No business owner operating in this competitive digital environment can deny the role software plays in the day-to-day functioning of their business. Downstream from that, software maintenance costs are also something that is pretty much unavoidable for any business. And if software is somehow involved in the core operations of a business, then it’s an expense that’s impossible to avoid. Without constant upgrades, updates, and technical support, the software cannot be kept current, functional, and useful.
In fact, maintaining software is equally important as developing one, if not more. Once you have invested time, money, and effort in building software, failure to maintain that software can be doubly cost exhaustive. In order to keep software responsive, agile, and adaptive to changing business environments and evolving technologies, software maintenance is a must.
But despite being so important, software maintenance is something that’s often overlooked by businesses. The reason for that is the custom software development cost is already a hefty investment, and maintenance costs, on top of that, add quite a load on businesses. Thus, in this in-depth post, we will be breaking down software maintenance costs in the simplest of terms. If you are a business owner looking for custom software development and consulting services, having an idea about software maintenance and its associated costs will help you make better, more well-informed decisions. Let’s dive in.
The first step to understanding software maintenance and what it entails is to understand its types. There is a misplaced conception among folks that software maintenance mainly involves fixing bugs, but that is not it. In fact, a major proportion of the maintenance activities actually have to do with new development. Following are the different types of software maintenance:
Adaptive maintenance becomes crucial if the environment of your software has evolved. Then, without having the ability to adapt and respond to the changing environment, the software will lose its potency. Changes in the environment can be triggered by anything, such as adjustments made to the hardware, program dependencies, cloud storage, or even the operating system itself. Sometimes, organizational policies or regulations are also reflected in adaptive software maintenance. Adaptive software maintenance may also be required in response to service updates, vendor changes, or processor changes.
Perfective software maintenance is concerned with how your system’s requirements and features change over time. Users may detect details you missed or propose new features they would like to see included in your apps as they use them, which might lead to future initiatives or improvements.
A majority portion of software maintenance is taken over by perfective software maintenance. Perfective maintenance includes both adding features that can improve user experience and deleting elements that are ineffective and non-functional. This might include functions that are not used or ones that prevent you from achieving your objectives.
What one would generally connect with maintenance of any type is corrective software maintenance. Correct software maintenance takes care of the bugs and flaws that might affect the design, logic, and code of your program as well as other components of it. Corrective software maintenance can assist in identifying problems before your consumers do, which can boost your brand’s image. These fixes typically come from bug reports that were produced by users or customers.
In order to extend the life of your program, preventative maintenance is essential. It enables you to update and adapt your software. The goal of this kind of maintenance is to stop your program from degrading as it continues to adapt and change. These services may involve code optimization and as-needed documentation updates.
Preventive software maintenance makes the software more stable, intelligible, and maintainable by lowering the risk involved with using it over an extended period of time.
Emergency maintenance has been included as a new form of maintenance. It is a unique instance of maintenance, which is unplanned and remedial in nature and often happens after a system fails.
Now that you have an idea about the different types of software maintenance there are let’s dissect the benefits of software maintenance, especially for a business.
By keeping your software in top-notch condition, you are saving costs considerably when adding new features and functionalities to a software or application. It is because, in a well-maintained digital product or service, new value-adding features can be incorporated easily without much cost involved. Think about it. With easy-to-read documentation and lighter infrastructure, your team will be in a much better position to incorporate changes. They won’t have to waste time updating the software; they can simply get on with the task of developing and adding new features to the application, saving both time and costs in the process.
There are few things more effective than a battle-tested process that has worked time and time again. If a process has worked perfectly in the past, one can confidently implement that in the future. The same is true for software maintenance. By putting a maintenance routine in place, you and your team can collaboratively adhere to the best practices. That way, instead of following a development path tediously, you will be able to streamline the entire process.
Keeping your software up to date is extremely beneficial, especially in scenarios where everything else seems to be going downhill. With up-to-date software, you can tackle any issue that may suddenly arise as you will be prepared for it. For instance, your documentation should include an elaborate guideline for your team, instructing them on how they should be responding in particular instances of urgent issues or concerns. Issues would include everything from splitting responsibilities and important contacts to the precise workflow. Backup and disaster recovery plans are also part of software maintenance. With plans in place and ready for implementation, any kind of issue can be tackled easily.
With software maintenance on point, you can rest assured that your project will see the light of day. No issue can be a roadblock in the progress of your project if your software maintenance procedures are in order. You can handle heavy surges of user requests and even events like your servers going down.
With a sound infrastructure and IT system that is capable of delivering top-notch performance, you can make sure that your project continues without any hiccups. Without these safety nets in place, your diligently put hard work may get lost due to unseen circumstances.
The next important thing that software maintenance takes care of is the security of your data. Security is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to application infrastructure. Hence, it is important to use the safest methodology possible in order to create a successful digital product. Therefore, software maintenance is essential, not just during the development process but also after deployment.
Your time and attention are both limited resources. Hence, you have to allocate them judiciously. What you dedicate your focus to will determine a lot of things, including the success and failure of your business. That is why it is important to outsource software maintenance tasks to a reputed custom software application development company.
Instead of dedicating your limited time and focus to making your software work, you should be directing your energy toward core business activities that need your attention. By outsourcing your software maintenance tasks to competent development partners, you will be able to prioritize decision-making and other strategic tasks within your business.
It will benefit your business a lot more if you will do what you do best instead of trying to do something that is probably better off being left in the hands of professionals. It will let you move forward at breakneck speed as people who know what they are doing will be at the helm of things, as it should be.
There are mainly two types of cost factors that have an influence over software maintenance costs:
- Technical Factors
- Non-Technical Factors
Let’s dissect both of these categories to get a better idea about software maintenance costs.
Following are some of the primary technical factors that influence software maintenance costs:
If a program is written in a high-level programming language, then it is relatively easy to understand that program. However, if the program is written in a low-level language, it is not that easy to understand. While maintaining software, a business might hire a different maintenance team than the one that was responsible for the development of the software. In that case, maintenance costs may rise if the new team finds it hard to make modifications. In other words, the easier it is to understand a programming language, the more cost-effective it is to modify that language. Hence, the programming language being used has an impact on the cost of software maintenance.
Software validation and testing take time. It is because only after conducting thorough validation and testing can software be made bug free. The fewer bugs there are in a program, the less it would cost to get rid of those bugs.
Hence, maintenance costs are directly impacted by the kinds of faults that are required to be fixed. Coding errors, for instance, are not very expensive to correct. On the other hand, design errors are expensive as they may require a rewrite of one or more program units.
Bugs are the worst when it comes to software maintenance costs. It is because, usually, the designs involved are draconian in nature.
The process of comprehending the application can be associatively simple if a program is backed by clear, thorough, but succinct documentation. The cost of program maintenance is often lower for systems with thorough reporting than for those whose documentation is shoddy or lacking.
Keeping track of all system records and guaranteeing their consistency is one of the crucial expenses of maintenance.
Controlling these expenses with effective configuration management is possible.
One program unit of a system should be independently modifiable. What this means is that one should be able to make changes in a program unit of a system without impacting any other unit. This keeps software maintenance costs low otherwise.
Following are some of the crucial non-technical factors that impact software maintenance costs:
As a business owner, you should never start a project without defining its scope down to every detail. A well-defined scope is the cornerstone of a successful project. And it also impacts software maintenance costs.
If the scope of the software is properly laid out and fully understood, it means that all the requirements are taken into account. This, in turn, minimizes the need for maintenance, especially the kind of maintenance that is done to accommodate changing requirements.
If the maintenance team is the same who has originally written the program, they would have no issue introducing changes to the application. However, if a new team is in charge of maintenance, then they would first have to study the reports and code listings.
Understanding and making changes becomes easier if the team building and maintaining the software is the same. It also directly impacts the costs involved in maintaining the software.
Say a particular application is built to run on a particular type of hardware configuration, and that configuration hasn’t changed during the lifecycle of the software; then maintenance due to hardware changes won’t be needed at all. However, if the original hardware is replaced, then the conversion costs are oftentimes higher than rewriting costs. If new hardware is replacing the older equipment, then changes need to be made so that the software or application is compatible with the new hardware.
Software or application is also impacted by several external factors. These factors change as the external environment shifts or if there are some changes introduced. For instance, if the government decides to change the taxation system, then as a downstream effect, programs and systems for payrolls, accounting, stock control, etc., will have to be modified and adopted according to the latest guidelines.
Changes in taxation policies occur quite frequently. It means that every time there is a change in the policy, software maintenance costs will be incurred. As a result, high maintenance costs are incurred because of external factors that are not in the control of a business.
Best Practices for Software Maintenance
The worst approach is to be unprepared. You can’t go into software maintenance without a plan. The very first step is to formulate a detailed plan about how you will maintain your software or application throughout the duration of its lifetime. The plan should account for the following:
- Allocation of Budget and Other Resources
Software maintenance is resource extensive. Hence, you must allocate resources judiciously throughout the duration of a software lifestyle. Prudent allocation of resources, such as capital, personnel, equipment, etc., will help you cap costs.
- Schedule of Maintenance
How often would maintenance be done? It is important to have an answer to this question. A maintenance schedule will give you an idea about when and how often maintenance tasks will be undertaken. That, too, will help you keep tabs on maintenance costs, as you won’t make the mistake of scheduling too often or not having enough maintenance tasks scheduled.
- Managing Risk Throughout the Software Lifecycle
You would have to identify and mitigate risks that can potentially emerge and pose a threat to your software or application. This is an important part of maintaining software over time.
Documentation of all components of software is absolutely crucial. It is because documentation plays a vital role in software maintenance. All the following aspects should be documented with accuracy and precision:
- System Architecture
- Source Code
- Test Cases
- Deployment Procedures
By making decent documentation available to developers, you will be making their job a lot easier. They would be able to have a better understanding of the software. Not only that, they will be able to seamlessly collaborate as they can go back and forth over maintenance tasks because of the documentation availability. Following are some of the maintenance tasks with which documentation is of immense help:
- Resolving issues.
With proper documentation in place, you don’t have to worry about losing the project know-how. Even if the team changes over time, the entire know-how of the project will remain securely recorded and can be revisited as and when the need arises.
A software development process known as test-driven development (TDD) places testing before code. This method assures that the code complies with the requirements and lessens the possibility of errors or other problems in the system. Additionally, TDD enhances the quality of the code while streamlining and accelerating maintenance chores.
According to TDD, programmers first write tests for the code they intend to write before writing the actual code to pass those tests. This procedure makes sure the code complies with the criteria and is error-free. The tests also act as a guide for upcoming maintenance work, making it simpler to find and fix problems.
Tools for version control and source control are necessary for efficient program maintenance. With the use of these tools, numerous programmers can work together on the exact same codebase and monitor changes over time. They also make it simpler to roll back to prior versions of the code if needed, facilitating problem-solving and preserving system stability.
They also offer a history of code modifications, which makes it simpler to follow the development of the software system through time.
In order to spot possible problems and enhance system performance, system administrators should keep an eye on critical indicators like resource utilization, system uptime, and user input.
Software maintenance is an essential aspect of ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of your business software. Neglecting software maintenance can lead to bugs, errors, and outdated functionalities that hinder efficiency and productivity. By understanding the significance of software maintenance, you can make informed decisions to allocate resources and budget for this crucial process.
By prioritizing software maintenance, businesses can benefit from improved performance, bug-free operations, enhanced security, and increased user satisfaction. To determine the exact cost of software maintenance and explore tailored solutions for your business, consulting with professionals is recommended.
In today’s competitive landscape, where technology plays a critical role in business success, embracing software maintenance as a proactive measure is imperative. By integrating it into your business strategy, you can unlock the full potential of your software, adapt to changing environments, and achieve long-term success.