Software maintenance

CAI Europe, Ltd., a software services company based in London and Cambridge, has succeeded in reducing the cost of maintaining application software by over 30 per cent for a number of their clients in the UK and Europe. They have achieved this using a proven service offering named “Managed Maintenance” (MM).
    
The CAI MM service provides superior maintenance of an application suite using “Best Practice” processes and proprietary software named Tracer. The CAI Europe maintenance team assumes full responsibility for the management of the application maintenance, reporting through a set of constantly improving software and service metrics specified in a Service Level Agreement (SLA) – all for a fixed price per month, regardless of the hours expended by the CAI maintenance team.

CAI software maintenance history
In the 1980’s, very few firms would do fixed price software development contracts; and those that did would cover the risk by setting the price at more than double their best estimate. CAI developed methods for accurate software estimating, and had all developers conduct detailed time tracking of each activity.         By collecting such data, CAI was able to develop a database of actual times for completing certain tasks, and then used this data to refine future estimates. As more projects were completed and more actual time tracking data collected, the formulae and data became so refined that CAI was able to perform highly accurate estimates and thus bid fixed price projects lower than the competition while still earning a profit with only minor risks.
    
Early in the 1990’s, a CAI client requested that CAI perform the maintenance of the application software – also at a fixed price! CAI successfully leveraged their time estimating methods and database within a maintenance environment. It soon became apparent, however, that software maintenance was more complicated with many tasks that were quite difficult to predict for a normal maintenance team.
    
Software maintenance needed a methodology and set of processes in its own right. But instead of being project based, these processes needed to be developed for each software maintenance task. By then tracking the time completed on such tasks, accurate estimating data and formulae could be developed that would make fixed price maintenance possible without assuming a tremendous risk. This was the origin of CAI's “Managed Maintenance” service offering.
    
Over time, CAI continued to refine their Managed Maintenance processes and procedures. A basic axiom of process improvement is that “if you can’t measure it, you can't manage it.” Consequently, CAI set out to define the metrics for their software maintenance processes, as well as the business rules that would apply to these, and then set out to actually collect the data.
    
Shortly thereafter, a tool was developed by CAI that would not just perform the time tracking on maintenance tasks, but would also record and report these metrics. With Tracer, not only did CAI have the ability to conduct continuous process improvement (CPI), but they could now also produce reports to the CAI client that demonstrated the level of maintenance service being provided that documented the trends towards continuously improving service levels.
    
When these features of CAI Managed Maintenance became fully operational in 1996, CAI was the only company in the world that possessed the capabilities for providing true fixed cost application maintenance with accurate reporting of service levels, guaranteed reductions in maintenance costs, and year over year increases in productivity.  

CAI Managed Maintenance new client transition
The transition of application support from the existing client team to the CAI MM team was very difficult to complete successfully for each CAI MM new client. How does one get years of application support knowledge from one person to another? And how to make sure that the hundreds of other tasks and issues in getting a new MM team performing in a new client environment are completed for every new CAI MM client?
    
To address these issues, CAI developed the Managed Maintenance Transition Methodology which incorporated and blended proven processes for Application Knowledge Transfer (AKT), Team Leader Knowledge Transfer (TLKT), evaluation of the client’s processes, and standard Managed Maintenance processes (Best Practices). First developed and put into practice in 1998, the CAI MM Transition has undergone numerous process improvements and had new features added for “split teams” and offshore maintenance.
    
CAI is also the founder of The IT Metrics and Productivity Institute, a non-profit educational organisation created to improve the practice and management of software development and maintenance worldwide. The Institute seeks to accomplish its mission through the promotion of best practices in the areas of process, metrics, estimation, and IT governance.             

Through the Institute, CAI is able to share with the industry the process management insights they have acquired from over 25 years of experience serving Fortune 1000 and public sector clients.  The Institute conducts conferences and workshops around the world on a weekly basis and runs bi-monthly, educational webinars at no charge to the IT public.For more information
To find out more, please visit the Institute's main event page at www.itmpi.org/events

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