Home > Articles > Software Development & Management > Management: Lifecycle, Project, Team

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

The Hidden Costs of Bad Software

When software is frustrating and difficult to use, people will avoid using it. That is unremarkable until you realize that many people's jobs are dependent on using software. The corporate cost of software avoided is impossible to quantify, but it is real. Generally, the costs are not monetary ones, anyway, but are exacted in far more expensive currencies, such as time, order, reputation, and customer loyalty.

People who use business software might despise it, but they are paid to tolerate it. This changes the way people think about software. Getting paid for using software makes users far more tolerant of its shortcomings because they have no choice, but it doesn't make it any less expensive. Instead—while the costs remain high—they become very difficult to see and account for.

Badly designed business software makes people dislike their jobs. Their productivity suffers, errors creep into their work, they try to cheat the software, and they don't stay in the job very long. Losing employees is very expensive, not just in money but in disruption to the business, and the time lost can never be made up. Most people who are paid to use a tool feel constrained not to complain about that tool, but it doesn't stop them from feeling frustrated and unhappy about it.

One of the most expensive items associated with hard-to-use software is technical support. Microsoft spends $800 million annually on technical support. And this is a company that spends many hundreds of millions of dollars on usability testing and research, too. Microsoft is apparently convinced that support of this magnitude is just an unavoidable cost of doing business. I am not. Imagine the advantage it would give your company if you didn't make the same assumption that Microsoft did. Imagine how much more effective your development efforts would be if you could avoid spending over five percent of your net revenue on technical support.

Ask any person who has ever worked at any desktop-software company in technical support, and he will tell you that the one thing he spends most of his time and effort on is the file system. Just like Jane in Chapter 1, users don't understand the recursive hierarchy of the file system—the Finder or Explorer—on Windows, the Mac, or Unix. Surprisingly, very few companies will spend the money to design and implement a more human-friendly alternative to the file system. Instead, they accept the far more expensive option of answering phone calls about it in perpetuity.

You can blame the "stupid user" all you want, but you still have to staff those phones with expensive tech-support people if you want to sell or distribute within your company software that hasn't been designed.

The Only Thing More Expensive Than Writing Software Is Writing Bad Software

Programmers cost a lot, and programmers sitting on their hands waiting for design to be completed gall managers in the extreme. It seems foolish to have programmers sit and wait, when they could be programming, thinks the manager. It is false economy, though, to put programmers to work before the design is completed. After the coding process begins, the momentum of programming becomes unstoppable, and the design process must now respond to the needs of programmers, instead of vice versa. Indeed, it is foolish to have programmers wait, and by the simple expedient of having interaction designers plan your next product or release concurrently with the construction of this product or release, your programmers will never have to idly wait.

It is more costly in the long run to have programmers write the wrong thing than to write nothing at all. This truth is so counterintuitive that most managers balk at the very idea. After code is written, it is very difficult to throw it out. Like writers in love with their prose, programmers tend to have emotional attachments to their algorithms. Altering programs in midstride upsets the development process and wounds the code, too. It's hard on the manager to discard code because she is the one who paid dearly for it, and she knows she will have to spend even more to replace it.

If design isn't done before programming starts, it will never have much effect. One manager told me, "We've already got people writing code and I'm not gonna stop." The attitude of these cowboys is, "By the time you are ready to hit the ground, I'll have stitched together a parachute." It's a bold sentiment, but I've never seen it work.

Lacking a solid design, programmers continually experiment with their programs to find the best solutions. Like a carpenter cutting boards by eye until he gets one that fits the gap in the wall, this method causes abundant waste.

The immeasurability and intangibility of software conspires to make it nearly impossible to estimate its size and assess its state of completion. Add in the programmer's joy in her craft, and you can see that software development always grows in scope and time and never shrinks. We will always be surprised during its construction, unless we can accurately establish milestones and reliably measure our progress against them.

Opportunity Cost

In the information age, the most expensive commodity is not the cost of building something, but the lost opportunity of what you are not building. Building a failure means that you didn't build a success. Taking three annual releases to get a good product means that you didn't create three good products in one release each.

Novell's core business is networking, but it attempted to fight Microsoft toe-to-toe in the office-applications arena. Although its failed efforts in the new market were expensive, the true cost was its loss of leadership in the networking market. The money is nothing compared to the singular potential of the moment. Netscape lost its leadership in the browser market in the same way when it decided to compete against Microsoft in the operating-system business.

Any developer of silicon-based products has to evaluate what the most important goals of its users are and steadfastly focus on achieving them. It is far too easy to be beguiled by the myriad of opportunities in high tech and to gamble away the main chance. Programmers—regardless of their intelligence, business acumen, loyalty, and good intentions—march to a slightly different drummer and can easily drag a business away from its proper area of focus.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020