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The Hidden Preservation State

January 16, 2012 2 comments

In the software industry, “maintenance” (like “system“) is an overloaded and overused catchall word. Nevertheless, in “Object-Oriented Analysis and Design with Applications“, Grady Booch valiantly tries to resolve the open-endedness of  the term:

It is maintenance when we correct errors; it is evolution when we respond to changing requirements; it is preservation when we continue to use extraordinary means to keep an ancient and decaying piece of software in operation (lol! – BD00) – Grady Booch et al

Based on Mr. Booch’s distinctions, the UML state machine diagram below attempts to model the dynamic status of a software-intensive system during its lifetime.

The trouble with a boatload of orgs is that their mental model and operating behavior can be represented as thus:

What’s missing from this crippled state machine? Why, it’s the “Preservation” state silly. In reality, it’s lurking ominously behind the scenes as the elephant in the room, but since it’s hidden from view to the unaware org, it only comes to the fore when a crisis occurs and it can’t be denied any longer. D’oh! Call in the firefighters.

Maybe that’s why Mr. “Happy Dance” Booch also sez:

… reality suggests that an inordinate percentage of software development resources are spent on software preservation.

For orgs that operate in accordance to the crippled state machine, “Preservation” is an expensive, time consuming, resource sucking sink. I hate when that happens.

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