Let us assume, you want to own a shiny new car. Buying a car is just one step in the process of owning the car. For the car to be a reliable mode of personal transportation, regular maintenance is a must. Similarly, your house needs to be vacuumed and dusted, leaks to be fixed and electrical short circuits to be repaired on a regular basis. When left unattended, the house becomes uninhabitable over time and collapses under its own weight. Software is no different. As the lines of code increase, greater becomes the need of software maintenance.

Software development life cycle typically consists of the following phases

  • Requirement analysis
  • Design
  • Coding
  • Testing

The phase after the tested software is released is the maintenance phase which lasts for the rest of the time the software is in use.

What is the scope of Software Maintenance?

Software maintenance basically consists of making small but significant changes to the delivered software that is in use. These changes are done either to fix bugs or to optimize and make enhancements to the user experience of the software. Sometimes, it is also done to discontinue some features that were originally a part of the delivered software.

Types of Software Maintenance

It can be broadly classified into the following categories:

Preventive Maintenance

This is done proactively by the developers post-release. The intention of preventive maintenance is to prevent software deterioration and help it run seamlessly for a longer duration. Activities included in preventive maintenance are

  • Code optimization
  • Detailed documentation
  • Identification and fixing sleeping bugs in the code
Impact on the user

Preventive maintenance is not noticeable at the user end as the changes are completely centered in the backend. However, this kind of maintenance is helpful for avoiding any foreseeable problems that the user might face in the future, in turn improving the reliability of the software product.

Corrective Maintenance

This is adapted to correct the errors and misbehaviours in the software. Usually, user-reported bugs are fixed in corrective maintenance and the fixed code is released as software patches that would take a short time for installation, causing negligible disruption to the end user.

Impact on the user

When user-reported bugs are fixed, the user experience becomes smooth. Also, the users’ trust in the software product is amplified.

Adaptive Maintenance

Adaptive maintenance refers to the modifications that are to be made for the software to adapt to the changing environment where the software is running. A recent example is when Apple introduced Macbooks based on the M1 processor, several applications that were designed for Intel processors had to be modified to suit the M1 architecture.

Impact on the user

Adaptive maintenance is necessary for the software to continue to function in dynamically changing environments. Changes are usually done at the backend. Like in corrective maintenance, a small installation might be necessary.

Perfective Maintenance

This one focuses on giving the best user experience. Perfective software maintenance lasts for the longest time in the maintenance phase of the software and includes activities such as the addition of new features or refining existing features for enhanced user experience, deletion of legacy features that are no more relevant, and a few redesigning here and there.

Impact on the user

Changes made in perfective maintenance is noticeable to the end user. There might be a small learning curve at the user end to adapt to the changes made. Seeking feedback from the users is recommended when major changes are done.

Expertise needed for Software Maintenance process

Software maintenance is an integral activity that needs to be performed throughout the lifetime of a software product, to ensure security and relevance in the changing environmental scenarios.

Barring corrective maintenance, other forms of maintenance are slow processes. Nevertheless, the expertise needed for effective maintenance operations is high. The developers should know the entire product and software architecture for knowing the exact impact of their changes. A much dreaded scenario is that a so thought harmless piece of code for slight enhancement results in a serious bug elsewhere in the system.

Hence, it is important to have software specialists oversee the maintenance activities. As a software product owner, you can outsource your project work to consultants like Pace Wisdom who can use their expertise for the advantage of the project.