The lifecycle of a software is not very different from the lifecycle of products, or even the lifecycle of a company. However, agility in the development of a software solution is key to maximizing its longevity. Companies must be on constant technological watch and adapt their technological plan either to equip their internal teams with the right tools, or to offer software that meets the needs of their clients. In other cases, companies innovate in their approach to the market. The bell-shaped curve often used to depict the lifecycle of things reflects the following phases: Development, Introduction, Growth, Maturity (or stabilisation), Decline. But this shape can be altered to stretch out the Growth or Maturity phases of the solution through technological vision, agility and constant reassessment.
Eventually, the curve will go into decline, but companies can be proactive to redesign their software and bounce back, reducing risks for themselves and their clients. Whether you’re enhancing an existing software or starting from scratch, here are some questions you should be asking yourself:
- Does the solution still meet immediate or imminent needs?
- When was the last time clients, or their users, were consulted about this solution?
- What is the competition offering as a more innovative solution?
- Does the technological platform of the solution (hardware and software architecture, programming language, expertise, etc.) still support potential enhancements?
- What is the availability of upgrades for peripheral applications connected to the application, or used by the solution (plug-ins, third-party solutions, etc.)? Has there been an end-of-life announcement for their maintenance?
- Could integration or interface needs with other solutions extend the life of the solution?
In short, here are the phases of a software lifecycle:
At this stage, an entrepreneur’s or a visionary’s software idea meets a need, serves a specific market or opens up new opportunities. The entrepreneur or visionary will try to buy the solution off-the-shelf or, better yet, ask a company like Spiria to specifically develop it. The software could serve the internal needs of the company, or those of their clients. The software development cycle is started.
This is the beginning of the digital transformation of most clients, users or specific groups. Processes, roles and responsibilities must be reassessed pre-deployment to support the success of the new software. In a competitive market, it will be crucial to achieve the right balance between reducing time to market or use, on the one hand, and including patches and must-haves, on the other hand. Feedback is critical at this stage, to assess adoption rates and challenges met. Version updates are frequent at this stage.
The software solution is fully implemented, and take-up rates are high. Users make it their own and its added value is clearly or progressively demonstrated at this phase. Gains are quantifiable and optimisation increases internal productivity or clients’ productivity. Version updates and upgrades are regular, as new needs emerge. “Nice-to-haves” that had been put on the back burner are reassessed and perhaps implemented.
4. Maturity (or stabilisation)
The consolidation of the previous steps standardizes the software solution. Requests are slowing to a trickle and adoption rates are plateauing. This is a critical period for the reassessments listed above. This period can vary in length depending on the speed of transformation and change in the industry or activity sector.
Due to lack of vision or adaptation to contextual changes, to consumption patterns or to digital and market transformation, the software gradually becomes obsolete, no longer meeting the needs of clients or users. As a result, they will seek out new technological solutions to continue progressing and obtaining optimisation gains.
Carlo Rossi, Spiria.