Should It Reduce
E. Burton Swanson
University of California, Los Angeles
The ideas in this paper were developed in part
from seminars first presented at the Turku School
of Business and Economics, Finland, and the
University of Ume&, Sweden. Olaf Westheider
provided research assistance, and Chris Kemerer
offered helpful comments and suggestions on an
early written version. Others have made useful
comments supportive of subsequent revisions.
This paper reexamines information system (IS)
and takes a new and inclusive view
of it and its effects. It proposes that an IS is main-
tainable to the extent that its maintenance, opera-
tion, and use is economical in its use of resources.
A model is offered which puts IS maintainability in
the larger developmental context and suggests a
number of related propositions.
To the question
of whether increased
reduce an organization's maintenance effort, a
straightforward analysis leads to what, for some,
may be a surprising answer.
Where IS maintain-
ability is enhanced, organizations can sometimes
be better off by sustaining, not decreasing, their
overall maintenance efforts.
ACM Categories: H.4.0, K.6.1, K.6.3
IS maintenance, IS maintainability
Information system (IS) maintenance m keeping
an IS operational and responsive to users after it
is installed and in production (Martin & Osborne,
1983) m is widely recognized as expensive. For
years it has consumed more than half of applica-
tion software development resources among
Guimaraes, 1993; Gallant, 1986; Nosek & Palvia,
1990; Hanna, 1993). It is viewed by many practi-
tioners as a necessary evil (Couger & Culter,
1985). Significantly, it is charged with creating a
"logjam" in new system development.
It is seen
as something to be improved by having less of it
(so that we might have more new system devel-
How to reduce the "maintenance bur-
den" is the common theme
broadly, the ease with which
IS maintenance can be accomplished -- is pop-
ularly seen as the key to the solution. If applica-
tion software can be made more "maintainable,"
for example, by being made less complex (Banker
et al., 1991; Kemerer, 1995; Banker et al., 1998),
organizations should be able to reduce the bur-
1For a review of the "state of software maintenance," see
Schneidewind (1987) and Jones (1986) for an examination of
the development productivity dilemma.
The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems - Winter 1999 (Vol. 30, No. 1)