Thursday, November 16, 2006

Foxes in the Henhouse: Entellium and SpringCM Advise on Hosted Service Agreements

Back on September 26, I criticized a paper from Entellium ( that I felt ignored the need to identify business requirements before looking at system functionality. It's uncomfortable to write negative things, but I did feel better when I saw a paper from Entellium itself make a similar point: “Unfortunately, most hosted CRM buyers spend 95 percent of their time focusing on the features and functions that a solution contains, and nearly no time on what happens after the sales contract is signed.” Exactly.

This quote is from “Buyer Beware: Tips for Getting the Best Agreement from Hosted Application Vendors” available here. The paper concerned with contract terms, not service contracts. Still, it reinforces my point that too much attention is paid to features and functions to the exclusion of everything else.

In any case, I’m pleased to say I liked this Entellium paper much better. For one thing it’s short—just three pages—and gets right to the point. It proposes negotiations in four areas:

- technical support and training (“live training should be free to all your employees regardless of when you hired them.”)

- service level standards (make sure you have a written Service Level Agreement that guarantees 99.5% uptime and that you know your rights concerning data back-up and access)

- long term contracts (vendors should be willing to work month-to-month; any longer term contract should guarantee a service level)

- access to data (demand immediate and full data export at any time in a usable format).

A few of the details are apparently tailored to Entellium’s particular offering—for example, it seems a bit odd to focus specifically on “live, web-based training”. But these are the right issues to address.

If you want to look at these issue in more depth, hosted content management vendor SpringCM ( has a 12 page document “In Pursuit of P.R.A.I.S.E: Delivering on the Service Proposition” available here. P.R.A.I.S.E. is an acronym for:

- Performance
- Reliability
- Availablility
- Information Stewardship (security and backup)
- Scability
- Enterprise Dependability

This paper covers vendor evaluation as well as contract negotiating points, so its scope is broader than the Entellium paper. It provides specific questions to ask and the answers to listen for, which is very useful. Although SpringCM is a content management specialist, the recommendations themselves are general enough to apply to CRM and other hosted systems as well.

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