Concerns about IBM Premium Support

From DeveloperWorks, The Support Authority: Leverage the advantages of IBM Software Premium Support Services

IBM provides a variety of self-help tools and other support resources to
help you maintain and troubleshoot systems that are based on WebSphere products. In
addition to these, IBM also provides three levels of Premium Support that can be
customized and added on to your Passport Advantage support agreement. This article
describes the advantages of IBM Software Premium Support and how these additional
services would impact your day-to-day operations. (IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal)

I can’t help but notice the similarities between my old SWAT Team job and this new Premium support concept. In the SWAT role, I was a developer from the development organization sent around to early adopters of WebSphere Integration Developer in order to help them get into production as smoothly as possible. This involved providing a single contact point back into the IBM hierarchy, managing their Problem Reports and guiding best practices.

This problem with SWAT was that it was the right role, but provided by the wrong organization. Development should be focused on developing products, not pro-bono consulting work. Now we see the “Premium Support” package arrives which uses ISSW consultants to basically do the same job that SWAT did but within the proper services organization. I’m sure it will as big a success as SWAT was.

But my issue with “Premium Support” is that the service they provide are all things that the pre-existing support channel should be doing. When a customer spends a few million dollars for software/support, is it really too much to ask to have a single point of contact inside the company? Someone who will champion your issues within the organization and provide regular feedback of their status.

My second concern with the Premium Support package is that it lands up providing even more incentive for IBM to cut testing cycles on product releases. Testing a product costs money. Billing a consultant generates money. It’s easy to see which one is preferable. If you can generate a large revenue stream from support contracts and numerous engagements for Premium Support at high billable rates, they can only be sustained by releasing poor products. A rock solid product running without issues doesn’t have Premium Support revenue streams: It’s not needed.

I’m also concerned what impact that this team will have with the long-term building of an external SOAcommunity. If customers can solve the issues on their own, why would they buy this services offering? Premium Support revenue will grow based on stifling the information that is released beyond the firewall.

The Premium Support product is an interesting concept that I’m sure some companies will get on-board with immediately, I’m just concerned about the long-term issues a team like this may cause.

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