What to look for in Sitecore CMS support

10th February 2014

Why your Sitecore support partner is just as important as your build

After making the decision to select Sitecore CMS, it’s natural and understandable that all focus switches to the design and build of the project and therefore selecting the best Sitecore partner possible. For the purposes of this post let’s say that’s Kagool. But we would say that.

What doesn’t always get the focus it deserves is the through-life Sitecore support and maintenance. This might be because of tight deadlines, lack of understanding at senior level or simply a case of what to look for.

A natural outcome is that the design and build agency wins the support contract due to an on-going relationship. This is often far from appropriate and can be likened to giving the job of cleaner to your builder just because they built the house.

In choosing a Sitecore support partner, we think you should consider the following:

  • What level of cover do I need? If your organisation is mid to enterprise level you are certainly going to need business hours and perhaps out of hours 24/7 cover
  • Do I need guaranteed response and resolution times? Many providers will not have heard of Service Level Agreements (SLA), let alone be able to manage against one. A mature ITIL aligned support process should be high on your shopping list
  • Are my resources going to be ring-fenced? You sign a support agreement, start the next project to find that a support ticket is taking the very resources you should have on your project and you are forced to choose!
  • Am I confident in my support communication method? E-mail only contact should be an immediate warning bell. All managed service providers should be able to offer Phone, Support Portal and e-mail as a means of contact.
  • Are they able to look at the bigger picture? It’s quite possible that your Sitecore platform is hosted on infrastructure not provided by the design and build agency. If this is the case are you confident that your support provider will be able to work with your IT department or the likes of Amazon / Rackspace?
  • Is there going to be control, quality and security? Issues do happen, changes have to be made and upgrades are a way of life. You should accept this; however you should not accept a lack of version control, manual deployments and uncontrolled changes with a lack of security.

What this means in practice is managed service capability in your Sitecore partner with the systems, people and processes to deliver the quality service you have paid for. Ad-hoc Sitecore support as an afterthought is going to put your digital presence in peril. Even large organisations have found to their cost that skimping on support can end up being a costly exercise and damaging to the brand you are trying to protect.

Being able to address and provide this capability requires time and investment, this is something I have experience at first hand following 18 months of work to develop our own Managed Service capability, which specialises in Sitecore support and maintenance. In particular offering a full 24/7 support service is something we are very proud of at Kagool and a fairly unique proposition in the Sitecore Partner channel.

During this time we have taken on over 20 Sitecore customers, including our first overseas support agreement. Looking forward, emerging trends such as using social media as another avenue to get support is becoming more popular and something we will be launching in 2014. Finally if you value your digital brand, whether support is owned by the IT or the marketing department, make sure you include it in your budget planning. It’s far too important to leave to chance.