Why You Have to Consider Support Periods When Choosing Software
Choosing software is a difficult process. You need to find a solution that fits your needs, it has to have all the features you need and last but not least it needs to be reasonably priced. Unfortunately a lot of people forget to check how long their software is officially supported. When choosing Open Source Software it is important to pick a project with professional, independent support.
By independent I mean that the company giving the support has no financial interest in your client. This way no one can trick you into buying something you don't need.
Now you might wonder: How can I determine whether the proposed support period is "right"?
To answer this question you have to understand your internal cycle times for software. Let's take your website as an example.
How often do you relaunch it?
How often do you need new features in your software?
Does your web server need updates? Are these compatible with the current CMS?
These are all hard facts that you can measure from experience. But you have to calculate how long it takes your team to get the relaunch done.
Relaunches are 30% relaunch and 70% getting everybody on board.
If you add these numbers up you get a feeling about how long your current solution has to be maintained to ensure a reasonable buffer.
It all boils down to this: Whenever you test any software solution, pay extra attention to how long the official support periods are. If your digital agency or consultant suggests a software solution to you, ask about support periods. When your IT department plans to test software, ask about support periods.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but support periods are vital your success. If they run out they might even have legal implications for you.
Support periods are no "we'll deal with that later" topic.
If you are aware of your support periods you can reduce work and stress within your team. Working under time pressure because your software runs out of support is no fun, at all. You even risk losing co-workers because they either can't or don't want to handle these situations. I want to share a remarkable quote from this article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information "Decision making under time pressure, modeled in a prospect theory framework".
Time pressure will lead to an increase in the overall attractiveness of risk in the presence of gains.
In other words: Your team is more likely to take a higher risk with their decisions while getting the same or even lower value out of it. By picking a software with support periods that match your complete cycle times you remove these problems altogether.
So you've built your new website and it starts generating value. That's great. Your Return on Invest (ROI) starts building up. When the support for your website software ends, you need to relaunch it. Or at least update the underlying CMS while keeping your content, if your CMS allows to do this.
At this point you could be spending a significant amount of money on these tasks. From this moment on your ROI shrinks, simply because there's a new investment. No matter what the consultants tell you, ROI is reduced. It's not an opinion, it's math.
Make sure your vendor offers support extensions once regular support ends. Most of the time these come a lot cheaper than upgrading your CMS or relaunching altogether.
This way you can reduce the impact on your ROI and have your website generate value for a longer period of time. Make sure your solution offers at least 4 years of support, more being even better.