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The research done for this paper represents an attempt to describe the type and distribution of activities within software maintenance and change control. Software maintenance activities span a system's productive life and consume a major portion of the total life cycle costs of a system. However, what is actually done to systems in maintenance is sometimes a mystery to many organizations. Thus, software maintenance remains an activity that is difficult and expensive to manage. With this paper, we intend to open the mystery of software maintenance and explain some of the activities involved in this procedure.
The requirements analysis is possibly the most crucial step in the software maintenance realm, as this step alone can determine the effectiveness of all following activities and the customer's evaluation of the final product. "Requirements analysis is the process of understanding the customer's needs, and capturing them in a formal document." (Icarus, p. 2) This formal document, when working with an existing program, is normally known as a change request form. The change request can come in the form of a formal document or in the form of a heated e-mail from your superiors. If it is the latter, you need to take steps to produce a formal change request document. This document will outline the constraints, commonly referred to as the triple constraint, scope, time, and money.
The first of these three, scope, is quite difficult to define, early in the process. However, the scope of the project must be defined in terms that can evolve into a pseudo-checklist. This document will be reviewed constantly throughout the process to determine whether a particular fits with the customer needs and wants. One way of determining the customer's needs is to develop a questionnaire. This can alleviate several communications problems between the development team and the customer. The questionnaire can be used to develop the change request document. Other ways to develop a change request document is to conduct a walkthrough with the main stakeholders of the change. This function will allow the development team to get a feel for the work environment and aid in the development of the program changes. A combination of these steps strengthens the change request document. By conducting a questionnaire and then conducting a walkthrough, the requested changes can be illustrated within the work environment, the development team will determine a level of necessity for each of the requested changes.
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The Design Phase is the problem-solving process whose objective is to find and describe a way to implement the system's functional requirements, while respecting the constraints imposed by the non-functional requirements, and while adhering to general principles of good quality. This phase also determines how components will be implemented in a system. There are a number of goals in the in this phase;
Increasing profit by reducing cost and increasing revenue.
Ensuring that we actually conform with the requirements, thus solving the customers' problems.
Accelerating development, which helps reduce short-term costs, and may also ensure the software reaches the market soon enough to effectively compete.
Increasing qualities such as usability, efficiency, reliability, maintainability, and reusability which can help reduce costs and also increase revenues.
Although this section of system maintenance is widely overlooked, it is extremely important. Without proper and speedy implementation of the desired changes, the customer would realize the product of your work. Implementation consists of the coding phase of the system development life cycle. This stage requires several Quality Assurance procedures to take place during this stage. This is not the testing phase however, it is a self governing process which consists of the programmers performing self-checks, throughout the programming process, and the program manager performing Quality Assurance checks at predetermined milestones within the life cycle. Once the coding has been completed, the testing phase can then begin.
Testing is a stage that a software developer or writer hardly escapes from going through because of the need to making sure that the software is bug-free and working and free from hitches which can render the intended outcome to being unproductive. As always the case, two stages of testing phase takes place. One phase being that of the writer and the second that of the customer and developer, both participating in the testing process.
The intention of any program is to have a managerial tool that enhances productivity and decision-making process. The need of having a managerial tool becomes paramount when decisions have to remain error free. This is when the need arises to have tools which can help organizations and individuals to seek for competent and qualified solutions. It is indeed helpful for anybody seeking such solutions to get to the point where unintentional errors are subjected to obsolescence. Testing of any IT solution is essential and a mandatory step to take in any software solution anywhere.
To develop a more detailed explanation, the reasons for performing software maintenance need to be explored. The traditional view of software maintenance was to fix program source code. As Lehman and Belady (1985, p.12) pointed out, "fixing software differs from repairing manufactured products." Software does not wear out or deteriorate with age. Repairing manufactured goods restores products to their original state. Problems with software actually reveal flaws in the original source code or specifications. Corrective maintenance can be defined as "software maintenance activity intended to adjust software to correct some type of erroneous output" (Swanson, 1976). Output may include user interfaces, or output internal to the system.
A second reason for software maintenance is to adapt software so that it will comply with a changing technological environment. That technological environment may include hardware and software such as operating systems or compilers. Quite often adjustments have to be made to software so that systems will continue to function after these changes occur. This maintenance effort adds no new functionality. Maintenance work done for the purpose of adapting to a changing technological environment is classified as adaptive. Adaptive maintenance is defined as "software activity intended to adjust software to comply with changes in the technological environment" (Swanson, 1976). Such adjustments are required for continued operation. This type of maintenance includes: version upgrades, conversions, recompiles, and the reassembly, and restructuring of code.
A third reason for software maintenance activity is to expand software capabilities and features. This is often referred to as perfective maintenance or enhancement. Software enhancement increases application functionality by adding new source code or through modification to existing source code. Software features added during the enhancement process go beyond the work needed for adaptive maintenance. Enhancements give the system users additional capabilities not previously available. Work done for the purpose of expanding and improving the functionality of an existing software system can be classified as enhancement. Enhancement can be defined as "software maintenance activity done to increase the functionality of a software system" (Swanson, 1976).
Icarus (2003). The art of software development (part 1): understanding need. Retrieved 1 October 2005 from http://www.devshed.com/c/a/Practices/The-Art-Of-Software-Development-(part-1):-Understanding-Need.
Lehman, M. M. and Belady, L. A. (1985). Program Evolution: Processes of Software
Change, Academic Press, London.
Swanson, E. B. (1976). The dimensions of Software Maintenance, pp. 492-497.