Beware the costs of poor quality software development

14 September 2020 Consulting.us

While the need for software development is booming in light of steep demand for apps, systems and tech-driven innovation, there is a growing convergence in the quality delivered by IT development houses.

The rise of digital transformation has fuelled demand for digital across all facets. Companies are adopting digital to achieve a better customer experience, or improved operations. Consumers embrace digital to communicate with governments and manage dealings including healthcare, banking and leisure activities.

Illustrating the rapid rise of digital, take apps as an example. Today, there are more than 5 million apps in the App Store (2.8 million) on Google Play (2.2 million). Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has made digital only more relevant and important. Due to the need for remote working and social distancing, digital tools have emerged as the new way of working, and according to many, one that is here to stay.

The world of digital is powered by software developers, who lead the software development process. According to Evans Data Corporation, last year there were about 23.9 million software developers, and while this sounds like a lot, the field is facing a (growing) shortage. One estimate even places the demand for software at twice the current supply, meaning that organisations are having to prioritise their IT work or forego on some of their digital ambitions.

Quality of software development can vary significantly

Quality in software development?

The strain of software developments teams is however leading to concerns about quality. Because while a lot of software is being created, benchmarks have shown that these can differ markedly in quality. To understand how companies can go about the quality pitfall, Consultancy.org spoke with experts from Romanian IT consultancy AROBS.

The first point highlighted by the experts is that in many areas, there are no clear standards or global guidelines for outlining and measuring the quality of a software product. Instead, ‘quality’ is determined by factors including meeting the expectations of consumers, abiding to security principles, or meeting requirements set by managers and IT-leaders of companies.

The experts from AROBS say that quality can broadly be assessed across three levels. First, the functional qualities of the software. Here, it is about meeting user expectations. If the users are satisfied with the product it means it has been well designed and developed. The ISO 8402-1986 standard for instance spells out that quality is about meeting and satisfying the implied needs.

A second level is the structural setup of software. According to the Consortium for IT Software Quality (CISQ), there are five structural indicators that determine the ‘value’ of software: reliability, efficiency, security, maintainability, and (adequate) size.

The third level looks purely at the extent to which software meets the proof-of-concept, the business case set by management and the software development process spelled out. If developers are able to meet these objectives, then they have satisfactorily fulfilled what was expected of them.

Costs

When software development processes go wrong, then costs can spiral out of control. In North America, the cost of non-quality software for corporations alone is estimated by CISQ to be above $2.8 trillion – a staggering number considering that it equates to approximately 10% of the GDP of the United States.

For companies that engage software developers, it is key to carefully assess providers and IT outsourcing partners prior to working with them. “When companies fail to properly conduct this assessment, then they risk facing high costs later on in the process,” said an IT expert from AROBS. As with all IT development initiatives, fixing errors further down the line is significantly costlier than getting it right in the first place.

The expert adds that it is important to look beyond just costs of external suppliers. “Consider in addition the economic and political climate of the country and even the region, and look into the cultural fit between the organisations.”


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