Software maintenance

Software maintenance is the modification of existing software to correct faults, to improve performance, security or other attributes.

Software maintenance is a very broad activity that includes error correction, enhancements of capabilities, deletion of obsolete capabilities, and optimization. Because change is inevitable, mechanisms must be developed for evaluation, controlling and making modifications.

Any work done to change the software after it is in operation is considered to be maintenance work. The purpose is to preserve the value of software over the time. The value can be enhanced by expanding the customer base, meeting additional requirements, becoming easier to use, more efficient and employing newer technology.

A common perception of software maintenance is that it merely involves fixing defects. However, one study indicated that over 80% of maintenance effort is used for non-corrective actions. This perception is perpetuated by users submitting problem reports that in reality are functionality enhancements to the system.

Software Maintenance

Software maintenance can be categorized activities into four classes:

  1. Adaptive - modifying the system to cope with changes in the software environment (DBMS, OS)
  2. Perfective - implementing new or changed user requirements which concern functional enhancements to the software
  3. Corrective - diagnosing and fixing errors, possibly ones found by users
  4. Preventive - increasing software maintainability or reliability to prevent problems in the future

Importance of software maintenance

The key software maintenance issues are both managerial and technical.

  • Key management issues are: alignment with customer priorities, staffing, which organization does maintenance, estimating costs.
  • Key technical issues are: limited understanding, impact analysis, testing, maintainability measurement.

Software maintenance is a very broad activity that includes error correction, enhancements of capabilities, deletion of obsolete capabilities, and optimization. Because change is inevitable, mechanisms must be developed for evaluation, controlling and making modifications.

So any work done to change the software after it is in operation is considered to be maintenance work. The purpose is to preserve the value of software over the time. The value can be enhanced by expanding the customer base, meeting additional requirements, becoming easier to use, more efficient and employing newer technology.

Software maintenance planning

An integral part of software development is maintenance, which requires an accurate maintenance plan to be prepared during the software development. It should specify how users will request modifications or report problems. The budget should include resource and cost estimates. A new decision should be addressed for the developing of every new system feature and its quality objectives.

Software maintenance processes

  • The implementation process contains software preparation and transition activities, such as the conception and creation of the maintenance plan; the preparation for handling problems identified during development; and the follow-up on product configuration management.
  • The problem and modification analysis process, which is executed once the application has become the responsibility of the maintenance group. The maintenance programmer must analyze each request, confirm it (by reproducing the situation) and check its validity, investigate it and propose a solution, document the request and the solution proposal, and finally, obtain all the required authorizations to apply the modifications.
  • The process considering the implementation of the modification itself.
  • The process acceptance of the modification, by confirming the modified work with the individual who submitted the request in order to make sure the modification provided a solution.
  • The migration process (Software migration, platform migration, for example) is exceptional, and is not part of daily maintenance tasks. If the software must be ported to another platform without any change in functionality, this process will be used and a maintenance project team is likely to be assigned to this task.
  • Finally, the last maintenance process, also an event which does not occur on a daily basis, is the retirement of a piece of software.

Categories of software maintenance in ISO/IEC 14764

  • Corrective maintenance: Reactive modification of a software product performed after delivery to correct discovered problems.
  • Adaptive maintenance: Modification of a software product performed after delivery to keep a software product usable in a changed or changing environment.
  • Perfective maintenance: Modification of a software product after delivery to improve performance or maintainability.
  • Preventive maintenance: Modification of a software product after delivery to detect and correct latent faults in the software product before they become effective faults.

Software maintenance can include:

  • Application / System Maintenance
  • Modifications
  • Bug-fixing
  • Software Upgrades, optimization
  • Software Enhancements
  • New feature development
  • Re-engineering
  • Performance improvements
  • Improvements in reliability & robustness
  • GUI modification & enhancement
  • Porting & Conversion to other platforms
  • Conversion of data from existing systems to another
  • Development of add-on modules
  • Interface development to in-house software or third-party software
  • Operations / Recovery, Back-up, Systems management

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