Open the Doors of Business by Closing the Doors on Defects

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Summary:

The highest risk that software development organizations face today is allowing defects to creep into the releases made for their high-paying customers. At times, either due to fear of losing the order, or due to overconfidence, organizations allow defects to ship. Time to market and (practically) defect-free products are the two pillars of any successful business. This article reiterates the important points in the defect-free part of that equation. How do you successfully implement system testing to ensure that the doors for future business remain open?

It is well known that the cost of fixing defects detected in the later part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) is much higher than those fixed in earlier stages. Unfortunately, reviews and unit testing often take low priority due either to improper estimation or to the rush towards completion. Often reviews are cut back or skipped because the product will be tested later. Fixing defects in later stages of SDLC not only increases cost, but also creates side effects that might not show up until after delivery.

This fact creates a tremendous amount of pressure on the system testers, as this is the last opportunity the organization has to prevent defects from getting into the hands of customers. It is necessary for an organization to block defects at this stage. The business consequences are obvious for those who analyze the effects of an escaped defect going out the door to the customer. The following points are intended to help analyze put the defect-prevention case into perspective.

When the Customer Becomes the Tester
Most often the defects that escape from testing end up with the customer. This puts more pressure on your customer as he loses confidence in the products delivered to him. This means the customer ends up testing your products. The cost associated with "customer testing" is very high and can lead to deterioration of the business relationship.

Fixing Defects in the Field Is Expensive
There are three aspects to look at in this case. One is the cost associated with the delay, or downtime, it causes the end user. Another is the cost associated with the logistics of the developers and testers in the field. The third is the cost associated with the side effects of the instant fixes made in the field since only a minimal amount of testing is done.

Recalls Should Not Be an Option
Assume that you are a development company of software that resides in your customer's hardware. A new hardware is released in the market with your software bundled within. A hardware malfunction is detected and your customer is forced to recall all the hardware sold in the market. If the cause of the fault is attributed to the software you supplied, then you are expected to compensate a portion of the loss. In extreme cases, you may have to liquidate a portion of your assets to deliver payment. Think of all the opportunities during the development lifecycle when this could have been prevented!

Effort and Cost in Securing the Order Is High
Getting business from a good customer is a real achievement. The amount of effort and money that has gone into getting that customer can be astronomical. An obvious defect that has escaped through your system testing has the potential to do ruin the project.

Defects Are Credibility Issues
When you are an international business, any flaw in your system exposes you to damaged credibility with the international business community. Customers who placed an order, and the new orders waiting in the pipeline, will come to a standstill, as confidence in your company's reliability declines. Can any one measure the loss? Can you quantify the effort and money required to bring back lost confidence? There is an inevitable connection between loss of credibility and loss of revenue.

Future Revenue Losses Are Not Measurable
Defects undermine trust. Loss of customer trust can never be measured. Who knows the future business the customer had planned for you based on your past reputation? Who knows the orders that were waiting, but will now be cancelled? Who knows the business ahead of you

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