The Essential Guide to Software Maintenance | Hacker Noon

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Today, when all businesses move online creating a highly competitive environment, a quick adaptation of your application to end-user needs, changing, enhancing, or adding features as a result of thorough customer research, and maintaining the system properly is a must.

A user requires an application to be simple, intuitive, and well thought out. In case any problem arises, it should be resolved quickly and efficiently by the software maintenance team. No matter who is the target audience of an app: your customers or your employees, the reliability of the application they use as a mediator between your customers and your business is of high importance.

Your application should be supported regularly to make sure it really provides the value it has been designed to provide. 

You have many reasons to make sure your application is maintained regularly:

  • Bug fixing
  • APIs update
  • Application update
  • Features modification / improvement
  • Adding new features to keep pace with end-user requirements
  • Security enhancement
  • UI and UX improvement
  • Software migration

Usability first: get to know your user

Building any digital product implies a customer development process including:

  • customer interview
  • data collection and processing
  • focus groups
  • user testing
  • surveys

Needless to say, user research is a key element of the project initiation stage, as this is exactly the moment to define the requirements for the future system based on end-user needs. This is the only way to go.

I.e. the interface of a booking application, which targets the older generation will be quite different from the same type of application targeting millennials.

Age, geography, interests, behavior, goals, beliefs, fears, & motivation of your future users do matter when designing an application. 

And if the first three points could be discovered without any challenge, the others lie much deeper and requires in-depth research accordingly. You should go below the surface to hit the target with your application. This is not always possible at the customer interview. 

Much about your target audience’s goals and motivation can be discovered directly when they use your application. 

What does it mean?

  1. The process of UX research doesn’t end on the project initiation stage; you should keep collecting relevant data to prevent any frustrating user experience.
  2. Be ready to add new features as per user’s request–even before they realize they need it themselves–or adjust existing ones to the user’s needs. 

Application support for vital services

Planning to win in digital markets where timely and quality service delivery is crucial for users (healthcare, e-learning, grocery delivery, etc.) is possible only if all your processes are run perfectly.

Behind every excellent digital experience provided to the end-user stays the dedicated team able to fix any problem quickly and efficiently. Robust, secure, and high-performing application is a must of today, especially if this application is aimed at meeting vital human needs. 

The customer wants to use the application successfully, at any time, from any device. The customer wants to add a product to a cart without interruption. The customer wants to get up-to-the-minute information on the course schedule. The customer wants to make a doctor’s appointment right now. The customer wants more transparency and more visibility of any digital experience (s)he has.  

To deliver a top-notch experience every second, it’s not enough to launch a product and let it go. When a customer’s well-being is at stake, you can’t afford any little bugs in your application, as it may result in brand reputation damage as well as huge financial losses and, what’s more important, cause great inconvenience for your customer.

Moreover, for now, it’s impossible to keep pace without constantly improving your application, adding new features even before the customer demand will turn into a clear requirement. To let your product evolve, thorough and never-ending market research and customer development is a must. 

Application maintenance is another way to show a customer that you care.

What happens when application maintenance fails?

Once upon a time, there was a well-known around the world airline carrying more than 75.2 million passengers a year. They had the luck to be transported to more than 315 destinations in 126 countries.

Managing a customer flow became impossible without an application and CRM system. So our friends went digital to provide better services and meet end-user needs quickly and efficiently. 

Everything would be fine if their CRM system hadn’t been so buggy they had to spend a month teaching new employees to avoid bugs. Could you imagine 160 of the employee working hours were wasted on “learning” to use the application instead of real job training? Not to mention an obvious non-compliance of this CRM with its essential functions.  

Ignoring the need for bug fixing can lead to serious consequences: 

Waste of company’s resources

The first most evident consequence is spending much human and budget resources on the onboarding process. You should not only teach a new employee how to avoid system bugs actually getting no business value. The mentor spent his/her time as well to teach the newcomer to use the application. 

High risk of missing customers’ data

In the situation described above, the company is risking not only to waste the inner resources but compromise on customer data as well.

One of the main values CRM brings to businesses is the opportunity to improve customer satisfaction & retention by improving customer services. 

CRM system helps employees to streamline the processes of qualifying and following up on customers, storing the necessary information. Based on the need for monthly training on system bug avoidance, the reliability of such storage is under question. 

Cumbersome onboarding process

The results of the study conducted by Ricardo Britto show a significant performance decline of new developers onboarded to a legacy project compared to the mature team. It means that new employees will have a considerable gap to overcome, and the company’s management will spend much time, budget, & human effort onboarding them. 

Onboarding to complex projects with large amounts of legacy code is always a challenge that should be planned well in advance. 

The same is with the employees who are intended to use such an application for work purposes: it would be difficult to interest, engage, and keep a new employee who has probably a few better options without a need for dealing with buggy software. 

Low level of customer support

Working with a buggy application puts a lot of pressure on a customer support representative. Customer support accepts the psychological and technical responsibility for the processes they can’t control: mistakes of application development, quality assurance, management. When it comes to legacy or buggy software that is slow, cumbersome, insecure, & unstable, customer support is supposed to deal with hundreds of hate user tickets, dozens of angry calls, and customer claims against the poor quality services. 

On-demand teams for software maintenance services

I don’t know any business, which could afford losing customers so easily. Keeping the power of your business on is the hard work performed on a daily basis. Preventing technical difficulties even before they happen is the real art impossible without a good team who knows all ins and outs and works on ensuring 100% user satisfaction from coming into contact with your business. 

Building an in-house team for software support can be a challenging task, as you are obviously required to 

  • expand your office space
  • pay for HR services
  • increase spending on office supply (including technical support)
  • ensure workers’ salaries, pensions, compensations

On-site teams may be a lucrative option for large-scale and complicated ERP projects, for example, but in most cases, they would hardly pay off. Besides, software maintenance is a time-consuming and expensive process itself, thus, maintaining an in-house team as well could be a little extra.

Alternatively, one of the dedicated remote teams available on demand may help you cut costs ideally even without compromising on quality (read how to choose your remote technical partner).

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