| The Real World |
Most often, the customer is represented by a small team during the software development process; this team (sometimes just a single person) is responsible for interacting with the software vendor, approving key deliverables, providing feedback on the progress of the project and making course corrections where required. Consequently, most of the features and capabilities that make it into the final release are based on the (largely subjective) decisions of a very small group of people. These decisions may not be accurate, or even representative of the application's user base; however, in the absence of more data, the development team has to take them into account when designing the software.
Now, once the customer's software has been released and installed to the target environment, it will come under the scrutiny of a much larger number of users, many of whom will have suggestions for improvement. If the customer is interested in keeping his or her users happy, these suggestions will need to be taken seriously, and implemented in future versions of the software wherever possible. Additionally, as the software is used on a regular basis in a live environment, bugs hitherto undiscovered by the testing team will surface, and will need to be rectified on a priority basis.
Since the customer already has a pre-existing relationship with the original developers of the software, and since those developers are intimately familiar with the inner mechanics of the application, it makes sense for these change requests and bug fixes to come back to the original development team for implementation. Thus begins a software maintenance cycle, in which released software is upgraded to account for changes, improvements and bugs on a periodic basis.
The initial software development effort is always a focused one, which takes place on a fixed schedule over a specified period of time. Change requests and bug notifications, however, take place on an ongoing basis after the software has been delivered to the customer, and tend to occur over a much longer time period than the initial development effort. Thus, the post-release phase of a software project can continue on for weeks and months after the project has officially concluded, and can even provide the vendor with an additional revenue stream in the form of charges for implementing changes.
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