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Code of Conduct for Software Maintenance

By Steve Jones, I ran across this article about a recent symposium for CIOs where a code of conduct for IT maintenance that was developed as a guideline for how companies want their software vendors to behave.  This is strictly a customer driven initiative, organized by the Gartner Group, to try and ensure that software companies treat their customers fairly.

I was surprised to hear that the CIO of Lowes say that software maintenance costs are the largest growing line item in his budget. If that continues, then the price of maintaining software could be a real issue for companies. If it is, then will they slow down they software upgrade cycles? What happens to the innovation of software if companies expect versions to be in production use for 5-7 years? Will that impact the 18-24 month cycle of SQL Server?

It's hard to say what might happen, but I do think that sometimes the cost of software maintenance is out of line with the true maintenance costs. Is a 20% margin fair? Especially when it seems every software package out there needs regular maintenance in order to work well. Is that because software just needs repair and enhancement once it gets used by the public? Or is it because software vendors are not testing enough and expecting clients to just live with their level of quality?

The code is a good idea, and if enough large companies agree that adherence is necessary for them to purchase upgrades, I can see software companies starting to abide by its provisions. I have to say that Microsoft already follows some of the guidelines, like regular patches for its products. I think Microsoft has fair licensing practices for test and development machines, though it might be nice to see different support levels for different levels of criticality.

Steve Jones

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