Better Forecast Your Website Support Needs & Budget

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Because our team is not always privy to the buying and decision making process within our clients organization our knowledge is a bit limited, but this resource should provide some insight into what we have seen and some considerations we use when planning the support needs of EDUCO clients and their website.

A general rule of thumb is to budget 40-80% of whatever the original website had cost and put that toward maintenance each year. That is certainly an oversimplified approach, but that holds true. Here is a bit more about how we approach support.

What does EDUCO define as web support

We define web support items as any actionable request relating to the website that can be completed in under 2-6 hours.  

Web support can cover a range of website related. Some of the services our clients request of us include:

CMS training, website performance & analytics consulting, creating or formatting text or graphic content, adding or revising of SEO related content, updating or adding new web pages (as long as the content exists), security updates, plugin or module updates, troubleshooting and repairing site issues or malfunctioning code or features, assisting with site outages,  regular website backups so it can be restored in case of a loss or hack, design assistance with marketing initiatives or campaigns, and often if there are enough hours for the entire year we can provide a number of other services. 

The support budgeting process should occur along with the website estimating process.

How does EDUCO estimate my support needs

Our team will approximate the number of support hours you need. We try to base our recommended number of support hours based on what similar sized organizations, with similarly sized web teams, and with similarly sized websites have used.

Feeling unimpressed with our answer?

Unfortunately, until we have supported a website for one year the support estimating process is a bit more of an art than a science because there are some many things that can impact your support needs (we have an equation at the bottom of this post if you want to skip down and use a formula based approach).

Here are three considerations that can impact the number of support hours you will need:

  1. A newly launched site produces an abnormal amount of support requests
  2. Organizational budgets and initiatives shift 
  3. Organizational changes

As part of planning the initial build we will also plan out and flag larger development requests that should go in to the Phase II initiatives list which would be separate from support hours.

A new site produces an abnormal amount of updates

The first year we support a website we have found it to be a bit of an outlier year in terms of support request.

This is because after a new site launches there is a large number of people using this brand new product. 

On the front end of the website we'll have old and new visitors coming and providing feedback about the site (some verbal - some non-verbal via Analytics tools). We'll also be getting feedback from your internal team about their content management experience.

So we may end up changing and tweaking things a lot more after the launch than say a year or two after the site launches.

Organization budget and initiatives

This will vary from client to client and from year to year.

Some of our favorite clients engage our team in a strategic conversation about their goals and their budget and that leads to a much more meaningful collaboration where our team can help advise on where those dollars would be most impactful and generate the greatest return.

Sometimes our team is just responding to this driving force which makes it difficult to make recommendations. 

Our team will almost always advocate for the leanest support package possible based on your needs, but if we under estimate your support needs and you allocate your remaining marketing budget elsewhere two things will happen when we run through the hours:

  1. You'll have a website that is being updated by content managers, but there is no development team on hand if issues or emergencies come up. 
  2. Your team will need to get a new support budget approved or worse need to wait until budgets renew (which can be stressful).

Neither option is exciting so engaging our team in a meaningful conversation can help avoid either of those uncomfortable situations. 

Organizational changes

Organizations change every year, but we have found that some "thing" tends to happen within organizations 2-3 years after a site goes live that results in an increased investment in the website.

Here are a few of the main organizational changes we have seen that can cause the need for significant changes to the website:

  • Corporate re-branding
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • New divisions or offerings
  • Personnel turnover in the client's organization

Regardless, what the "thing" is that has changed (or rather the "thing" that has been slowly changing over the past few years) - the website will need minor or significant updates to reflect these changes.

Corporate re-branding

Sometimes the rebranding is leaner where our team is simply swapping out a logo and changing a few of the primary colors.

Where it can get more complex is if the brand assets and new design and experience is very prescriptive about how the brand elements need to be executed.  

Either approach can be done, but if you're open to saving money bringing our team in earlier and helping to plan how this will be implemented can offer considerable cost savings.

Mergers and acquisitions

Sadly this change often signals the end of our partnership and engagement. Not that we don't want to work with the acquiring firm, but this transition is usually politically driven and we'd rather not engage. 

New divisions and offerings

This change can range from evolutionary to revolutionary depending on the organization, their maturity and their industry.

For little changes our clients have training documentation to add, edit or remove a few new offerings/services, but if we need to completely rethink the offerings/services or drastically change the layout of this content it might be a larger initiative that needs to be planned out.

Personnel turn over within our client's organization

When our client's have team members leave or their roles change this produces additional training costs. These new team members need to be brought up to speed, introduced to our support ticketing portal and trained to use the content management system.

These new team members also have improvements they'd like to see made on the website to help them them feel a sense of ownership over the organization's digital landscape. 

Our web support options and recommendations

With that said here are the standard support packages we offer. We tend to advocate for a smaller leaner support package and if there are larger initiatives or phases we would recommend pre-buying what we call "Flex hours" which are hours that can be purchased at a discounted rate and locked in to be used throughout the calendar year.

We can and do provide larger support packages in the 300-600+ hour ranges.

If you're really not sure what you're needs are you can use the following scenario and equations as a guide.

Let's imagine you have two team members updating content and making changes to the website. In addition to the web development team you also work with an additional two agencies that propose content and create website related initiatives.

Use this equation if you have any active marketing team and want to plan for leaner support:

[(# of employees) * (1 hour per month) * (12 months)] + [(# of partner agencies) * (5 hours per month) * (12 months)]

Based on the scenario above the leaner equation would look like:

[(2*1*12)] + [(5*12*2)] = 144 Hours / Year

Use this equation if you have any active marketing team and want to plan for more robust support needs:

[(# of employees) * (4 hours per month) * (12 months)] + [(# of partner agencies) * (10 hours per month) * (12 months)]

Based on the scenario above the robust equation and estimated hours would look like:

[(2*4*12)] + [(10*12*2)] = 336 Hours / Year

Do you want to keep your budget lean

To keep your website budget lean we'd recommend two things:

  1. Keep your support requests clear and actionable
  2. Limit the number of team members and/or partner/vendors making website change requests. 

If you need more help planning your support needs and want to engage in a more efficient plan for your budgeted resources:

Let's Talk About Support

About the Author

Marty Vernon

Marty is Co-founder/Strategic Director at EDUCO. Connect with Marty on , , or Google+