In the ‘80s and ‘90s, businesses could develop a piece of software, ship it out, and be done with it — hence the term “golden master.” If you tried that method today, you’d be out of business in five minutes. It might sound strange, but every piece of software you produce is alive. Interfaces and users change constantly, and businesses have to be ready to adapt to those changes.
Whether it’s a new security vulnerability, the advent of the smartwatch, or a new screen size, the smallest change in environment can be big trouble for a piece of software not positioned to adapt.
Like any other living thing, your software needs support to flourish.
Who Keeps Software Going?
No part of a company is exempt from the responsibility of software upkeep. Even software meant for one-time use often sees daylight long after its expected expiration date. Some executives make the mistake of assuming software maintenance only concerns development teams. Contrarily, keeping software relevant requires cooperation from many different teams and departments.
The CFO must understand the resources needed for software upkeep and budget for them accordingly. With so many options for feedback and data available to CMOs now, software maintenance is more important than ever to marketing departments. Similarly, salespeople need to be vigilant about upkeep for customer relationship management systems.
From development to documentation to product strategy, everyone involved needs to be cognizant of how the needs of software can change over time and how to meet those challenges when they arise.
How Should Companies Be Prepared?
Even if you can’t predict what a piece of software will need in the future, you can put your company in the best position to handle change as it comes. Here are five strategies a business should employ to keep up with its living software:
1. Budget for Continuous Upkeep
A business’s revenue model needs to reflect the costs for continuous software improvement. If the predicted gross margin is based on a number that doesn’t include a budget for software improvements, that number is flawed. A company planning for software improvements doesn’t change the fact that improvements will be necessary at some point.
Budget for constant improvements from the entire ecosystem — not just the support team, but also the user experience team, the engineers, and both front- and back-end developers. Don’t let your product stagnate by forgetting to budget.
2. Practice Proper Methodologies
Once the budget is in place, make sure to use that money the right way. Before you begin, read the agile manifesto. This manifesto outlines priorities for developing and maintaining software and puts forth the optimal mindset for software development.
Work in small iterations and practice test-driven development. Short sprints allow developers to create and release smaller portions of code, reducing the risk of a large update that could cause errors for multiple clients. Test-driven development helps fine-tune updates as much as possible before making them available for consumption.
Lastly, by working consistently toward deployable code and stressing security and compliance early on, you can avoid major headaches down the road. It’s easy to forget the end goal during constant development, so businesses need to ensure development remains steady and code remains workable.
3. Continuously Integrate and Deliver
Don’t let development lag by ignoring collaboration. Integrate the agile practice of continuous integration and continuous delivery. As companies keep up with their software, both practices are crucial.
Integration makes individual members of development interact and collaborate with other developers early in the life span of an update. Delivery ensures software makes it to quality assurance and operations teams quickly to make the most of development time and provide constant, multilevel feedback.
4. Constantly Communicate
Feedback is necessary to maintain transparency and keep development on track. Using the agile method of two-week sprints and daily scrums fosters open communication and makes everyone accountable. Sprint review meetings shouldn’t be limited to developers, either — salespeople, marketing professionals, and other decision makers should look to attend sprint reviews, too, so everyone stays up-to-date.
5. Measure, Measure, Measure
Measure everything. It’s critical that you understand your environment and put in key performance indicators to understand release times, issues with the product, customer satisfaction, and costs. If you skip this step, the prior steps lose all relevance.
Software development may never truly end, but with the right infrastructure and constant communication, you can ensure every piece of software your company builds goes on to live a happy, healthy life.