February 5, 2013

What We Can Learn From Famous Software Failures

Test Management
Test Management
Issue Management
It's a Tragedy: Famous Software Failures That Could Have Been PreventedDeath, injury, and physical harm. Loss of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. World-wide and even galaxy-wide embarrassment.  These are just a few of the consequences of some of the more famous software failures over the last couple of decades. These failures have received general interest press attention in the past, but have rarely been analyzed to understand how a rigorous testing process could have had an impact on the failure. In It's a Tragedy: Famous Software Failures That Could Have Been Prevented, I catalog seven of the most famous failures over the last 25 years, starting with the infamous Therac-25 radiation treatment machine. I look at the circumstances surrounding the failure, diagnose its root causes, and look at how effective testing may have made a difference. I don’t even mention some of the failures over the past couple of years, such as the so-called “flash crash” that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average down over 1000 points in a matter of minutes, mostly because the software that failed is proprietary and hasn’t been publicly analyzed for flaws. But it’s clear that the cost of a software failure is growing daily, and may soon reach catastrophic levels. Popular fictional accounts (I just finished re-watching Bruce Willis in the movie Live Free or Die Hard, for example) portend apocalypse through intentional or unintentional software failures. These software failures are amusing to read about (or scary, depending on your perspective), but we can also learn a lot of lessons from them. I try to draw some overarching conclusions at the end, but you may think of others. So, download and read the Ebook, then let me know what you think. If there are any conclusions you would like to share, please include them in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.