Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
Like this article? We recommend

Design for Maintenance

The way out of this mess is to design your organization for the effective maintenance of applications. Until you've refactored your organization to support your real needs, it's pointless to waste yet more money refactoring your applications. The following 12 recommendations are a starting point for a sane, maintenance-friendly organization.

  • Assess the planned economic life of your applications. Yes, some applications might only be needed for a year or two, but most mission-critical applications are going to last for a long time. After all, an application that takes 18 calendar months and 40+ developer years to create had better last for a long time. Planned obsolescence might be a good idea for a manufacturer of consumer goods like cars, but for everyone else it's just a waste of time and effort to continually have to invest in new versions.

  • Make your organization a great place for developers to work. Losing an experienced developer from a team is very expensive. Large mission-critical applications take years to learn, so it pays to retain the people who know the applications. The side benefit for the rest of the organization is that great organizations are less stressful and a nicer place to work.

  • Forget about the documentation myth—insist that the development team maintain their own application. Despite what the software engineering world has been trying to claim, software development is an intellectual learning process. The best people to maintain and enhance an application are the people who developed it in the first place. Whenever you're thinking about starting a new project, make sure that the bulk of the team is willing to commit for the planned economic life of the application. After all, it makes no sense to pay for two teams to learn the application.

  • Start paying maintenance programmers more than the people creating new applications. The way to attract good people into maintenance is to pay them. In the same way that lots of people jumped on the Java bandwagon for the rewards, once maintenance is hot, good developers will be attracted to it. Then the bragging rights will go to the maintenance teams with the best track record, rather than the dotcoms that are burning money playing with bleeding-edge technology.

  • Hire developers based on their experience with maintaining systems. Organizations have to get serious about hiring people who have experience with maintenance. Rather than looking at how many applications a person has developed, look instead at how many applications that person has supported—and for how long. Shipping the first version of an application is useful, but a developer learns many useful lessons by sticking around to ship the fourth and fifth versions of the same application.

  • Train your developers in all of your technologies. Developers who only know one technology are hazardous to the health of your applications. Your developers need to be familiar with all of the operating systems you use—mainframe, minicomputer, and PC. Cross-training is essential so that the developers understand the real issues that face your projects. Similarly, your developers need to be able to at least read and understand every programming language in use in your organization. After all, if you ever have to replace an application, the developers are going to have to read the source code for the old application to figure out exactly what it was doing.

  • Ask vendors to commit to long-term support contracts. Make sure that all of your vendors are committed to your technologies for the planned economic life of your applications. Where possible, make sure that the source code is available to you or at least held in escrow, so that if all else fails you can fix any problems yourself. Above all, try to make sure that a system that was planned to last for 20 years doesn't have to be replaced after 5 years because some software is no longer supported or a hardware component is no longer available.

  • Discourage the use of proprietary technologies. Proprietary technologies are a major source of legacy systems because sooner or later the vendor will decide that the product is no longer strategic or the market is not big enough. You might be really lucky and the technology will be purchased by another company, but, as the saying goes, "Hope is not a strategy." If you have to use a proprietary technology, choose one from a small, fiercely independent small company—such companies have a much better track record at providing long-term support than do the big companies. In the long run, though, your best bet is to use standardized or free software technologies, as both have good track records for both support and portability.

  • Design interfaces to avoid vendor lock-in. In the long run, standards do change, so design your applications with clean interfaces between the various components of the system. Getting locked into a particular vendor's technology is always a mistake. Use whatever proprietary technology makes sense, but make sure that if necessary it's possible to replace that technology with another. You never want to get to the state where it's cheaper to rewrite the application than to replace the database or the user interface.

  • Encourage your maintenance teams to do perfective maintenance. Rather than make the mistake of saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," remember instead that your maintenance teams have to live in the code every day in order to keep their knowledge current. Encourage the teams to perfect their applications. Let them adopt the motto "Maybe it ain't broke, but we can improve it." This will encourage a farsightedness that will allow the maintenance teams to adjust to new technologies as they arise.

  • Encourage your maintenance teams to experiment with new technologies. Your center of technical excellence should be your maintenance team. Encourage them to experiment with new technologies to see how they'll affect existing applications. By casting a net far and wide, they reduce the chances of being surprised by any new technology that shows up. After all, even the latest and greatest thing (such as web services) is firmly rooted in something older (like XML-RPC, which has been around since 1998).

  • Make robust, maintainable, and extensible software an explicit goal for all projects. Project teams deliver on what's important and downplay what's not important. It shouldn't be a surprise to discover that many applications that were developed in what used to be called "Internet time" are buggy, unstable, and practically unmaintainable. Okay, lesson learned—future projects need to have more appropriate goals.

Once appropriate team and organizational structures are in place, you can start to look at design and coding techniques that improve application maintainability. But that's a topic for another article.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020