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Tuesday, 29 September 2009 11:04

Poor quality software, systems investments a costly mistake

By Staff Writers
Two of Australia’s software testing industry experts say Australia still suffers from a constant procession of multi-million dollar ICT project disasters involving software and system quality issues, despite the fact that the industry has had many decades to mature and “get it right”.
Long-time industry leader and authority on software testing, Dr Kelvin Ross, CEO of KJ Ross & Associates, and industry consultant and program director, Rob Oshlack, formerly of Queensland Health, both say that many organisations in Australia are getting it together when it comes to quality assurance, but they warn that there is still a long way to go.

Dr Ross was speaking in advance of his firm’s upcoming Software and Systems Quality Conference in Melbourne from 28 to 29 October, at which Rob Oshlack is one of the keynote speakers.

Rob Oshlack says the additional costs to companies who fail to invest in software and systems of sufficient quality can run into millions of dollars.  

According to Oshlack, this is often a case of “poor or misdirected investments in quality”, and he says once a significant investment in ICT has “gone to the dogs” you’re more than likely to have to perform the ICT equivalent of re- engineering or repairing an aircraft in-flight, and “hide the cost and effort in some obscure budget that the CFO won't notice whilst simultaneously blaming the IT operations people.”

Dr Ross, who has been working in the software testing industry for more than 20 years, says that the industry has come a long way in receiving the strategic attention it deserves, but he agrees with Oshlack that the industry still has a lot to do to address the quality issue, even though he acknowledges that the industry has matured in its approach to quality assurance. 

According to Dr Ross, in recent years managing risk and governance has moved to the forefront of many CIO’s concerns, and he says CIOs today are “very wary of showing up to the release meeting only to find many checks and balances haven’t be completed and in reality the application is to be jammed into production without any protection. 

“Naturally IT operations managers are frustrated with carrying the can and the high corrective costs to get things restored.  As a result, quality assurance is taking on a more strategic role in the release process, with visibility right up to the IT executive.”

By way of example, Rob Oshlack cites what he sees as a potential problem resulting from a lack of investment in quality in the airline industry.

He says, for instance, that investing in quality to many people might be associated with a “first class ticket on Emirates, Louis Vuitton luggage in hand and a week stay at the 7 Star Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai,” and that the “less ambitious or affluent could quite easily pack the old kit-bag, travel zoo-class and bunk out at the 2 star Holiday Inn and not put at risk anything more than a bit of personal comfort and ego whilst paying a fraction of the price.” 

Oshlack reckons, however, that whilst planning and spending your hard-earned on a trip overseas might appear to be “abjectly unrelated to software and systems quality,” he says it can highlight the difference of the instinctive risk/reward based decision making that “seeps into the software development efforts and project management.”  

Oshlack says he will outline his concerns for the ICT industry when he speaks at next month’s conference, and also speak about what he sees as the “myths of project management” and the “ignorance of software testing.”


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