August 08, 2019

For companies researching alternatives for Oracle and SAP support and services, the market can be a confusing place. Vendors use interchangeable terminology, defining their services in very non-standard ways and making one-to-one comparisons nearly impossible. In this post, we’ll dispel the confusion by providing you with solid definitions and examples for these different types of services.

The Definition of Software Support

Software support is a service provided by a software publisher that delivers technical product help and advice to registered users. Support engineers are available 24/7, although their response time and manner will vary depending on the severity of the issue and the obligations mandated within the support contract. Software support services are on-demand, responding only as complex issues arise, and may include help with installation, usability, or remote troubleshooting.

Both Oracle and SAP define software support as including access to major product and technology releases, technical support, certifications, support portal access, and a variety of patches, updates, alerts, and fixes. They push their users to self-support when possible and respond live within an hour for only the most severe issues that don’t involve custom code.

The definition of “Third-party software support” is a complete replacement of the software publisher’s support by a different company. In the case of Spinnaker Support, we deploy Level 4 experts and replace Oracle and SAP Support with our own enhanced and less costly support. Unlike Oracle and SAP support, our third-party support includes fixes for custom code and interoperability issues, customized and more comprehensive security protection, and customer-specific global tax and regulatory compliance updates.

Learn even more about how to evaluate third-party vendors.

The Definition of Managed Services

As compared to software support, managed services are outsourced technical functions and processes performed by a trusted third-party company.

Managed services help to augment your staff, fill gaps in your IT team’s capabilities, and improve your overall operability, often with less expense. While software support is always triggered by a ticket or incident, managed services are typically ongoing, proactively planned activities performed by a dedicated team of Level 2 and Level 3 engineers.

At Spinnaker Support, we offer three levels of managed services to help your applications, databases, and systems run at peak performance. These levels represent specific sets of services like monitoring, day-to-day management of basic IT operations and functions, and infrastructure or software management in the public cloud.

Which Service Is Which: The Often-Blurred Line

The challenge – for both the customer and the vendor – is how to communicate needs and mutually understand where the line exists between software support and managed services. It can be fuzzy, especially when you have separate software support and managed service vendors.

Tasks like performance monitoring are clearly managed services, while others like global tax and regulatory updates fall under the definition of software support services. But what happens when a customer requires assistance in a gray area that straddles the two types of services?

At Spinnaker Support, we first attempt to use the definitions laid out above, but in some instances, we encourage our third-party support customers to issue a ticket so that we can begin a conversation. Ultimately, our goal is to determine how to best resolve our customer’s pressing issues or needs.

And What about Consulting?

The third area of services – consulting – is more easily defined. Consulting is required when a service is distinctly time-limited and focused on a singular goal. Examples include database migrations, roadmap planning, risk assessments, cost/benefit assessments, and adding new modules or functionality.

Spinnaker Support’s consulting services cover a range of business needs. These services help bridge the gaps across multiple technology stacks and ERP applications while delivering a broad range of custom services that focus on bite-sized, cost-effective projects.

Defining Support Levels for Enterprise Software

Now, let’s take a closer look at the classic definitions of support levels (or tiers), which describe the extent and type of technical assistance. At Spinnaker Support, we follow ITIL, a globally recognized framework and set of best practices for Information Technology Service Management (ITSM). When performed correctly, ITIL improves IT service delivery while reducing the costs of delivering those services. The ITIL definitions are listed in the table below.

Level Description Example Tasks Staffing Requirement
0 Self-help and user-retrieved information Static information offered on web pages or mobile apps, interactive chatbots suggest solutions to simple issues Technical resources needed to create and update support information
1 Basic help desk resolution and front-line service desk delivery Password reset, basic trouble-shooting, escalate more complex issues to a higher level Entry-level personnel trained to solve known issues or address basic requests following scripts
2 Operational support with engineers who know the product or system Operational issues with applications, database performance monitoring, escalate more complex Support personnel who focus more on the operational needs of the customer
3 Expert product and service support for more difficult application problems Handle complex problems, architectural issues, research unknown issues, escalate more complex issues to a higher level Highly skilled product experts may include developers and chief architects
4 Experts who specialize in the software and application Break/fix, patches, global tax and regulatory updates, security and vulnerability protection; Spinnaker Support adds general inquiry and technology advisory support (see below) Highly skilled and experienced product experts employed by
third-party vendors

A good rule of thumb for this tiered system, shown in the far-right column, is to assume that Level 1 is lightly trained staff only and that you add 4-5 years of experience as you move up each level. You can also assume that, as you move up the chain from Level 1 to 4 that the teams grow smaller, more specialized, and more in demand.

Most of our customers maintain their own internal Level 1 and 2 teams, or, in the case of larger customers, choose to offshore those functions, reserving their interactions with Spinnaker Support for the Level 3 Managed Services and Level 4 issues that they cannot solve themselves.

The Benefit of a Single Service Provider

Many technology service vendors claim to provide full “support,” but when you dig deeper (and use the definitions provided above) you can discern that what they actually provide are supportive managed services, not responsive software support. Spinnaker Support is the only vendor that delivers a unique blend of third-party support, managed services, and consulting for enterprises that run Oracle and SAP.

Unlike other Oracle or SAP managed services providers, Spinnaker Support has a deep bench of Level 4 support engineers. If you are a third-party support customer, and you find you need more ongoing services, it’s only a brief conversation to get started. That’s why our philosophy is that no problem is too big to solve.

No matter which service or services they choose, Spinnaker Support customers trust us to keep their enterprise applications running at peak performance and to help them navigate from on-premise to hybrid to cloud.

Contact us directly to learn more about our unique blend of services.