Life Cycle

Thinking about the design of a system requires consideration of the entire life of the system. Product Life Cycle begins from the time of initial conception and ends with its disposal.

There are books written about life cycle management but just consider for now when you contemplate building something that you must also plan for how it will be decommissioned, demolished and disposed.

For example; before the first battery was placed on a retail shelf there should have been laws put in place that require every store that sells batteries to accept used ones with no questions asked.

There is a Chinese (I believe) proverb that says something to the effect; "Consider how you will get off, before you jump onto the back of a tiger."

It is moral, ethical and right to plan for how your creations having fulfilled their usefulness are returned to dust without negative impact on the environment.

Having considered the big picture implications of our product it is time to look at the steps to developing it.


Product development projects are roughly divided into phases. These are referred to variously as Planning, Requirements, Design, Implementation, Deployment, Production, Withdrawal, and Disposal.

Often a project will be cancelled after planning. Sometimes a product will be terminated during production. Other times It will be deployed, followed by several more development projects before the product is withdrawn from marketing and gradually dismantled. So some products don't make it through all the phases while others go through several iterations of some phases.

During the original product planning, contingency budgets are made for advancing to the next phase which is usually more expensive than the previous phases combined. It is nice when a product makes it to deployment so that some of the investment can be returned via income.

The system engineer is involved in all phases of the product life cycle. It usually tapers off when implementation is underway unless multiple versions are planned.

Product Life Cycle Support

Systems engineers develop a life cycle support plan for a product. Here is one oriented to a software system.

Phase  Definition  Support  Updates 
Concept  The concept phase begins with an RFP and concludes at contract signing.  N/A  N/A 
Development  The development phase begins at contract signing and concludes with alpha testing.  Communications Manager captures internal and external discrepancies.  N/A 
Deployment  Deployment begins with alpha testing and concludes when acceptance test is passed.  Begin support according to in-place support agreements.  Product release updates are installed according the project plan. 
Maintenance  Maintenance begins with the passing of the acceptance test and concludes at the end of the contract period.  Product support is provided according to active support agreement.  Product release updates are provided at no additional charge. Without a maintenance agreement in place, the software is warranted for a period of one year from the last update. Hardware warranty is not extended beyond that of the manufacturer. The warranty covers the resolution of priority 1 problems detected after the acceptance test. 
Production  Production begins at the conclusion of the maintenance period continues until retirement.  Same as Maintenance.  Product release updates are provided as per annual maintenance agreement. 
Retirement  Retirement begins 1 year from vendor announcement to discontinue service of the product. This is a notice of vendor intention to cease support of a product.  No change from Production but licensee should make plans for product replacement.  No change from production phase. 
Unsupported  Begins at the retirement date.  Support calls will not be accepted.  No further updates will be provided. 

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