Abbreviations and acronyms are everywhere in the technology landscape. You’ve probably heard of Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). We’ve been talking about MaaS lately and, you guessed it – people are asking what is Maintenance as a Service?

In software, Maintenance as a Service (MaaS) is a type of managed service. It is focused on post-launch processes and activities required to keep critical applications up to date and functioning properly. It includes access to a wide range of business and technical roles on a fractional basis. Maintenance as a Service is designed to help growing companies scale without overspending on technical headcount.

Maintenance isn’t a program. It’s a practice.

Alex Vuocolo
What is maintenance as a service? It's like hiring someone to take care of a Bonsai tree. It will last a long time if you maintain it. You can do it yourself or pay someone with the expertise to do it for you.
Bonsai is an example of long-term asset that requires regular maintenance. You can do it yourself or, if you don't know how, you can hire someone to care for it. Photo credit to Jmboyle85 on Pixabay.

Table of Contents

What qualifies as "maintenance"?

Before we get started, let’s make sure we have a shared understanding of what we mean when we say “maintenance”.

Alex Vuocolo’s article on The Disappearing Art of Maintenance is focused on maintenance as a framework for addressing climate change. It’s also filled with a lot of really important concepts that also apply directly to business critical applications and websites.

For example, he writes:

The way the world is constructed today is no longer legible, politically or technically. Objects come and go under mysterious circumstances. Cars and trains either run or someone else fixes them. The objects in our lives are shipped to us from faraway lands, and they work until they don’t. Discarded, they get hauled away in the early morning by stinky trucks. 

Maintenance mostly happens out of sight, mysteriously. If we notice it, it’s a nuisance. When road crews block off sections of highway to fix potholes, we treat it as an obstruction, not a vital and necessary process. 

Maintenance in Software

Software is a technical discipline that’s impossible for most of us to really understand. 

It’s both a science and an art. We hire talented people who use modern day hieroglyphics in a combination of words we recognize and symbols like < / ! * & and more. One file calls another file and that one calls several more. 

Complexity isn’t limited to custom apps. Even Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solutions like web content management and eCommerce systems can require many complex configurations to achieve the business outcomes we need.

Software maintenance is the process of both fixing what’s broken AND making changes proactively so the entire system lasts longer.

Business leaders need a framework for managing maintenance complexity once the software is built and delivered to the world. It’s an active engagement that will lead to long-term success and helps avoid expensive traps along the way.

Maintenance helps avoid the set-it-and-forget-it trap

By the time most teams have made it through the “let’s build an app” process, they’re usually tired and ready to be done with the whole process.

Even the best builds require a lot of emotional effort and complicated decision making. We often need our new software to do more than our budget will cover. It’s got to work the way our business works and, sometimes, we run into technical complexity nobody expected. All the tradeoffs can be exhausting.

Teams are usually so happy to finally start using the system that they just want to take a pause. It’s completely understandable. It’s also dangerous – here, the business takes its first big step into deferring maintenance.

Deferring maintenance almost always makes things more expensive.

It’s true with the pothole filled roads you drive on. It’s true with the houses we live in. And, it’s true with the software on which we run our most critical business processes and value creation streams.

You can avoid this trap by understanding the value a software maintenance framework brings to your business. 

The value of a software maintenance framework

People who commit to the practice of maintenance usually get these benefits:

  • Lower risk
  • Faster response times to customer reported issues
  • Lower overall cost of ownership
  • More (and sometimes happier) customers

Those are some pretty big statements and you’d be right to ask us to tell you more.

Lower Risk

Let’s start with WordPress. It’s the most popular platform in the world for website development (including eCommerce). 

Kinsta.com’s Wild and Interesting WordPress Statistics and Facts (2022) article says there are more than 55,000 WordPress plug-ins. It also says more than 25% of sites are still using version 4.9. At the time of their writing, WordPress 5.2 was the current version and a whopping 78% of sites were using an older version than 5.2. 

WordPress is now up to version 6.0+ Do you imagine that there are more up to date sites – or fewer?

The risks aren’t limited just to WordPress and other commercial software. All eCommerce, mobile apps, and custom applications rely on a core technology and many different libraries (we call these “dependencies”). 

In addition to core technology and dependencies, development teams often highly customize these systems to meet your unique business needs. Every customization requires its own maintenance cycle. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a great example of this. An API allows your website or application to exchange data and information with another system.

Out of date core software and plug-ins are consistently two of the top five risks IT security professionals cite as causes for malware and compromises. In another article, we’ll talk about some of the reasons people don’t keep their systems up to date.

Simply put, majority of the world’s websites are out of date at some level. Is yours?

You don’t have to have high levels of risk due to outdated systems and dependencies. A software maintenance framework allows you to plan for regular patches and updates.

With Maintenance as a Service as part of your framework, a skilled and experienced team will do this work for you. It won’t eliminate all security risks but it will solve 2 of the top 5 risks to your software.

Faster Response Times

Your users will experience slowdowns and even things that don’t work. You probably know exactly how they feel. 

Remember the last time you had to get something done and ran into the spinning icon? Or, worse, maybe you saw one of those quirky “This is not the page you’re looking for” messages (aka, a 404 error). It’s inevitable.

For SaaS companies, user engagement is critical. If they can’t use your software, they can’t book an appointment or make a purchase or complete their work. When it happens frequently, those users leave and churn rate increases. 

All of these things are bad outcomes.

Successful technology-driven businesses are responsive. They know when things are not performing well and have a plan for addressing them. Quickly. They invest in proactive solutions because they understand that users have an ever increasing set of choices.

How quickly can your business respond if your site or app is offline, broken, or running slowly?

A Maintenance as a Service partner will have ways to monitor your site and application for a wide variety of conditions. This includes monitoring things like server load, throughput time, outages, and other factors. They’ll also have a team of content and technical experts on standby to fix customer reported issues. 

These experts will help you make decisions about short-term fixes that will get your system back online quickly as well as the longer-term solutions you’ll want to invest in for sustainability.

Lower Cost of Ownership

Many business owners and leaders only think of maintenance when something breaks. Repair is part of maintenance. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive way to maintain your asset.

By now, most people have heard the “changing oil in a car” analogy. Let’s change it up a bit, shall we? 

Brakes are an essential part of our cars. Over time, they wear down. If we wait too long, we’ll start to hear a long and loud squeal. It’s not the normal squeaky brake sound. If you hear it, you’ll know because it also comes with a grinding sound. That’s a wear indicator to let you know you’re well past due for maintenance. Now, you need repair. You’ll be changing more parts than you would if you had replaced the pads a little earlier. Ignore the warning and the results can be catastrophic.

Nobody likes to pay for brakes. Just like Alex said in his article, cars (like trains) are complicated systems. Investing in maintenance is what he calls a “tough sell” because it doesn’t seem necessary – until it something bad happens.

Software systems are no different. 

Waiting too long is the most expensive way to to maintain your software.

Sure, you’ll save some money in the short-term. But when those systems become too outdated or unstable, the cost of bringing them to a current level can easily equal or exceed the amount you would have paid to keep them current over time.

With a maintenance framework in place, you’ll proactively invest in one of your most critical assets. When it’s time to make a capital investment, it will will be strategic and focused on new opportunities rather than sending money just to catch up to where you should have been.

Happier Customers

Last, but not least, a maintenance framework helps you have happier customers. 

Many factors influence customer happiness – from user experience to design and support. 

Maintenance is the #1 most commonly overlooked factor in customer satisfaction.

When your system is performing well, users are accomplishing their goals. When you’re able to add small new features and updates, they’re delighted to see improvements. 

All these factors encourage users to stick around. Your customer lifetime value grows and, in turn, provides more revenue to fund the company’s growth.

With Maintenance as a Service, you can have a full coverage team for keeping things up to date, fixing things when they break, and even adding minor features or updates that delight your customers. If you’ve already got a development team that’s trying to keep up with new things, a Maintenance as a Service partner also reduces their workload and allows the team to focus primarily on deploying new features.

What is included in software Maintenance as a Service?

Maintenance as a Service Options

Your options with Maintenance as a Service partner can vary widely. In most cases, you’ll have access to services like:

  • Performance monitoring
  • Disaster planning
  • Disaster recovery
  • End user technical support
  • Content changes for copy and images
  • Configuration changes
  • Dependency management (plug-in updates, “app” updates, theme updates)
  • Software version updates (e.g. PHP, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, etc.)
  • Application migration and hosting
  • Break-fix support
  • Minor feature development
  • Technical updates
  • Application Programming Interface (API) implementation and maintenance
  • Database architecture design support
  • Database administration
  • Database updates and migration
  • Technical architecture design support
  • Development Operations (DevOps) hosting, webserver, and infrastructure management

How to Choose a MaaS Team

Maintenance as a Service is an alternative to increasing your company’s internal headcount by hiring an entire team. It’s also an attractive alternative to hiring an individual freelancer.

When your business depends on software and technology, you should have a team that covers all the options we covered earlier. While you may be able to find someone skilled in many of these areas, you’re unlikely to find a single person who can do it all. And, in many cases, there’s just not enough work to keep a team busy and interested. 

You can use these five categories as a starting point for evaluating a Maintenance as a Service partner:

  • Coverage – How well does the MaaS provider cover the full range of options?
  • Flexibility – What are the ongoing activities you’ll pay for vs. the activities you can buy as you need them?
  • Collaboration – How will you interact with the team that supports you?
  • Response Time – What is the MaaS provider’s Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
  • Escalation – How (and how quickly) will you get help if the team is not meeting your expectations?

Recap: What is Maintenance as a Service?

We’ve covered a lot of details here. Thanks for staying with us!

To recap:

  • Maintenance is a way of thinking about making things last.
  • This mindset leads to an investment in a system called a maintenance framework.
  • Software maintenance includes regular monitoring, content and design tweaks, updates to your core systems, break/fix support, and even minor feature development.
  • Maintenance as a Service (MaaS) is a managed service – a way to partner with an experienced team that can manage your maintenance framework with and for you.
  • With a qualified MaaS partner, you’ll worry less and your business will enjoy lower levels of risk, faster response times, lower overall cost of ownership for software, and happier customers.

Questions about how MaaS can help you?

We believe that anyone can implement an effective maintenance framework within their team. You can check out The LOFT Way to learn more about how you can do it.

For some teams, it just makes sense to work with a service provider instead of doing it yourself. Our team at LOFT exists to deliver peace of mind through managed Maintenance as a Service. It’s a software maintenance framework – done for you!

Why not schedule a call now to see how we can help? 

If you’re not quite ready, we’d still love to hear from you. Jump into a conversation with us over on LinkedIn or Facebook!