When it comes to creating software, this is how it goes: the fun never stops! Even when you’ve successfully delivered the new product to the market, your job isn’t done, as now you enter the software maintenance phase.
As it happens, the maintenance phase can last a lifetime, and there is more than just one phase within it to pay attention to. So, I think it’s worth taking a deeper look at what we refer to when we talk about software maintenance and what happens throughout it.
Software maintenance definition
Software maintenance is one of the phases in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). It refers to the work involved in updating the software with the latest features, correcting bugs, and doing similar actions in order to keep the software’s functions in the best possible condition. Of course, that way, the software retains its competitive edge, too.
Software maintenance doesn’t begin after the product is put on the market, though it may seem so. The maintenance process begins the very moment you start thinking about creating the software. That’s because developers have to always be on their toes and adapt the software in accordance with the latest changes, which may happen even before the product “hits the shelves.”
4 phases of software development
Depending on the work that developers have to take on, we can discern four software development phases:
Corrective software maintenance phase
This one is the most widely recognized. Typically, end users are the ones reporting that something is wrong with the software (it doesn’t upload right, there are issues with the logo, etc.). Therefore, corrective maintenance occurs when someone recognizes the problem while using the software.
You should execute corrective maintenance as soon as possible once you realize you have a problem.
Adaptive software maintenance phase
For any organism to survive, it must adapt to its environment. The same goes for digital solutions. Adapting to the new changes in the surrounding is necessary for the software to bring revenue.
In the digital world, there are plenty of events that require software adjustment. For instance, your suppliers may change their conditions. Security or industry compliance policies aren’t set in stone either. Operating system and hardware updates impact software as well, just like infrastructural changes. The list simply goes on and on, and you need to react promptly.
Perfective software maintenance phase
The name says it all — you are trying to make your software pure perfection, even when there are no issues in sight. You can achieve this by adding innovative features to your application or perhaps even by removing some of the unnecessary characteristics, thus potentially dodging the product death cycle.
Preventive software maintenance phase
You usually decide on preventive software maintenance techniques after looking into the future. As the name suggests, you are implementing minor changes for the software to be competitive as long as possible.
How the maintenance process enrolls
We’ve presented you with the phases, so let’s now take a look at the typical chronological order of some maintenance stages:
- Identification and tracing — here you identify which maintenance phase you should focus on. You realize which part of software requires maintenance by using feedback from the developers, stakeholders, and even end users.
- Analysis — it refers to analyzing the suggested changes from multiple angles. You think about the adjustments, who will perform them, and whether you have sufficient funds to make them happen.
- Design — you’ve decided on the change, and now you define how exactly the action will take place.
- Implementation — the developers get down to applying the suggested solutions.
- System testing — you test the software one part at a time and the whole software at the end.
- Acceptance testing — users give their opinion on the experience.
- Delivery — the actual change takes place. You have altered the software a little or a lot. All your users finally get to experience the updated version.
Planning software maintenance
Here are some of the most important milestones to look out for when planning software maintenance.
Setting a solid budget
A manager has to set a software maintenance budget even before the team creates the software, i.e., at the same time when they set the software development budget. If anything, this budget can increase in the future, so allocating funds for the preventive or corrective phase is essential.
According to research, the biggest part of software life cycle costs can come down to maintenance costs, which can make up to 90% of the overall software costs.
Quality assurance can be done manually, automatically, or in both ways, depending on the task ahead.
The role of QA testers is to inspect all interactions between different code pieces and the environment. The QA team acts as the end user and identifies any issues that may come up.
That also refers to the situations when the whole system breaks down — this too can be a potential scenario, whatever the reason.
That’s why it’s crucial to not only fix the current issues but also to have a prepared technique for the ultimate disaster.
Good team leads and communication
Software development revolves around people, not just code.
The better they communicate their ideas, the faster the development process and the more manageable the maintenance process will be.
Business analysts, quality assurance developers, software devs, and other team leads have to work in unison for the complex process of software maintenance to run smoothly.
You must collect the necessary documents to devise the methods and actions, and ensure the maintenance process runs like clockwork. Here’s a brief list of the details you should know before taking concrete action:
- Overview and assumptions
- Diagram and prototype(s)
- Configuration details
- List of contacts
- List of references
- Licenses and agreements
- Security details
- Operational elements (backup, start-up, recovery, archiving, and shutdown).
As you can see, software maintenance is just as important as software development. What’s more, these two are inseparable. They can’t exist without one another if you are to be a success in the market.