November 2, 2021

App Maintenance Cost Can Be Three Times Higher than Development Cost

Initial software development costs are low compared to costs for maintenance and updates

App Maintenance Cost Can Be Three Times Higher than Development Cost

A good number of businesses do not realize that the initial costs for designing and developing an enterprise application are only a fraction of the total cost of ownership (TCO). The costs for maintaining and updating your app may form as high as 70% of the TCO during the entire life cycle of an app.

Furthermore, many businesses are misguided to think that app maintenance is mostly bug fixing, which is really not the case. Any enterprise is evolving over time and needs enhancements to be made. You also need to update the software to run smoothly on newer versions of both desktop and mobile operating systems. You need to patch your app to address the ever-evolving security threats.

Defining Software Maintenance Costs

Defining the costs for software maintenance is hard because there multiple factors involved in the evolution of a software app. Furthermore, the costs will vary depending on whether you are developing your software in-house or you are purchasing off-the-shelf software.

The Cost of Software Maintenance

In both scenarios, you have costs that involve the following driving factors:

  • Corrective maintenance – No software is perfect, so about 20% of software maintenance costs originate from correcting issues you discover following the initial release or deployment.
  • Adaptive maintenance – Then, another 25% of the overall maintenance costs occur when you adapt the software meet the requirements of changing business environment.
  • Perfective maintenance – Some 5% of the maintenance costs are resulting from enhancing your software to make it perform better.
  • Enhancements – No software is a static one, thus about half of the maintenance costs occur due to constant innovations required to remain competitive.

As you see, there are four major factors defining the nature of the software maintenance costs.

Enterprise App Maintenance Costs

A report by Forrester Research finds that only 35% of the overall cost for developing and running a mobile app are related to the software development. More than 70% of the overall cost is due to maintenance. Industry experts believe that you should multiply development cost by 3 to get the true cost of implementing and successfully maintaining an enterprise app.

If you are developing an Android app, you must expect at least two major updates of the operating system a year. This means that you need to make enhancements and update your app on a regular basis to maintain compatibility.

Furthermore, every major phone manufacturer is releasing new features several times a year. You need to incorporate these features into your app then support next versions. Updating your app is also part of the maintenance costs, as new cyber threats are emerging daily.

A research paper called “Distribution of Cost over the Application Lifecycle – a Multi-case Study” finds that if you are to develop and maintain an app for a period of 5 years, only 21% of the overall cost is in the stage of planning and development. The other 79% of the total life cycle cost are recurring costs for enhancing and maintaining the software.

Software Life Cycle Costs

Obviously, a more complex software will require more enhancements and other maintenance activities, so the costs go up.


According to different industry surveys, maintenance costs as a percentage of build costs vary from 40% to over 90%. The costs for software maintenance vary by project and no two projects are the same. Nonetheless, your software maintenance costs are always higher than costs incurred during the design and development stages.

That is why you need to plan the overall software development and implementation costs very carefully and include maintenance costs from the very beginning. It is quite important as your app maintenance costs could exceed up to three times the amount you spend on initial software planning and development.

Furthermore, you should of course find a maintenance partner that can supply Enterprise App Maintenance in a cost efficient and agile way. 


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Claes Widestadh Author

Claes Widestadh

Interim COO