Annual Maintenance Plan – Do I Want or Need It?

I just bought the software and now they want more money for an Annual Maintenance Plan? Do I need one?
If you plan to retire within the next year or so, or have no intention of upgrading your computer hardware before you retire, then the answer is probably “no”.
An Annual Maintenance Plan (AMP) is a subscription for support from the software company. AMPs frequently (but not always) include; one year of free online and call in technical support , free software upgrades for new versions released during the time of your AMP, access to online webinars and presentations for training and troubleshooting purposes, as well as receipt of any patches or service releases that may come up for the duration of your AMP.
You may be required to enroll in the AMP whether or not you think you need one, as some software companies are now requiring customers to enroll in the AMP program. For the software company it reduces the number of users they have that are on older versions of the software enabling them to focus support and development efforts.

If I have an AMP do I still need a software consultant?

That depends on your needs and expectations. An Annual Maintenance Plan provides tech support, not training. Nor will an AMP provide assistance with installation and/ or networking of your software product. If your business is made up of tech savvy individuals who are able to manage and/or troubleshoot any errors or glitches, then an AMP may be all you need.
Regardless of whether you have access to some training materials on the software vendor’s website, a new hire will likely need some help to get started. A Certified Consultant will have a preliminary conversation to determine and develop a training plan to get your staff up and running as efficiently as possible. Certified Consultants have real life experience with the software in many environments, so they can help with tips and guidance to enable your office to be more effective.
A vendor based tech support representative will not have familiarity with your office and practice environment. Your software consultant will likely know (or have notes in your client file) if your employees work remotely, have their assistants enter their time, or what kind of communications devices your office uses (sometimes even whether or not you play golf or like chocolate).
Even if you have an AMP, it might be advantageous to have a consultant call tech support on your behalf for several reasons. Certified consultants often have direct access to second level support and may know which tech support people are best to contact with your issue. The consultant understands the program and can speak the same language as the support people. They also will have tried the basic troubleshooting procedures which reduce the time you spend on the phone. Having the certified consultant making the call lets you get back to what you do best – practicing law, engineering, accounting or whatever your field. Certified consultants work independently, tend to think outside the box, network with other consultants, and are frequently more experienced than the people you might encounter online or at a customer support number.

What is the down side to not having an AMP?
If you choose not to enroll in an Annual Maintenance Plan, you will not automatically receive updated software, service releases or patches.
If your certified consultant encounters an issue that they can’t solve for some reason, they will likely not be able to call technical support on your behalf. Your choices may be limited if you want to upgrade another application or your computer and there is an incompatibility.
If you decide to buy an AMP at a later date, there may be additional fees to buy back in and these fees can be significant.
So what’s the answer, already?!
Only you can decide if an AMP is practical for your application. However, if you like your current software program (or maybe you are just used to it) and plan to use it for the long term, an AMP is probably the best way to go.

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