Microsoft rolls out a new high-end, proactive support plan

Microsoft is adding a new, high-end support option to its Premier service line-up that is focused on "proactive," rather than remedial, support.

Microsoft is adding a new, high-end support option to its Premier service line-up that is focused on "proactive," rather than remedial, support.

Available globally as of August 18, the new offering, Premier Ultimate, is aimed at the company's largest customers. Via the new program, Microsoft works with customers to create a three-year roadmap, including a suggested set of services. Reactive support becomes something provided on an "as needed" basis, said Charlie DeJong, General Manager of Support and Health Services for Microsoft.

Customers who sign up for Premier Ultimate get unlimited problem resolution support (with some unspecified possible restrictions), plus IT health assessments, account management (both on-site and dedicated) and on-site support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Microsoft.

"We've been gradually realizing customers who consumer more proactive services are happier and healthier and require less reactive services with their charge models," DeJong said.

Scott Braden, a Microsoft licensing expert and Senior Vice President with NET(net) Inc., said at first blush, the new program sounded like a smart move on Microsoft's part:

"Many customers have complained about the hourly or incident support models that Premier has used before, because it's difficult to forecast the need for reactive / break-fix tech support and a challenge if a customer uses up all the hours / incidents and has to buy more. The new 'proactive services' area in Premier sounds like a version of 'Infrastructure Optimization' which MSFT has been pitching to accounts lately.  It's a Microsoft-ized version of a best practices maturity assessment and recommendations. Seems like a good fit in this context.

"As for the 'unlimited' support (mentioned in today's announcement), I'll wait to see the actual agreement language and pricing. Microsoft's pattern has been to load up Premier Agreements with large amounts of 'account management' and other non-support hours, so that the end price for actual tech support time works out to be a very high rate."

Microsoft has been piloting the new Ultimate service with four customers over the past month, DeJong said. And there are 30 more interested customers in the pipeline who are interested in the new program, he added.

Some, but not all, customers will be paying more for the new plan, DeJong acknowledged. (There is no set price schedule for Premier Ultimate, he said; each contract is custom designed.) The general rule: "The healthier you get, the less you pay overall," DeJong said.

Currently, Microsoft only suggests courses of action for products that are part of the Microsoft stack (though customers can buy "add-ons" if they want Microsoft support for rivals' products.) But somewhere down the line, Microsoft might opt to make support for non-Microsoft wares part of the Premier Ultimate plan, DeJong said. For the time being, however, Microsoft's Premier team works with those of other vendors when supporting mixed environments.

Microsoft's partners also are not part of the Premier Ultimate plan and "We're not sure we ever would." Microsoft's Premier Field Engineering and Technical Support Engineers are the ones delivering the services directly to the customers.

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