Continuing the journey
Completing a development build traditionally marks the transition into a support phase for any project. Outside moving a project into support, there are also opportunities to continually learn from your live application to improve it or define your next scope of work. It’s ideal for newly finished projects on their MVP to leave time to allow initial users to provide feedback, which will shape the next phase of the project. However, for long standing applications with large roadmaps, starting the next scoping effort should continue to improve your product while it is being maintained and enhanced in production.
The Support phase is focused on helping a product transition from active development to daily maintenance and improvements. As an indicator of importance, experts are clear that businesses should expect to budget 15-20% of the total spend every year the application is in support. Three core service offerings in Support are Maintain; handling customer requests and keeping an application operational, Product Success; reporting on application analytics and driving key insights for improvement and Enhance; incrementally improving an application using a rapid development flow.
An integral part of support is ensuring an effective handover occurs between the active delivery team and those responsible for supporting an application long term. This ensures that Support Developers will be able to operate in isolation from the delivery team, to efficiently monitor and improve an application. Once the build has successfully transitioned, the product will enter a continuous state of maintenance and improvement. The day-to-day operations of support involve managing requests coming from the product owner. Other tasks involved with supporting a product can include:
- Providing proactive and preventative monitoring through regular usage and testing of the product
- Advising the product owner on application and performance improvements
- Completing timely updates and upgrades
- Maintaining back-ups and providing recovery for the software
- Assisting with helpdesk or on-call support
Who needs Support?
Activating a support provider once a build has been completed is recommended for any and all applications. If you intend to have users on your application regularly, a support provider will be able to help ensure your users have consistent application access.
The reality of software development is that problems occur. There is no such thing as ‘perfect software.’ Whether these problems are in the application itself or the infrastructure, at some point you are going to need a group of developers who understand your product and who are able to quickly get everything running normally again.
A lesser known, but useful benefit of engaging support is the ability to proactively improve your application. Once in production, your application should be receiving feedback from your users both directly and indirectly. Direct feedback can come in the form of scheduled user feedback sessions or through various public communication channels. Indirect feedback generally comes from integrated analytics tools or will be uncovered as part of regular application maintenance. Having a group of developers available to action the feedback in shorter bursts means an application can be continually improved, without the need for a longer-term strategic build each time.
When Does Support Finish?
While an application is actively in use, it should continue to be monitored, supported, and improved upon. A familiar concept is where major software packages have become “end of life.” This generally means that the company who created the software has stopped building new features for the application and will no longer provide key fixes. Depending on the scale of the software and how many people use it, this can occur months after the initial release, or even decades after. In our experience, we are still supporting and building new improvements for applications that are up to 5-10 years old.