Software maintenance in software engineering is the modification of a software product after delivery to correct faults, to improve performance or other attributes.
A common perception of 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 planning
An integral part of software is the maintenance one, 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. The software maintenance, which can last for 5–6 years (or even decades) after the development process, calls for an effective plan which can address the scope of software maintenance, the tailoring of the post delivery/deployment process, the designation of who will provide maintenance, and an estimate of the life-cycle costs. The selection of proper enforcement of standards is the challenging task right from early stage of software engineering which has not got definite importance by the concerned stakeholders.
Software maintenance processes
This section describes the six software maintenance processes as:
- 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 (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.
There are a number of processes, activities and practices that are unique to maintainers, for example:
Transition: a controlled and coordinated sequence of activities during which a system is transferred progressively from the developer to the maintainer;
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and specialized (domain-specific) maintenance contracts negotiated by maintainers;
Modification Request and Problem Report Help Desk: a problem-handling process used by maintainers to prioritize, documents and route the requests they receive;