Supporting an Enterprise wide system like PeopleSoft, SAP or Oracle
From a high level most companies are faced with two options when it comes to ERP support. They can address it with In-house, on-payroll resources or outsource support to a company with multiple ERP skill sets. Which is best depends on your company circumstances. Staff can leave at the worst possible time, taking your IP with them and leaving you with a massive technical or functional gap to fill. Equally, some outsourcing companies can see you as a cash cow and pillage your funds that are no doubt set aside for other important projects. SLAs can slip because they were not nailed down at the very beginning and you’re in a far worse spot than when you started. But let’s assume these issues have been negated, what else should you be considering?
Hire two ERP resources; one technical, the other functional
They will be available permanently so it won’t be difficult for staff to shout loudest or track them down for attention. Relationships can develop, though not necessarily good ones, and it is often perceived as providing the best support with the most control. On the flip side, the support system can be unstructured and ill-disciplined leading to all calls being treated as equal. If the really urgent one comes along, it could just get stuck in the backlog due to the lack of system. A good support system should always be available for that truly urgent call.
Hire a company that specialises in supporting your application with multiple skill sets.
Often one full-time In-house resource may not be able to answer all calls. Not a problem if the application supplier has good technical support, but if it doesn’t, then some calls will get stuck, perpetually. If you spend enough on full-time employees you can make sure this doesn’t happen, but it is not always the best way to address it. Because the support is outsourced there will be a written process that is reliable and predictable. However loud someone shouts, it will not alter this systematic approach, although there is of course room for flexibility which is then the remit of the company’s IS department.
IS Department and the support costs
When an In-house approach is taken usually the full burden of paying for the resource comes out of the IS budget, as these employees will be working for that department. With an outsourced approach, the BAU and project work can be itemised by department and cross-charged in a more equitable way, certainly more equitable to the IS department that is.
The Combined approach
Some organisations prefer a mixed model with a less expensive/junior resource as a full time member of staff with back-up from a specialist support firm. Some of these firms will also provide an onsite resource but not necessarily every day of the week.
A dollar spent on an In-house resource means you will have a work colleague you can sit next to and cajole, assuming that is he is not already deep in conversation with another staff member. That said they may not follow as disciplined a structure as the IS department would like, however rigid the internal rules are. The point is, though they may offer the most immediate remedy to any technical ill, the level of service can be at the mercy of a person’s mood or of how much they like you.
A dollar spent on an outsourced resource means that a real human may not be physically available at all times, but you will most definitely be able to rely on the agreed SLAs and hold them to account if the system is not adhered to. Personal relationships should never come into it and it’s just tough if they don’t feel up to it for any reason, there is a job to be done and that takes precedence.