It's no secret that poor software quality is a continually nagging issue for CIOs. But just how bad is it? The Standish Group recently estimated that low-quality software costs the U.S. economy $60 billion each year. And Gartner Inc. claims that 80 percent of unplanned downtime in the enterprise is caused by software application and production errors, which can cost as much as $100,000 per hour.
With this in mind, the BPM Forum created the Software Economics Council this past June. SECO's leadership committee includes executives from a number of software firms, including EDS Corp., IBM Corp., Novell Inc., Oracle Corp., SAP AG and Mercury Interactive Corp. "As the software industry moves into adulthood, it has come to a point where we have to be much more serious about quality and engineering," says Shirish Netke, chief strategy officer at Aztec Software Inc., and chairman of SECO's leadership committee. "To do that, players in the ecosystem have to come together and start talking about how to address customer demands."
And those demands are steep. According to a study conducted by the BPM Forum, 77 percent of companies say they are dependent, or extremely dependent, on the performance of their business software applications, and 63 percent say business software is an important part of how companies capture emerging opportunities in the marketplace.
What is actually being done to improve software quality? Netke says software firms are working on several approaches, including better quality assurance methods that will encourage more collaboration between developers and testers. In addition, new tools help software developers automatically test for bugs. "If you can automate that testing process, it makes your release cycles far more predictable," and software more reliable, Netke says.
Netke adds that despite the recent figures released by the Standish Group, software quality has improved over the past few years. "Quality awareness has gone up dramatically," he says. "We no longer are in the situation where a software company says, 'Here's the software, take it or leave it.' Now they're saying, 'Our responsibility is to address the business needs of our customers.' That's quite a change from ten years ago."
The SECO leadership committee, which will meet through conference calls every few months, held its first meeting in June to establish its agenda, which it will announce at the end of the summer. The group will publish a newsletter and white papers, and will also host Webinars.