Freelance Web Consultant at architxt.net
11 May 2009 02:19am
Is it reasonable for an supplier to charge for the time needed to investigate a bug in their system?
For example, if I flag a problem with a content management system provided by a supplier, is it reasonable for them to charge me 30 mins worth of time to look into it, even if the problem is clearly with the system?
Digital Media Consultant at N10-3Hills Productions (trading name ACE G4 Ltd)
11 May 2009 11:25am
Will all depend on the SLA and what Change Management accord was struck. Bugs, within the warranty period is for their account. All other 'issues' being tracked will be covered under the scope of the SLA and whether there shall be a change as a result of the 'fix' They will chanrge if that is the case.
Suggest you examine the SLA as a firsdt stop.
Hope this helps
11 May 2009 12:54pm
Hi Johann - thanks for your reply.
There is an SLA but doesn't go into great detail, unfortunately. The warranty period is over. I wasn't around when things were negotiated either, so I don't know the details.
It would be interesting to hear from service providers about this. If a client phones you up to point out a bug in your system, do you charge them to investigate the bug even if it's a genuine problem?
11 May 2009 13:11pm
You're very welcome and I am sorry for the frustration you must be experiencing.
In the contracts:-
- look for renewal terms, always good to know when you can renegotiate
- speak to the suppliers directly and informally try and work it out
- don't threaten but make it clear if you talk to them that during renegotiation you'll wan to discuss this element in detail
- compare, if T&Cs aloows for it, how much a third party will charge you to fix the bugs
- finally, draw up a process of SLA negotiation for any new contracts in the future and ingest it into a knowledge base for use by all, wiki, cms, etc.
If I can be of help on any area around remediating the agreements don't hesitate to contact me.
Business Development Manager at Cabinet UK Ltd
11 May 2009 15:09pm
If you don't have a watertight SLA, you are going to have to do a bit of give and take with the supplier. It very much depends on the software, when it was handed over to you and what the bug is. For example, a supplier will likely investigate for free any bugs found within, say, 6 months of handover but after that, they will charge. From a supplier point of view, often so-called bugs are not in reality - they are perhaps a compromise that was agreed upon when the code was written, or perhaps the software wasn't meant for that operating system, or similar. So, they will investigate for free but, if it turns out that it isn't a bug, they'll charge for the time spent. I'd recommend ringing them up and having a chat about it.
11 May 2009 22:09pm
The kind of bug I am talking about is, for example, a software error trying to perform a task such as deleting a media file in the CMS -- clicking on the delete button returning an exception error. Or information not saving in a meta data field of a specific page.
I've already discussed this and got nowhere. Hence my trying to understand what the practice is in the industry.
Owner at Digital Juggler
12 May 2009 14:34pm
This is always a sensitive subject between Client and Supplier, i've been on both sides of the fence so hopefully have a rounded view on this.
As Johann explains, the SLA is essential because there are different levels of service provision. It is possible to have a fully managed service where all technical problems (bugs, failures etc) are supported within your maintenance contract so are not charged for as additional expense. The only charge you will receive is for enhancements/upgrades or bespoke development.
However, it is also possible to have a support contract in place that will only cover critical issues i.e. system failure and routine maintenance. In this situation, minor bug fixes are defined as additional work and incur a charge. This can be hard to accept but if you had built the solution in-house, there would be an ongoing cost to the business of maintaining the solution and resolving problems - technology is prone to bugs no matter how well implemented.
The frustration usually comes when you inherit a contract and relationship having had no input to the negotations or SLA, so it becomes very hard to marry your expectation with the supplier's commitment level. It is also hard for a Supplier to then adapt to new demands when they have been used to a different level of service provision with someone else.
Essentially the ability to resolve this problem relies on the strength of the partnership. A positive relationship would require both parties to put cards on the table, identify the frustrations and define an outcome that is acceptable.
This outcome then needs to be commercially viable for both parties - you don't want to spend more than the value the service provides and your Supplier can't sustain support if it is not financially viable.
In my experience, you need to sit down face-to-face and make sure there are Directors from both parties. Set a clear agenda, outline what is making your life difficult and what will (eventually) force you to look elsewhere in the market. Ask them what they can do to give you the SLA you need to do your job and not feel like you are working against them. Get them to put down the pricing they would charge to achieve your goal. Then negotiate. You might well find a solution is there but the right questions have not yet been asked of the right people.
The key for me is Director involvement - they are the ones who can authorise commercial changes, so they need to understand the context and make a firm commitment.
If you still think the service is not right, tell them and get a tender ready. Problems are a fact of life but they can be resolved if the attitude of both parties is right and you work together. If there is a cultural divide, you should consider your options.
Hope that helps
12 May 2009 23:15pm
There are other issues we are not happy about, so we will be having that chat soon. Of course it's our fault for not ensuring that we had a proper SLA in place. The problem was that the project was originally managed by people with little online experience -- i've inherited a product that isn't fit for purpose and with a tight budget (which is partially due to some rather high pricing on their part). When we sit down to negotiate an extension to the contract next year it's going to be a different ball game.
But in this thread I'm not really asking about how to manage the situation (appreciating the various tips of course). I just want to know, if suppliers are willing to share this info, is whether they charge their client anything faults in their CMS are found. In our case, we are being charged for time investigating any 'bug report'.
13 May 2009 09:00am
Good luck negotiating (always fun inheriting a contract, been there a few times!) and sorry if the response was off at a tangent. Yes there are occasions on which a supplier will charge for bug fixing and the investigation.
At e-inbusiness this is one of the support models we offer and it is based purely on the maintenance commitment - some Clients don't want to commit to what they perceive to be high quarterly recurring maintenance invoices, so they pay the minimum and then in the SLA are required to cover bug fixes ad-hoc which includes the investigation. This is based on the fact that if you managed this service in-house, you would have to cover the labour cost of your internal IT team investigating and fixing problems. These costs are separate to routine maintenance.
As a supplier we naturally have to cover costs, so the costs are sliced whichever way a Client wants. Often dependent on how their budget pots are managed.
I hope you get the resolution you want from your Supplier.
Operations Director at Fudge
18 May 2009 08:41am
As a general 'rule of thumb', certainly from our perspective, we never charge clients for the time to investigate a bug, but rather for the time to resolve should it fall out of Warranty. There has to be give and take between client and supplier. It cannot be in absolute favour of either if the relationship is to succeed.
Hope this helps. Although obviously - all agencies differ.
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