In today's economy, companies are far less likely to greenlight a new hardware or software purchase unless it's deemed absolutely necessary. With the mantra of doing more with less, or optimizing what you already have, Redwood City, Calif.–based provider SupportSoft has unveiled its latest offering, Performance Manager, a proactive support tool to simplify routine computer maintenance and maintain operational efficiency of PCs while at the same time reducing the number of calls flooding into help desks.
Bogdan Odulinski, vice president of product management for SupportSoft's enterprise division, says that a "confluence of events" led to the genesis of Performance Manager, but that customers had been asking for various features, and the company saw an opportunity to unify those features in a single release. "There was a common story to many of the requests we were receiving across our customer base," he says. "We realized the benefit of providing an automated solution to the problem, so that calls to the service desk -- and costs overall -- would be reduced."
Essentially, Performance Manager can scan a user's system -- operating system, memory and disk space, software, programs and settings -- and find ways to improve its performance when deemed appropriate. A wizard built into the program recommends basic changes and guides users through industry-standard procedures, but Odulinski insists that the software is also easily customizable for any business. "The reality is, everyone delivers service in a different way," he says. "Our Performance Manager and Dynamic Agent Platform allow for performance-related items to be customized and surfaced to end users in a way most appropriate for [a given company]."
Customization, customer need, and value-add services are three points of differentiation Odulinski feels will set SupportSoft's latest offering apart from competitors' products. Citing telecommunications as one of SupportSoft's key verticals, he gives the example of a broadband provider offering a tune-up service, powered by Performance Manager, as a complement to a typical bundled offering. "It's a great hook for customers, not just as a cost-reduction tool but also looking at monetizing support or adding services to a portfolio," he says. "Anything that drives loyalty and customer experience is necessary today…. This product fits right into those two elements."
Fred Broussard, research director for enterprise system infrastructure software at research firm IDC, notes that, in addition to bundling and value-add services, any system that can run in the background and prompt end-user action to keep computers running smoothly would be a blessing for overtaxed technology personnel. "Unfortunately, the economic downturn has brought about layoffs, and [the technology department] has less service desk staff available to help users," he says. "This is a way to help provide [users] with an additional tool to help themselves."
Broussard says this release represents an incremental step forward for SupportSoft in terms of the competitive landscape. "It shows that the company continues to release products and innovate," he says. "That is the biggest signal to the market as a whole. [The release] won't allow [SupportSoft] to overtake other players in the market, but it helps."
How the release of Performance Manager factors in to SupportSoft's pending sale of its enterprise division to Consona remains unclear. That $20 million cash deal, announced in early April, was slated to close "during the second quarter of 2009," according to documents released by the companies at the time of the announcement. According to SupportSoft's most-recent quarterly financial statement, dated April 29, the deal still "must be approved by a majority of the company's stockholders, and may be terminated by either SupportSoft or Consona if the closing of the transaction has not occurred by August 31, 2009…."
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