As organizations grow, so does the number of critical enterprise business applications that have custom coding. Even when implementing a robust packaged application, most enterprises have unique business process and transactional requirements that require code customization.

However, more often than not, ongoing maintenance of applications with custom code comes at a high price. Even the most minor changes require highly technical IT administrators who are working at different tiers in the data center, resulting in errors and, ultimately, application downtime. In today's fast-paced business world, application downtime is not an option, so organizations need to consider ways to limit the scope of their code customization and minimize maintenance costs.

Limit custom code in the first place

To mitigate the high, ongoing maintenance costs customization incurs, organizations should look for packaged applications that are flexible and comprehensive enough to handle their business processes and workloads. In other words, choose applications that require a minimal amount of custom coding to begin with.

However, there are often strategic advantages to custom coding, particularly to meet the needs of the moment. Even then, though, business needs inevitably change over time, requiring a small team of IT administrators to constantly recode, which is time-consuming and an overall drain on the organization's bottom line — not to mention, prone to human error. On the other hand, independent software vendors have massive research and development resources to ensure they can anticipate changing business needs and perform standard software and system upgrades, so businesses should not need to recode in response to every single industry shift.

How to keep maintenance costs down

Regardless of the pros and cons of custom applications, businesses will continue to customize their software, since doing so often offers strategic benefits. To keep ongoing maintenance costs down in these situations, many organizations benefit from bringing in a third-party service provider to help with critical system and application updates. Using automated code analysis tools, these service providers can detect and remediate any custom code errors and retire unused code, as well as enforce uniform coding standards wherever it makes sense, all at a dramatic cost reduction.

In an ideal world, packaged applications would be able to handle all levels of business processes and workloads for all types of organizations, but that's not reality. To remain competitive, businesses are forced to customize applications to fit their unique needs. With automated code analysis, remediation and standardization tools, organizations can get the best of both worlds, all while keeping ongoing maintenance costs at a minimum.

How does your company keep down maintenance costs related to custom coding? Have you enlisted a third-party partner, or are you still doing it in-house? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Karin Kelley is an independent industry analyst and writer, with over 10 years experience in information technology. She focuses on cloud infrastructure, hosted applications and services, end user computing and related systems management software and services. She spent nearly eight years at 451 Research, where she spearheaded coverage on emerging desktops-as-a-service (DaaS) markets. She has extensive expertise in enterprise infrastructure software and services, as well as a deep understanding of SMB, MSP and hosting markets. Karin holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Humboldt State University, where she also studied Geology.