Trying to be cheap on your software is costing more — A Paradox
It remains as a mystery at the heart of Boeing’s Aircraft 737 Max crisis — how a company renowned for meticulous design made seemingly basic software mistakes that lead to a pair of deadly crashes.
Software inherently is intangible and less visible as it is non-physical. Software is so pervasive in our society that we are unaware of its presence until we encounter problems. The fact is — software is among the most complex and error-prone technologies in human history.
There have been innumerable examples where companies tried to cut down on IT spend, which proved counterproductive. Nothing wrong with trying to save costs on the software. But if the companies try to lower the cost without proper analysis and risk mitigation plans, they often pay higher prices for the lack of quality, security, scalability, and performance. Usually, the companies with no or partial understanding of technology are more at risk.
Software non-performance and failures are expensive. The media is full of reports of the catastrophic impact of software failures.
In March 2018, a self-driving Uber SUV struck and killed a pedestrian in suburban Phoenix, Arizona; Uber inferred that the likely cause was a problem in the software that determines how the car should react to objects it detects. The car’s sensors detected the pedestrian, but the software decided it did not need to react right away. How much this software flaw will eventually cost Uber is yet to be determined.
When you cut down on cost, what is at the risk of compromise?
The investment of time and resources towards developing and evolving high-quality software is variable amongst the companies. When the budget shrinks, the following are the areas that may be compromised.
- Coding Best practices
- Application Architecture
- Cloud Infrastructure Planning and Architecture
- Quality Control Measures
- Right Technology Stack, tools & Processes
- Data Security & Compliance
How do you compensate for the compromised cost of quality?
A product may have all the features and yet may not produce the desired outcome.
However, over a period of time, you may encounter a few or all of the following difficulties with your application.
- Performance & Scalability Issues
- Higher Maintenance Cost
- Expensive Cloud Services
- Lawsuits and Compliance
While you buy a pear, you evaluate its quality by its size, shape, ripeness, and absence of visible bruising. But only when you take the first bite of that pear will you be able to judge if the pear is really as good as you thought.
In the same way, you do not realize the quality of software until you start using it.
Technology can potentially reduce your business costs in the long run and, therefore, should be viewed as an investment.
That being said, just because software is expensive does not mean it is a quality product. Having a technology expert in the team and taking a second opinion will increase the probability of making the right choices.
You can’t cut your way to growth, but you can make a well-thought, well-evaluated decision.