation where the ticket has a fix, but it can take many weeks or months to implement. The same is true if Oracle issues a patch. It is not trivial for a customer to test and implement a patch, both of which are required before a ticket is truly ‘resolved.’
Consider this recent example we had with a customer. An update on Office 365 broke a retail bank’s integration between Office email and Siebel. Oracle’s only response was for them to upgrade to a more recent version of Siebel, something the bank absolutely did not want to do. Not only would an upgrade project be disruptive, but it might also break other integrations as well!
Therefore, Spinnaker Support conceived an alternate integration between Siebel and Office 365. This was a non-trivial exercise that took some time to complete; but it delivered high value to the client and has extended the operating life of the system for years.
If there had been an SLA structure in place for ticket resolution, I would argue that it would not have driven the right outcome. The support provider potentially would have focused on short-term fixes or might have taken the penalty in lieu of ticket resolution. The truth is that neither of these outcomes represents the best interest of the customer.
Beware of the Promise of Timed Resolution
For the reason above, the industry doesn’t work in this way. But from time to time, a small entrant may try to create a buzz around ticket resolution. In such situations, we encourage potential customers to verify these points:
- Who sets the severity levels? Are they ALWAYS set by the customer (as with Spinnaker Support), or does the provider get the final say? The provider could potentially downgrade an issue to stretch out resolution time.
- How are severity levels defined? Are the severity levels defined in a way that aligns with your usual business practice (e.g., Sev 1 shouldn’t only be for when your business, as a whole, cannot function).
- Are the penalties meaningful? When you see the detail on SLA penalty payments, are they significant or merely a relatively small amount in comparison to the pain caused and the effort to resolve?
- Ultimately, does it drive the right behaviour? Whether the support is from Oracle itself or an alternative provider, you shouldn’t be forced to accept an unwanted upgrade or a temporary fix that only masks the true root cause. The vendor’s true goal should be to resolve the problem permanently.
Spinnaker Support’s Approach to True Resolution
At Spinnaker Support, we truly understand that, when enterprise-critical software breaks, customers want assurance that the support provider is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to resolve the issue in a timely fashion. Our customers receive fast responses, transparent and proven processes, and tenacious senior engineers that know how to assess and resolve the thorniest software issues. That’s why we rate nearly 100% overall customer satisfaction every year.
We also offer our Ultimate Support Guarantee as your assurance that we will deliver on the support experience you expect and deserve, whenever and wherever you need it. It’s the first-ever and only available commitment to third-party Oracle (and SAP) support delivery. We are dedicated to solving your unique software issues the right way – every time. Learn more about our Guarantee.