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In software engineering, software maintenance is the process of enhancing and optimizing deployed software (software release), as well as remedying defects. Software maintenance is one of the phases in the software development process, and follows deployment of the software into the field. The software maintenance phase involves changes to the software in order to correct defects and deficiencies found during field usage as well as the addition of new functionality to improve the software's usability and applicability.
Software maintenance involves a number of specific techniques. One technique is static slicing, which is used to identify all the program code that can modify some variable. It is generally useful in refactoring program code and was specifically useful in assuring Y2K compliance.
The software maintenance phase is an explicit part of the waterfall model of the software development process which was developed during the structured programming movement of computer programming. The other major model, the spiral model developed during the object oriented movement of software engineering makes no explicit mention of a maintenance phase. Nevertheless, this activity is notable, considering the fact that two-thirds of a software system's lifetime cost involves maintenance (Page-Jones pg 31).
In a formal software development environment, the developing organization or team will have some mechanisms to document and track defects and deficiencies. Software just like most other products, is typically released with a known set of defects and deficiencies. The software is released with the issues because the development organization decides the utility and value of the software at a particular level of quality outweighs the impact of the known defects and deficiencies.
The known issues are normally documented in a letter of operational considerations or release notes so that the users of the software will be able to work around the known issues and will know when the use of the software would be inappropriate for particular tasks.
With the release of the software, other, undocumented defects and deficiencies will be discovered by the users of the software. As these issues are reported into the development organization, they will be entered into the defect tracking system.
The people involved in the software maintenance phase are expected to work on these known issues, address them, and prepare for a new release of the software, known as a maintenance release, which will address the documented issues.
- Meilir Page-Jones (1980). The Practical Guide to Structured Systems Design. New York: Yourdon Press. ISBN 0-917072-17-0.
- Paper on Software Maintenance as Part of the Software Life Cycle (from Tufts University)
- Journal of Software Maintenance