The Importance of QA in Software Development


There’s no denying the importance of the QA role within the software development lifecycle. Some companies try to save money by giving the process short shrift. Relying on only acceptance testing, which doesn’t properly vet an application in a real world environment, only leads to higher losses if and when software fails in the future.

The old Fram oil filter commercial — “you can pay me now, or you can pay me later” — definitely applies in this case. The cost of fixing software bugs rises exponentially the later they are discovered in the SDLC. Software errors caused the U.S. economy to lose nearly $60 billion in 2002; today that number is probably closer to $100 billion.

To truly illustrate the importance of the QA process within software development, here’s a look back at a few famous software failures caused by inadequate testing. Hopefully learning about these mistakes helps prevents similar issues with the software developed and tested by your company.

Faulty Trading Software costs Firm $440 Million in 45 Minutes

In 2012, the U.S. stock trader, Knight Capital, reported a loss of $440 million due to a software bug within its trading application. The program confused the “bid” and “ask” price for a stock, essentially buying shares at the higher ask price and selling them instantaneously at the cheaper bid price. Introduce automated trading into the equation and Knight Capital lost nearly a half-billion dollars in less than an hour.

A Calculation Error in the Pentium taught Intel Customer Relations

Intel’s new Pentium microprocessor earned the chipmaker accolades in 1994, until a college mathematics professor discovered a calculation error in the chip’s embedded code. Intel tried to ignore the problem, reasoning that most users would never encounter the issue. However, enough disgruntled customers demanded a replacement, which Intel reluctantly agreed to, costing the company $475 million.

A mea culpa in Intel’s annual report to shareholders that year revealed the importance of QA to any company’s reputation. “We received a crash course in consumer relations. In the future, we intend to be better prepared to meet the public expectations that come with our dramatically higher profile,” the shareholder report commented.

Toyota Prius Software Glitch costs Billions

Toyota recalled nearly 400,000 Prius models in 2010 due a software bug in the car’s anti-lock braking system. The glitch caused the ABS to lag, which led to a potentially dangerous situation for drivers and passengers. The resultant class-action lawsuits due to this and other Toyota quality issues led to three billon dollars worth of payments.

The Great Blackout of 2003

In August of 2003, the Northeast United States suffered one of its worst blackouts in history. A glitch occurred when multiple power systems tried to simultaneously access the same data. Finding the software error that caused the problem required the analysis of millions of lines of code. The total cost of the bug: nearly $10 billion!

These examples of the real cost of software bugs reveal the need for QA at all points of a software project. Remember this golden rule: The earlier any bugs are found, the cheaper they are to fix!