If planes failed as much as software

If we suspected that the chances of stalling mid-flight or having our brakes fail while driving the car were very high, we would not want to fly or drive. In that scenario, neither of these industries would exist and we would travel by train, bicycle, scooter or simply walk, this being the healthiest option.

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However, both the aeronautical and automotive industries have chosen quality and a zero tolerance to failure as the foundation for their business. In fact, in the aeronautical industry there is only one accident in every 2.5 million journeys and most road accidents are due to people not obeying the traffic rules, especially those about speed, and other bad habits that we should probably not go into here.

This strong position undoubtedly derives from the investment effort made over decades in both these sectors and from the conviction that if accidents were to occur, the consequences would be disastrous in terms of finance, reputation and brand image; so much so that the existence of these markets as we know them would probably not be possible. Moreover, the companies operating in these markets are very clear about the strong competition between them, so the quality and excellence of their products is a decisive factor in them being able to succeed, differentiate themselves and maintain their position.

Both the aeronautical and automotive sectors were pioneers in applying quality standards and their commitment to continuous improvement is outstanding. In the automotive industry, for example, there are around 40,000 quality standards and most are implemented. In fact, for many years both of these industries have unsurprisingly been the embodiment of Tim Cook’s quote about his own company: the reality is that we love competition, we think it makes us all better”.

What about quality in the software industry?

Quality is also a priority for the software industry. We can agree that things are getting better and that programs no longer “crash” as much as they did years ago. However, it is also true that this industry is far from the levels reached in the automotive and aeronautical sectors. This problem is even worse when it comes to the software development and maintenance services segment, a problem that is even more acute in Spain.

Unfortunately, the market for software development and maintenance services in Spain prioritises low cost over quality and, since margins are tight, is based on cheap labour with little ongoing training, resulting in professionals with questionable skills.

A question of performance

This being the case, it is no surprise that talking about quality in this industry is problematic. The data we handle at Orizon, mainly confined to software development and maintenance in the financial sector, clearly shows the reasons for this. Currently, 50% of all technical components involve some form of bad practice and, more worryingly, when software is modified or updated, 18% of the time this bad practice is repeated.

In addition, when it comes to other key indicators such as cost, response times and service level agreements (SLAs), there is also clear room for improvement. In terms of costs, software changes alone lead to a 6% increase in consumption due to new versions. If we talk about response times, 16% of channel operations in banking have a higher average level as a result of changes made in production. And if we go back to SLAs, software upgrades are found to cause 9% more breaches each year.

These metrics imply that developments are not being done from a performance point of view and show that there is huge room for improvement. In fact, a software monitoring and optimisation platform, such as BOA, can achieve improvements in each individual process and an average cost saving associated with that process of 55%, a reduction of 43% in the duration of critical paths with SLAs and a 32% improvement in the average operational response time.

As in kitchens full of all kinds of recipe books, utensils and machines, but which continue to make the same dishes, in the technology area of many companies there are also various tools for monitoring and improving the quality of software, but their implementation is scarce, the number of users who use them is limited and, despite the continuous running of workshops on methodologies, the results fail to improve while the costs grow and grow.

The problem and root cause of many quality deficiencies lies in the measurement of performance, the final process, a subject that is extremely familiar to the industries that allow us to fly through the air or along the road. However, it remains an unresolved issue in the software development and maintenance market.

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