Understanding the ins and outs of software maintenance costs (and budgeting suggestions)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018/Categories: Blog


Understanding the ins and outs of software maintenance costs (and budgeting suggestions)

To help maximize opportunities for savings when it comes to software maintenance, the key ingredient to its success is planning. It’s important to plan for ongoing updates, maintenance, and improvements because this makes the looming cost more manageable. First, though, organizations should have a clear grasp on what exactly is involved with software maintenance and how to budget appropriately.

What Exactly is Software Maintenance?

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) defines software maintenance as:

“Modification of a software product after delivery to correct faults, to improve the performance or other attributes, or to adapt the product to a modified environment.”

In simpler terms, software maintenance sustains the software product throughout its life cycle and it allows for a consistent and enhanced performance of the system.

There are four types of software maintenance, namely, corrective, adaptive, perfective, and preventive. Corrective maintenance is identified while the program is in use, adaptive maintenance is identified during the transition process of trying to make the software adaptable to its environment, perfective maintenance includes the changes made to improve the software as new functionalities are made available or customers request them, and lastly, preventive maintenance is the process of making sure that the same errors don’t occur.

For example, let’s imagine that you’re the head of a tech company and you’ve implemented a centralized database which makes team communication and project-based updates easier and more accessible. Everything has been working smoothly until your team members start to report that they’ve been having trouble logging in and accessing current files. Chances are, this means that it’s time for your database to undergo software maintenance.

The above scenario is a perfect example of corrective maintenance as the organization identified the errors while they were actively using the program. As the head of the tech company, the moment you decide to take measures to resolve the issue is the first step to corrective maintenance.

Why is Software Maintenance so Important?

If you ask any IT expert why software maintenance is important, they’d tell you that just like any other computer-based product you use daily, your software product also needs to undergo fixes to ensure optimal performance.

One great way to illustrate software maintenance is to compare it with car maintenance. No matter how great of a car it is, it still requires oil changes, tire alignments, and other fixes that will ensure it keeps up with the usage. The more you drive your car, the more maintenance is needed, which makes logical sense to us. But why would a digital product like software need to be maintained, so long as it’s well-structured from the outset? The code doesn’t wear down over time, right?

Equating physical maintenance to software maintenance gets the point across, but the analogy needs further explanation to help us understand how to properly plan (and budget) for the necessary costs of keeping your technology running. Like your car, any system you’re using must be updated properly to ensure longevity and continuous efficiency. We discuss a few reasons to implement a regular maintenance update schedule in this blog post: Software Should Last Forever

Maintenance Budget Checklist

Now it’s time to discuss how you can put these concepts into action. It’s important to know how to estimate specific software maintenance needs and understand the costs associated with it.

Below is a budget checklist to guide you throughout your maintenance plan:

  • Hosting fees
  • Perpetual software licenses
  • SaaS account fees
  • Developer account fees (iOS/Android)
  • Defect resolution (# of bugs times average cost per bug)
  • Perfective UI/UX updates
  • 3rd party dependency adaptive support
  • Anticipated business logic or rule changes
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Code refactoring

Overall, having a budget in place for software maintenance must be included during the early stages of your project planning, especially if your project will be tech dependent. But, don’t let the costs alone discourage you from building a product - there are simple steps to ensure your maintenance costs are manageable. And one more thing to remember, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Reach out to your software team/partner to come up with a budgeting plan tailored to fit your project, and perhaps, look into outsourcing software maintenance to experts. Keep in mind that software maintenance budgeting should be personalized to your organization’s project needs and goals.

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