Software Maintenance – Confidently Manage a Cycle that Never Ends!
“Software is like entropy. It is difficult to grasp, weighs nothing, and obeys the second law of thermodynamics; i.e. it always increases.”
This quote by Norman Ralph Augustine, a prominent U.S. businessman, highlights the volatile nature of every software solution. In response to the changes in the technological ecosystem, software industry, or simply in your end-users’ expectations, your solution will have to be modified time and again. The modification and enhancement of the solution are brought about by software maintenance.
This blog post brings you a detailed explanation of what software maintenance is, why it is so important, its types, phases, and models. Let’s begin with understanding what the term ‘software maintenance’ entails.
What is software maintenance?
Software maintenance is an integral part of the software development life cycle. It begins after the software is deployed and is performed to ensure the software is regularly enhanced to match the changing market demands.
Essentially, software maintenance is the process of regularly nurturing and enhancing the software to eliminate bugs, improve performance, modify features, and undertake other tasks to optimize the software such that it provides the best experience to its users.
After delivering and deploying the software, technology vendors often offer software maintenance services under an annual contract. The cost of software maintenance is generally calculated as an agreed percentage of the original software development cost.
Businesses invest significantly in the software maintenance process for a number of reasons. Let’s look at the detailed benefits of software maintenance below.
Importance of software maintenance
Software may require maintenance for several reasons, like feature enhancement, cloud migration, and so on. And if ignored, your business runs the risk of losing efficiency or customers. For example,
- An instant messaging application may become outdated if a competitor offers a better version. MSN Messenger, AOL Messenger, and iChat are the best examples of brands that ran out of business because they failed to adapt their software in response to the changing customer needs.
- A company may face inefficiencies in its sales management software because its hardware is not compatible with the new features.
- A legacy application may cause serious disruptions in the day-to-day processes of an organization when it functions with heavy tech debt.
Ensuring timely maintenance of your software helps avoid such scenarios and run your business competently. Following are some of the most important benefits of software maintenance for your business:
1. Increased data security
Thanks to software maintenance, reengineering data, bug fixing, and encoding constraints become easier, preventing the solution from being vulnerable. It even prepares you for worst-case scenarios, like a total blackout.
Moreover, maintenance is essential to combat hacking attacks. Generally, hackers and threat agents find hacking older applications easier. Modernizing your legacy applications and equipping them with the latest security measures lead to enhanced data security in your organization.
2. Improved performance and efficiency
Obsolete functionalities unnecessarily accumulate tech debt and reduce a system’s efficiency. Plus, they make the software unadaptable and rigid.
Software maintenance ensures these outdated features and coding elements are removed or replaced with new functionalities. Subsequently, the software becomes adaptable to the latest industry trends and is not crippled by tech debt.
3. Seamless project continuity
All the systems and IT infrastructure performing optimally is essential to your project continuity. In case of any disruption, the processes and the productivity of your organization may suffer substantially.
With a clear software maintenance plan, enterprises can ensure that their projects and systems aren’t affected by unforeseen circumstances. Whether it’s the servers going down or a sudden hike in user requests, software maintenance equips your enterprise software to withstand them and keep the projects going.
Phases of software maintenance life cycle
Software maintenance is an ongoing activity that includes optimization, error correction, deletion of discarded features, and enhancement of existing features. IEEE has provided a detailed framework that tech teams can use iteratively, with custom activities and processes. According to this framework, the major phases of the software maintenance life cycle are:
1. Problem identification phase
In this phase, tech teams identify the software modification requests and assign identification numbers to each. Then, developers assess each modification request to determine the type of maintenance activity (adaptive, corrective, preventive, or perfective). After the classification, they prioritize each modification request to determine the order in which it will be processed.
2. Problem analysis phase
The problem analysis phase determines the feasibility and scope of each validated modification request. This is the phase wherein developers plan the possible changes to be made in the software. Here, the input attribute comprises validated modification requests, an initial estimate of resources, repository information, and project documentation.
3. Design phase
At this stage, developers create new modules that need replacement or modification based on requirements specified in earlier stages. They also create test cases that address safety and security concerns to validate and verify the system.
In the design phase, software maintenance includes several activities like,
- Modifying software module documentation
- Revising the modification list
- Developing test cases for new design
- Building regression tests
4. Implementation phase
The implementation phase is where the developers make modifications to the code, add specifications, integrate new features, and modify the whole software. Here, the input attribute comprises the design phase output, source code, modified system, and project documentation.
5. System test phase
In this phase, the development/testing team performs integration testing between new modules and the system. This is done to ensure no new faults are introduced in the software after modifying it during the maintenance process.
Finally, following regressive testing procedures, developers test the system thoroughly. They then create test review reports and updated software documentation.
6. Acceptance test phase
Internal users or a third party specifies and performs tests on the fully integrated system in acceptance testing.
The objective here is to verify that the new features meet the requirements stated in the modification request. The input attribute comprises acceptance test plans, cases, procedures, and a fully integrated system.
7. Delivery phase
After successful acceptance testing, the team delivers updated software to the end users. Also, they also deliver exhaustive documentation consisting of manuals and help files that describe the software’s operation and hardware specifications.
Types of software maintenance
Tech teams have to perform maintenance activities whenever the software needs to evolve in response to trends, new technologies, user base, and business goals. Some software maintenance activities occur behind the scenes, while others are in the spotlight. Let’s check out the four main types of software maintenance that include different activities undertaken for various objectives:
1. Adaptive software maintenance
Tech teams perform adaptive maintenance to adapt their existing software to changing business needs and development environments. It helps companies ensure that the software can keep up with these changes and continue functioning correctly.
Examples of adaptive software maintenance activities include making changes to the operating system, converting spreadsheets into web apps, adding support for new hardware, turning legacy database systems into modern web apps, etc.
2. Corrective software maintenance
Corrective software maintenance is undertaken to fix software errors like poor database design, bugs, viruses, security vulnerabilities, etc. However, corrective maintenance should not be confused with problem-solving; Because here, the goal is to fix the errors, not to design new solutions.
Usually, corrections come from user-generated bug reports, but corrective software maintenance can help to spot them in advance.
3. Preventive software maintenance
Preventive software maintenance keeps your software functioning efficiently in the long run. It focuses on reducing the deterioration risk of your software and improves its scalability and reliability in the future.
Preventive maintenance includes activities like code optimization, revised documentation, code refactoring, database performance management, anti-virus protection, etc.
4. Perfective software maintenance
The goal of perfective maintenance is to enhance the overall performance and usability of the software. Tech teams perform perfective software maintenance to modify features, elements, and user interfaces to suit the evolving business goals and the expectations of the end users.
Perfective software maintenance includes activities such as speed optimization, UI changes, removal/addition of functionalities, changes in the UX, etc.
Software maintenance models
Software maintenance may require different approaches based on your business goals, the industry you function in, the expertise of your tech team, and the predictive trends of the market.
Therefore, along with understanding the different types of software maintenance, you also have to explore various models of software maintenance. Based on the kind of problem you are trying to solve, your team can choose the right model from the following options:
1. Quick-fix model
A quick-fix model in software maintenance is a method for addressing bugs or issues in the software by prioritizing a fast resolution over a more comprehensive solution.
This approach typically involves making a small, localized change to the software to address the immediate problem rather than fully understanding and addressing the underlying cause. However, organizations adopt this approach of maintenance only in the case of emergency situations that call for quick resolutions.
Under the quick-fix model, tech teams carry out the following software maintenance activities:
- Annotate software changes by including change IDs and code comments
- Enter them into a maintenance history detailing why they made the change and the techniques used by them
- Note each location and merge them via the change ID if there are multiple points in the code change
2. Iterative enhancement model
The iterative model is used for small-scale application modernization and scheduled maintenance. Generally, the business justification for changes is ignored in this approach as it only involves the software development team, not the business stakeholders. So, the software team will not know if more significant changes are required in the future, which is quite risky.
The iterative enhancement model treats the application target as a known quantity. It incorporates changes in the software based on the analysis of the existing system. The iterative model best suits changes made to confined application targets, with little cross-impact on other apps or organizations.
3. Reuse-oriented model
The reuse-oriented model identifies components of the existing system that are suitable to use again in multiple places. In recent years, this model also includes creating components that can be reused in multiple applications of a system..
There are three ways to incorporate the reuse-oriented model – Object and function, application system, and component.
- Object and function reuse: This model reuses the software elements that implement a single well-defined object.
- Application system reuse: Under this model, developers can integrate new components in an application without making changes to the system or re-configuring it for a specific user to reuse.
- Component reuse: Component reuse refers to using a pre-existing component rather than creating a new one in software development. This can include using pre-built code libraries, frameworks, or entire software applications.
4. Boehm’s model
Introduced in 1978, Boehm’s model focuses on measuring characteristics in a way that gets non-tech stakeholders involved with the life-cycle of software. The model represents a hierarchical structure of high-level, intermediate, and primitive characteristics of software that define its overall quality.
The high-level characteristics of quality software are:
- Maintainability: It should be easy to understand, evaluate, and modify the processes in a system.
- Portability: Software systems should help in ascertaining the most effective way to make environmental changes
- As-is utility: It should be easy and effective to use an as-is utility in the system.
The intermediate level of characteristics represented by the model displays different factors that validate the expected quality of a software system. These characteristics are:
- Reliability: Software performance is as expected, with zero defects.
- Portability: The software can run in various environments and on different platforms.
- Efficiency: The system makes optimum utilization of code, applications, and hardware resources.
- Testability: The software can be tested easily and the users can trust the results.
- Understandability: The end-user should be able to understand the functionality of the software easily and thus, use it effectively.
- Usability: Efforts needed to learn, use, and comprehend different software functions should be minimum.
The primitive characteristics of quality software include basic features like device independence, accessibility, accuracy, etc.
5. Taute maintenance model
Developed by B.J. Taute in 1983, the Taute maintenance model facilitates development teams to update and perform necessary modifications after executing the software.
The Taute model for software maintenance can be carried out in the following phases:
- Change request phase: In this phase, the client sends the request to make changes to the software in a prescribed format.
- Estimate phase: Then, developers conduct an impact analysis on the existing system to estimate the time and effort required to make the requested changes.
- Schedule phase: Here, the team aggregates the change requests for the upcoming scheduled release and creates the planning documents accordingly.
- Programming phase: In the programming phase, requested changes are implemented in the source code, and all the relevant documents, like design documents and manuals, are updated accordingly.
- Test phase: During this phase, the software modifications are carefully analyzed. The code is tested using existing and new test cases, along with the implementation of regression testing.
- Documentation phase: Before the release, system and user documentation are prepared and updated based on regression testing results. Thus, developers can maintain the coherence of documents and code.
- Release phase: The customer receives the new software product and updated documentation. Then the system’s end users perform acceptance testing.
Software maintenance made simple with Simform
In a nutshell, if development is what brings your software to life, maintenance is what keeps it alive and healthy. Therefore, software maintenance is an indispensable part of the software development life cycle.
In addition to keeping your software bug-free and up-to-date, software maintenance also increases the data security, performance, and resilience of your applications. Most importantly, it helps avoid the accumulation of heavy tech debt that could seriously affect your system’s performance.
There are several types of software maintenance and each type consists of different phases of the maintenance process. Moreover, there are also various models of software maintenance that can be used to bring out the best results in different situations. As a result, the whole process may get tricky.
To ease the software maintenance process, make sure your team keeps considerations like scalability, feature enhancements, etc. in mind while the software is still in the development phase. Check out these software development best practices that will eventually make maintenance easier for your team.