21 Apr Custom Software Maintenance: What to Consider
A common pitfall in custom software development is putting more focus on the ‘end’ of the project rather than on the application itself. In reality the end of an application build is only the beginning of the application’s use; there are very few processes or applications that don’t require support once they become essential to the business. Because of that, it’s important to have a plan in place for support and enhancements before your developer even begins to build your custom web application.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what your custom software maintenance needs might encompass, and we will also explain why enhancements might already be required for a new application. And finally, we will lay out a few options that help cover both of these categories.
What kind of support will I need?
Support refers to an immediate need request in response to something that has occurred in your business. Support requests concerning data are usually the most common; it could be that a user has done something that they wished they hadn’t (deleted a bunch of records for instance), or perhaps there’s a need for a one-off report request; it’s easier to pull in your custom software developers for a few of hours to manipulate the database than it is to try to manually compile numbers for days on end.
Why would a brand new application need enhancements?
This is an understandable and frequent question. A common experience in web application development are certain features being discussed during the design phase, but left to be implemented in later versions of the application due to budgetary constraints. It is important that these features are included in an enhancement plan with rough time frames and estimates so that everyone can plan accordingly.
In addition to the common wish list, it is essential to acknowledge how quickly a business and the web can change. If you have been managing operations via Excel sheets, imagine how often you make changes to the structure of your Excel tracking, quarterly, every six months? Those changes are usually made because processes within your business have evolved, are better understood, or both. Those same changes should be anticipated for your custom software; your software should be your competitive advantage, not a hindrance to daily operations. The best way to ensure that stays true, is to create a plan to make sure you can react in a timely fashion.
What’s the cost?
It can be difficult to estimate how much you should anticipate spending on support due to the different nature of the requests. Support request are usually items that no one anticipates; so they are handled on an as needed basis. Any time a support request becomes a regular request, it can quickly be shifted to a potential enhancement for the application.
The cost of enhancements can largely be controlled by the business. You can set the pace for how aggressively you would like to improve your processes and the supporting infrastructure. We have had clients apply as little as 20% of the build cost to an annual enhancement plan, while others exceed the original build cost in additions and iterations. The pace is yours to set.
Inverse-Square can provide custom software maintenance assistance with support and enhancements by letting you outsource them to us, or by helping you hire and train an internal resource to continue to provide support in house. Both of these options have their pros and cons which we will visit in a future post.
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