Communications of the Association for Information Systems


Application maintenance is a critical, yet unheralded, activity in most IT organizations. Left unmanaged, maintenance costs can easily spiral out of control to consume the lion’s share of the IT budget. As the saying goes, “If you don’t manage maintenance, it will manage you.” To explore the organizational issues of application maintenance, the authors convened a focus group of senior IT managers from a variety of different companies representing several industries. This article is based on these discussions. It first examines the root causes of application maintenance and the importance of this issue. It then reviews the sourcing–maintenance debate and explains the “maintenance trap” that has plagued IT organizations for a long time. Application support is then investigated and linked to the four types of maintenance (i.e., corrective, adaptive, preventive, and perfective). The article concludes with a number of proven strategies suggested by the focus group to enable IT organizations to manage application maintenance … rather than the other way around.