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Maintenance Cycles And Teams

The figure below highlights the unglamorous maintenance cycle of a typical “develop-deliver-maintain” software product development process. Depending on the breadth of impact of a discovered defect or product enhancement, one of 4 feedback loops “should” be traversed.

In the simplest defect/enhancement case, the code is the only product artifact that must be updated and tested. In the most complex case, the requirements, architecture, design, and code artifacts all “should” be updated.

Of course, if all you have is code, or code plus bloated, superficial, write-once-read-never documents, then the choice is simple – update only the code. In the first case, since you have no docs, you can’t update them. In the second case, since your docs suck, why waste time and money updating them?

After the super-glorious business acquisition phase and during the mini-glorious “initial development” phase, the team is usually (but not always – especially in DYSCOs and CLORGs) staffed with the roles of domain analyst(s), architect(s), designer(s), and programmer(s). Once the product transitions into the yukky maintenance phase, the team may be scaled back and roles reassigned to other projects to cut costs. In the best case, all roles are retained at some level of budgeting – even if the total number of people is decreased. In the worst case, only the programmer(s) are kept on board. In the suicidal case, all roles but the programmer(s) are reassigned, but multiple manager type roles are added. (D’oh!)

Note that there does not have to be a one to one correspondence between a role and a person; one person can assume multiple roles. Unfortunately, the staff allocation, employee development, and reward systems in most orgs aren’t “designed” to catalyze and develop the added value of multi-role-capable people. That’s called the “employee-in-a-box” syndrome.

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