Understanding Caliach Support Service

Version Relevance: All

Issue: How do I get the best out of Caliach's Support service? Why am I frustrated with it?

August 29th, 2016

Background: Caliach provides a support service as part of annual re-licensing, yet often it is less than immediate and often just refers us back to someone else in our company or offers us training consulting services. Why is this?

Feedback: Caliach operate an annual re-licensing and support business model with it's software. This is a model almost universally adopted by ERP Business Management software vendors. In effect it pays for three things; continued exploitation for profit of our, and others, intellectual property, ongoing maintenance and improvement of the software, and a telephone and email support service. The final component is the most contentious and least understood. It represents one third of the annual re-licensing cost.

Caliach Support is essentially an insurance scheme. On average every user is paying pennies a working day in insuring that someone will be there to help them when disaster strikes or something goes wrong. It is not a free source of indiscriminate help.

Caliach Vision is a low-cost-of-ownership ERP system for SME manufacturers. As such we specifically do not burden the self-sufficient with the costs of supporting those that fail to help themselves, or fail to invest in training and other services that can help a business to become self-sufficient. As a result the total cost-of-ownership of 'vendor spend' is typically between 0.1 and 0.4% of business overheads. Management Consultants generalise that an appropriate expectation should be between 2 and 4%. The difference goes straight to your bottom line. You do the maths yourself on your own situation against that comparison.

To make this manageable and fair our Licence and Support Agreement, that all licensees have agreed to abide by, contain two key clauses. Clause 2.2.2 states that support will be provided only to one nominated system manager. Clause 2.2.4 prohibits the use of the support service for training purposes.

Why only One Nominated System Manager?

Firstly, an ERP system is a collaborative administration system for the entire enterprise. As such it needs to be coordinated within the enterprise. It's use is successful only when management leadership understands the importance of every aspect of it's use. It is a tool of management efficiency where duplication of effort is minimised and islands of empire within the organisation are subjugated for the greater good. A central figure who is a 'champion of the system' is central to it's success. Businesses that neglect or downgrade their system manager do so at their peril. If Caliach Support were to entertain every user's query without involvement of the System Manager, we would be undermining their role and potentially be used in an unstated internal company conflict - it happens too often!

Secondly, Caliach Vision is an extraordinarily complex standard software product. All licensees run the same program regardless of the individual peculiar way they use it. The typical hour-by-hour user is generally ignorant of how complex it is. One on-site System Manager will (or should) have a grasp of this. He or she will know the broader implications of any query a user may have and be able to frame it in that context to Caliach Support. They will know how to contextualise and describe the problem and what supporting evidence they need to provide for Caliach to be able to answer the query.

What constitutes Training?

This is pretty simple. If you don't know how to do something, you need training. "How do I .....? are not for the support service. If you can't work out from the extensive tooltips, help, tips-of-the-day, and web based resources such as the Knowledge Base, then it is time for training and that, as in every other sphere of life, has to be paid for one way or another.

Dos and Don'ts in Using Caliach Support

  1. Have a bit of empathy for the person wanting to solve your problem. They are supporting dozens of businesses using different hardware, managing completely different businesses. If you phone, do not expect instant answers. The query may need considerable research before a coherent answer can be given. Feedback is important so the case can be closed.
  2. If you are not the site nominated System Manager, start by explaining why you are not going through him or her with your issue. Just simply explain; I am a consultant that John Doe has asked to investigate XYZ, John Doe is on holiday and I'm stuck on XYZ, or John Doe has retired so I have no choice but to raise this with you direct.... We are not being obstructive when we ask for Clause 2.2.2 to be applied, we are protecting a tried and tested model of leadership within your own business.
  3. Provide details of your Caliach Vision. What version you are running, what Operating System exactly, what backend database engine (for >V5), what network server. Any other relevant technical information. Bear in mind that Caliach controls only it's high-level software. We have no control over other software that it depends on. We do not control the operating systems, printer drivers and the tens of thousands of dependant modules that make the whole system function.
  4. Explain your problem with evidence, such as screenshot graphics, PDF reports, etc. We are not watching you over your shoulder! The source of the problem you are seeing is very likely to be related to the data and we don't see your data unless you show us. Messages the user have received are important, so operate File -- Preferences -- Message Log, then print to PDF. You can also Open Omnis Studio Log from that window. It's contents can be printed and could be useful in identifing the source of a problem.
  5. Do not leave out relevant information. Such as a server crash last Monday, you have just upgraded to Windows 10 or are running under an Apple beta OSX. If it worked OK last week you need to tell us what has changed. If it works fine on another computer in the office you have to identify what is different.
  6. Do not expect us to answer business consulting questions, such as "can we have export prices please?", or "we'd like to use barcodes, can CV do that?". Unless you phrase your question in a context you are likely at best to be disappointed and at worse misled. We can't read your minds or guess your intentions. You cannot assume we have any knowledge of the intimates of your business. You may have had the odd visit from a Caliach consultant over the decades but any knowledge he gained will have long ago been forgotten.
  7. You need to upgrade when new versions are released. Running such a vital business tool using a 10 year old version is foolish. There is a limit to the support we can provide for old versions of the software.
  8. As with any tool in your toolbox the system needs routine maintenance.

There are Alternative Models of Support

Caliach has always operated additional support services on a time-spent basis, similar to the way your solicitor or external accountant would charge. Customisation, training, on-site upgrading and KPI design are all chargeable extras and the Version 5 Full Site Support service is the latest along these lines.

There are other industry models that Caliach does NOT accommodate. Here are some examples:

  1. Pay-per-question model. Exemplified by Microsoft for server support, they charge a fixed fee (£275) per query, whatever the result you get. UK Passport Office does the same thing for their help line.
  2. Gold/Platinum Support (pick your metal). This widens the support available to sites that decide they need it for an elevated annual fee. This enables needy sites with poor internal resources to get a broader service without those well equipped companies shouldering the cost. A bit like comprehensive insurance as opposed to fire-and-theft only.
  3. Additional subscription for additional system managers. This would tend to break the single 'champion of the system' principal but in some circumstances it could be workable.

Chris Ross - Caliach Managing Director