Negotiating with Microsoft in June; do you take it to the wire or settle early?

June is a such great month – the days are getting warmer, Wimbledon merges tennis with strawberries and cream, the kids are all pleasantly subdued while revising and sitting exams, the football World Cup is just around the corner, and (how could we possibly forget) it’s also Microsoft’s financial year end.

Many of you will already be in the throes of a negotiation with Microsoft for an Enterprise Agreement (EA) renewal. Or perhaps you are looking at the pros/cons of their Office 365 solution. If you’re planning to take the negotiation to the wire on June 30th in order to squeeze the very best deal at Microsoft’s year end, be aware that Microsoft would like you to dance to a different tune. They are pushing really hard to complete negotiations sooner rather than later. In fact, you might well have been told that Friday, June 20th is their deadline.

Microsoft will tell you that they need a few working days to get signed paperwork through their internal system in order to formally book the deal. While there is some truth in this, it’s also true that the Microsoft sales rep and their reseller doesn’t get commission until the deal has been booked and the revenue formally recognized – hence the pressure to get stuff signed by the 20th!

Whichever date you choose to conclude your negotiation, rest assured that the later it is in June then the more stressed your Microsoft rep will become.

Here are four tips to think about while you negotiate with Microsoft in June:

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s first earnings call – talks about courage, challenges and the future.

It’s been an interesting few weeks for Microsoft. XP has gone off Support and left many clients exposed to security risks. At the same time, the US Government has just warned all users to avoid using Internet Explorer (IE) versions 6 to 11 as they say that there is a serious flaw that hackers are already apparently exploiting.

Against this backdrop, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s newly minted CEO, joined Microsoft’s recent earnings call to talk about the ‘courage’ they will exhibit as they move forward. Let’s hope that courage includes supporting clients who find themselves in difficulty from product flaws.

Microsoft reported earnings were $6.97 billion on revenue of $20.4 billion; this is roughly flat with a year ago. But this third quarter fiscal 2014 earnings call might be more memorable for the fact that the company's CEO was on the call than for anything about the earnings report itself. Nadella spent an hour on the analyst call on April 24 talking Microsoft strategy and answering Wall Street analyst questions. That's something former CEO Steve Ballmer rarely did.

While Nadella didn't make any major announcements, he did drop a few hints that might tell us more about his plans and where Microsoft may be going.

"What you can expect of Microsoft is courage in the face of reality, we will approach our future with a challenger mind set," Nadella told analysts. Here are a few challenges that spring to my mind; cumbersome and sometimes conflicting contractual paperwork, product divisions working in isolation from each other, Google and IBM competing hard in the email/collaboration/cloud space, having to cut Azure prices to more closely align to Apple and Amazon, and a frustratingly slow start in the tablet space.

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Now Some IBM Customers Might Be Able To Take Advantage Of Cheaper Third-Party Software Support

Chief information officers (CIOs) are dedicating more of their budgets to what we call “systems of engagement” (technologies that help win, serve, and retain customers) rather than “systems of record” (back-office technologies). According to research here at Forrester, new business investment in the former will be eight times that of the latter in 2014. All of which means CIOs are re-examining their back-office legacy spend to see what savings can be made to fund new front-office innovations.

But releasing back-office spend is not easy. For many companies, most of the ‘easy’ savings have already been achieved - so squeezing even more savings has become a tougher game. For example, you can only try to re-negotiate legacy support costs a few times before the vendors say ‘enough is enough’. While such comments may have discouraged negotiators in past, the advent of third party software support in the last five years has, for Oracle and SAP users at least, kicked the cost savings door back open and given fresh impetus to procurement people seeking to reduce software support costs.

I am sure that many of you have read some of my previous comments on the emergence of the third party software support market over the past number of years. Companies like Rimini Street, Spinnaker Support and Alui have saved some Oracle and SAP clients a lot of money. For companies who have moved to third party support, or who have simply used the threat of moving to third party support in order to drive the vendor’s costs lower, the savings they are enjoying have freed up cash to spend on new innovations and front-office client engaging stuff.

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Oracle's Q3 falls short of market expectations (again). So expect to get a call from your Oracle sales rep sometime soon.

Oracle has missed revenue expectations for three quarters in a row now as its Q3 results fell short of market expectations. The company blamed currency fluctuations and the strength of the US dollar for this latest miss.

The company reported third quarter earnings of $2.6 billion on revenue of $9.3 billion. Wall Street expected to Oracle to report fiscal third quarter revenue of $9.36 billion.

To be fair, Oracle did deliver some good data points. For instance, hardware system product revenue for the third quarter was $725 million, up 8 percent from a year ago. Software license and support revenue was up 5 percent to $4.6 billion and new software licenses and cloud subscriptions were up 4 percent from a year ago to $2.4 billion. Oracle says its outlook for the fourth quarter was solid. Safra Catz, Oracle co-president, said revenue growth in the fourth quarter will be between 3 percent and 7 percent.

Oracle won’t want to miss Quarterly earnings expectations again and will expect their sales teams to outperform in the next couple of months. All of which bodes well for an exciting run up to Oracle’s fiscal year end on May 31st.

Here are three quick tips to bear in mind as you prepare to negotiate with Oracle:

1.        If you have an Oracle contract up for negotiation this quarter, then you should leverage the pressure Oracle sales are under to hit market expectations by squeezing an extra point or two of discount in return for a signed contract.

2.        If you have a support renewal coming up, remember you have a choice now and third parties like Rimini Street, Spinnaker Support and Alui can give you real leverage at the negotiating table.

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Microsoft Licensing Update: Product Retirements Imminent – You Need To Upgrade Or Run The Risk Of Using Un-Supported Software.

Microsoft retires support for various older products in 2014 and 2015. This means there will be no more free updates or security patches. While it’s a common occurrence to see support for older products retired by software vendors, it’s annoying if either the old stuff is still running perfectly well or if the upgrade option is financially onerous, will significantly disrupt the business or offers little in the way of real added benefit.

So in April we’ll be finally bidding farewell to support for the likes of Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange Server 2003, and in July 2015 we’ll say adieu to support for Windows Server 2003. In addition, some more recent products will be transitioning to extended support in July 2014 - namely SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2 – which puts them next on the path to software heaven.

Windows XP

On April 8, 2014, Windows XP will reach the end of its support lifecycle and Microsoft will no longer provide security or online updates.

Office 2003

As a part of the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy, Office 2003 products receive five years of Mainstream Support and five years of Extended Support. April 8, 2014 marks the end of this 10-year support period. Running Office 2003 after the end-of-support date may expose your company to security risks and technology limitations. 

Exchange Server 2003 
While Exchange Server 2003 was a leader in the messaging space, after 10 years of technology progression it will reach End of Support effective April 8, 2014.

Windows Server 2003 

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How Good Is That BMC Or CA End-Of-Year Deal?

Many of you will be in the midst of a contract negotiation or maintenance renewal with BMC and/or CA at the moment, because both software vendors do a large proportion of their license deals in the January to March quarter as it’s their financial year ends on March 31. It’s a sourcing cliché that software companies give their best discounts at their financial year end, but just because you are making a purchase in month 12 doesn’t mean that you are getting a good deal. Through client interactions, I see a lot of software deals and I am often surprised by the gulf between the latest deal on the table and what I would consider to be a market best deal – one that sets the relationship up for mutual success, balancing price, flexibility and risk.

Buying software from powerful providers such as BMC and CA is very different from buying hardware, services and non-IT categories. Unfortunately, many sourcing professionals seem to think that they’ll look weak if they engage external expert help to coach them during a negotiation, but it isn’t a question of just buying additional haggling advice (although that can sometimes help), it’s really a question of buying deep, current market knowledge. Unless you have that, you risk:

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Get Expert Guidance During Your Microsoft, Oracle And SAP Negotiations

In the Age of the Customer, it’s vital that your hard-pressed IT budget is spent wisely and is refocused into areas of the business that can help improve client acquisition, retention and profitability. Negotiating better deals with your legacy incumbent software vendors is a great way to free up cash to spend on innovation.

If you have an upcoming contract negotiation with Microsoft, Oracle or SAP then let’s schedule a call to discuss how you can gain greater pricing and contract concessions by working with Forrester’s dedicated Software Contract Negotiation experts. With the costs of software licenses and annual maintenance going up each year and vendors providing limited transparency into licensing options, it’s critical you know which discounts to target and what negotiation tactics have worked well for other businesses.

Having worked with thousands of clients, Forrester has built up significant market intelligence on what’s achievable and how to get it. As a result, we are often able to show our clients how to negotiate additional savings on their license and on-going maintenance/support costs. And our success-based fee model means you only pay us if our advice helps you save you money.   

We can help you and your negotiating team:

●       Review the competitiveness of your software vendor’s proposals and renewal contracts.

●       Refine your negotiation strategy and tactics so that you target the most valuable concessions, improve contractual terms and maximize savings.

●       Optimize your time at the negotiating table by helping you prepare for, and react to, your software vendor’s sales tactics and objections.

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Get a Grip on those IBM mainframe MLC Costs

We all like free stuff and we all like saving money. I’m a big fan of any free-to-use tools that help identify cost saving opportunities. I regularly dip into online cost comparison sites for stuff I buy at home, such as house and car insurance. These sites are easy and quick to use and often highlight the savings I’ll make by swapping from one provider to another. And we all like to save money, whether it’s at home or at work.

One big cost item for IBM mainframe users is software costs; they consume a significant proportion of enterprise IT budgets and the biggest single item is usually IBM’s Monthly License Charges (MLCs). These often consume a third or even more of a mainframe software budget. In a cash-strapped world, where budgets are under pressure, it’s therefore no surprise to see IT sourcing professionals regularly challenged with finding ways to cut the MLC bill.

Last year, I wrote about some options for reducing IBM mainframe software costs in a Forrester Research paper entitled ‘How to reduce IBM System z Mainframe Software Costs’. Even so I still get asked by clients ‘what else can I do?’, and ‘are there any tools that can help me identify ways to save money?’

So I am always on the hunt for new ideas and cost saving opportunities.

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SOURCING BUSINESS OUTCOMES REQUIRES A SEA-CHANGE IN THE WAY SOURCING BUYS AND SELLERS SELL

Over 40% of senior business executives are looking to suppliers and external parties to co-develop and deliver measureable business outcomes. Telling suppliers to forget their old pricing metrics and focus instead in delivering value while also sharing risks and rewards requires a new set of skills on both sides of the negotiating table. This is a real challenge for both suppliers and buyers, and it takes both parties out of their comfort zones into new territory for risk management, project control and revenue sharing.

Forrester’s Forrsights data reveals business executives want to see more value delivered from IT projects and more outcome-based contracts. This is a priority for them in the next few years and sourcing professionals must develop and enhance their skills in this key area or risk getting left behind.  

Whether it’s increasing revenues, driving more client subscriptions, cutting costs, facilitating more paperwork processing in less time or driving up customer satisfaction and retention, some IT companies are now offering outcome based contracts and are happy to be paid purely on the results.

Unfortunately for some of today’s technology giants, clients don’t want to pay anymore for software licenses, hardware products or time & materials staffing. They want the suppliers to have ‘skin in the game’ and want to pay based only on the value delivered and the outcome achieved.   

To help their organizations navigate through the emerging world of business outcome based contracts, we have identified three key principals of change that both suppliers and buyers will need to address:

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Microsoft’s Tablet And Smartphone Licensing: Still Counting Devices When The World Only Wants To Count Users

Over the last few years, there have been fantastic advances in technology that have brought us almost a billion smartphones and tablets. These handy mobile computers give us access to our Microsoft Windows and Office products anytime and from anywhere. No longer are we tied to the old clunky desktop device in the office. This is good stuff: It lifts the age-old location-dependent restrictions that meant nothing got done unless you were physically in the office.

There’s only one hitch: Microsoft continues to apply licensing models that count physical devices. Device counting is fine if I have multiple access devices each with their own Windows and Office software versions installed. But when I only have one version of Windows and Office but wish to access that version remotely or virtually via multiple access devices, why should I have to pay more for the privilege? In today’s increasingly cloud-delivered software world that simply counts users not devices, that’s the question more and more people are asking.

Some details: With Windows 8, users that have a "primary device" licensed under a volume agreement with Software Assurance (SA) for Windows can access Windows on- or off-premise on up to 4 devices by buying the new Companion Subscription License (CSL). Prior to the advent of the CSL, each extra device required a Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) subscription in order to provide virtual access to their Windows desktop.

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