Maintenance contracts for content management systems

Necessary or not?

Maintenance contracts for content management systems

When you buy a new heating system, you can also sign a maintenance contract. This means that at least once a year, a technician visits you and carries out the necessary maintenance work on the system. In addition, you can call them at any time if you have a problem with your heating system. The advantage is obvious: without such a maintenance contract and without the expertise of the expert, your heating system would gradually run more inefficiently, and at some point probably fail altogether – not a good idea, depending on the season.

A similar principle exists for software products in the field of technical documentation, such as content management systems and content delivery portals. Here, too, you can execute a maintenance contract for the new system directly at the time of purchase. Often, however, 20 to 30% of the total license costs are due as an annual fee. Not exactly a small amount of money! Logically, many companies ask themselves: Is this worth it for us at all?
Let's first take a closer look at what a typical maintenance contract for a content management system can include. Two aspects play a central role: updates and technical support.

Updates as part of a maintenance contract

Everyone has installed an update on a device (smartphone, tablet, or actually the new heating system). In addition to updates, such updates often contain so-called bug fixes – i.e. corrections to the software that specifically fix problems. However, an update often also contains new functions that didn't previously exist. These new functions are partly based on direct feedback and suggestions from users, and thus represent real use cases that are probably not far removed from those of your Technical Editorial department. So, when new features are released as part of an update to your content management system, chances are good that your Technical Editorial team will be able to benefit directly from them.

Updates also ensure that you can continue to operate the software reliably, even if the general conditions change (new operating system, new hardware, etc.). After all, the systems on which the software products are installed are constantly evolving. A current content management system no longer runs under Windows 95 or on an Amiga PC.


Technical support for your system

What should you do if your heater stops working properly? The first step is probably to try to solve the problem yourself. The first reach then usually goes for the user manual. If you can't find what you're looking for there, you can continue searching online forums and FAQs, or watch a video on YouTube. If that doesn't help either, the only other option is the phone or perhaps a manufacturer's service portal, where you can open a ticket for your problem.

The principle works very similarly for software products. However, there's often no printed manual in the traditional sense. Instead, help texts are integrated directly into the software interface or you're redirected to a corresponding online portal.

If self-help is unsuccessful, experts are called in – this is often referred to as second- or third-level support. For this type of support, the maintenance contract specifies when the experts from the support team will be available and how long it usually takes for the issue to be resolved. The communication channels (telephone, ticketing system, chat, etc.) are also frequently fixed in the contract – a very important point, especially in the case of global cooperation and the associated time zone differences.

Who can provide support?

You can, of course, execute a maintenance contract for your new content management system directly with the system provider. Another option is to work with a specialist service provider for technical documentation. The advantage of this option is that the specialised service provider usually has access to an interdisciplinary support team and can therefore cover various specialist areas – such as information architecture, metadata management, IT development, and translation. This enables the support team to respond quickly and flexibly to customers' requests, especially at the first level. What's more, the service provider is familiar with many of the small (and big) everyday problems that can arise during work in the content management system from their own day-to-day business. The documentation specialist can therefore usually solve such queries much better and faster than the manufacturer.

My conclusion: Good support saves time, money, and nerves

Whether it's a new heating system or a CMS, a maintenance contract helps you to ensure that a product always functions properly and remains up-to-date. And if something does go wrong, you're also assured that the provider will respond quickly and straightforwardly to your support requests.

Without a maintenance contract, on the other hand, the vendor's goodwill alone decides when (and in what form) they will respond to inquiries or change requests. My recommendation is therefore: Make sure you include the maintenance contract when calculating the total cost of a system. Also keep in mind that canceling or making an existing maintenance contract "dormant" runs the risk of you eventually working in an inefficient and outdated system, or not being able to use the system at all. You're guaranteed to miss out on new features that could make your department's life easier. In the case of huge problems, you may even find yourself alone with no one around to fix your software (or your heater) – then things can get pretty frosty very quickly.

Christoph Beenen
Blog post Christoph Beenen