p65-swanson - IS "Maintainability": Should It...

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IS "Maintainability": Should It Reduce the Maintenance Effort? E. Burton Swanson University of California, Los Angeles Acknowledgments 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. Abstract This paper reexamines information system (IS) maintainability 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 should 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 Keywords: IS maintenance, IS maintainability Introduction 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 organizations (Lientz & Swanson, 1980b; 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- opment). How to reduce the "maintenance bur- den" is the common theme (The Economist, 1990). 1 IS maintainability -- 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) 65
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densome maintenance effort and free needed resources for more new system development. The rationale for IBM's repository-based AD/Cycle used just this argument (Mercurio et al., 1990); proponents of object-oriented technolo- gies promise software reusability in much the same vein (BusinessWeek, 1991; Yourdon, 1993).
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p65-swanson - IS "Maintainability": Should It...

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