What is software application enhancement?

The software you use today is about to change tomorrow, so start thinking about future enhancements now in your DevOps processes.
17 December 2018

Software and the processes in its development are subject to change. Source: Shutterstock

Software application developers and programmers work hard to build the apps we use every day.

Developers also spend a lot of time focused on engineering, integrating and deploying that software alongside their operations ‘Ops’ counterparts– often in newly-established DevOps teams designed to combine the working goals of both parties.

But not all apps just get built and then retired or killed off.

Lifecycle management

Many applications (and wider database analytics systems) will go through what the industry likes to call the software application development lifecycle (SDLC) when they are first built.

The SDLC describes the process of planning, analysis, design, build, test and implementation.

But the lifecycle has further steps into maintenance, enhancement, and progression.

Vendors are now appearing that are specifically describing themselves as application enhancement and maintenance specialists.

User demands today change so rapidly, it makes sense for organizations to look for ways to extend functionality rather than go through rip-and-replace cycles, which are, ultimately, always costly.

How does enhancement happen?

Some application enhancement will happen internally inside the IT department.

These are changes that have to be brought to bear as a result of external platform changes that impact the whole industry, new device form factors coming to market or perhaps as a result of data and application governance and compliance developments.

Software enhancement stage one is all about repairing applications bugs, glitches, errors, and anomalies. It is also the area where we can engineer apps to take advantage of better analytics, storage or processing speeds if they become available… and it is also the point at which we can engineer for better cross-platform compatibility.

External user-driven enhancement

Another application enhancement happens as a result of external user-based requests that are generated outside the IT department.

These enhancements aren’t always as easy to bring to bear inside the application stack, that is, sometimes the user base will ask for functionalities that aren’t easy to code, don’t fit well inside the current application execution engine and, quite simply, cause a disproportionately heavy drain on system resources.

As an example, if a cloud-based application has been engineered for deep back-end data analytics to make it really smart and produce some fancy new artificial intelligence (AI) functions, then it probably hasn’t been scaled and provisioned for heavy input/output data workloads; as we might expect to find in an inherently transactional application.

For want of a reasonably simple analogy… you can’t just drive a big (data analytics) truck designed for muddy unknown terrain quickly up a transactional highway unless you go back to the workshop and start again.

A formula for formality

User enhancement requests can be tough, but they can also be easy to deal with too.

Where business users have identified a formal business policy change within an organization and take the care to document the changes they need, life gets easier.

Where business users submit their application change requests through formalized ‘enhancement process’ models (many vendors call them just that), then life, in theory at least, also gets easier.

In the modern age of connection cloud apps, we know that software changes. Software development professionals now formally capitalize the letters in Continuous Delivery (CD) and Continuous Integration (CI) because they see the software delivery pipeline is always open and the flow is pretty constant.

Gone are the days of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) boxed CD-ROM based software where updates and new versions would only appear annually, or even less often.

Architectural challenges

So application enhancement is rarely easy, usually not straightforward, often convoluted and complex, generally always prone to areas of disagreement and typically expensive in terms of developer coding time and downtime if an app has to come offline.

Firms looking to enhance their existing set of software applications will need to perform an accurate assessment of their installed IT base, and, equally, carry out an audit their IT departments skill set to determine how much enhancement will have to be carried out by external specialists.

It’s important to remember that software changes over time and IT staff will leave their positions all the time. Ensuring that robust documentation exists is a proven route towards keeping an organization’s code stockpile properly categorized and ready for its next change.

The software you use today is about to change tomorrow, so be ready for that inevitable eventuality and start thinking about future enhancement now.