Use Quality Assurance to Mitigate Your Software’s Risk Exposure

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Posted by Brian Borg

The world is currently learning an awful lot about risk.  People across the world involve themselves in daily risk assessments concerning ones’ of exposure to a deadly virus.

Similarly, business owners and companies are assessing their financial risks as they temporarily must close their doors.  We are also learning a lot about mitigating these risks.  Such mitigation methods include social distancing and wearing masks when we venture out.  For companies it means sending their employees to work from home or other remote work spaces.  Thanks to the current healthcare crisis, risk exposure management is part of the business process.

The Value of Risk Mitigation

The Hugo award writer, Robert Heinlein, once said that by never taking an unnecessary chance and minimizing the risks you can't avoid, you can play out the game untroubled by the certainty of the outcome.  This is what risk mitigation is.  It can be defined as the creation and adherence to outlined steps in order to enhance opportunities by reducing adverse consequences.  Managing your risk exposure doesn’t mean to avoid all out risk.  It involves decreasing the levels of uncertainty involved in a plan.  As Warren Buffet says, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”  For investment portfolio managers, success is often measured by the losses that were avoided by being on the sidelines during a bear market.  Avoiding the 10 worst days in the history of the stock market would have saved more money than was earned in the 10 best days in stock market history.  Managing your risk exposure can have a direct correlation to ROI.  

Software Code is a Risk

Think about this.  Every time a software developer inserts a snippet of new code into an application, an element of risk is introduced.  Added code equates to added risk.  That portion of risk may be small, but it doesn’t take a lot of code to produce costly events.   As noted in an article in Atlantic Magazine, The Coming Software Apocalypse, the following events occurred all on a single summer day in 2015.

  • United Airlines was forced to ground its planes due to a problem with its departure-management system
  • The New York Stock Exchange experienced a four-hour outage due to a botched software upgrade
  • Seattle’s emergency 911 system went down due to a software code glitch running on a server in Colorado
  • Readers of the Wall Street Journal could not read about these events in real time as its website had crashed

Not all code is risk inherent.  Like Pareto’s principle of wealth that states that 80 percent of wealth is held by 20 percent of population, or the principle that 80 percent of work is done by 20 percent of people, it is only a minority portion of a large application that causes the majority of the faults.  It is not knowing where that minority of code lies that can have huge consequences.   

“Software is eating the world,” as Marc Andreesen said in his famous editorial. ” It is becoming a larger and larger part of our daily lives. Basically it runs the world.  From Wall Street, to the local hospital, software runs the things we depend on.  That vastly increased reliance has amplified our vulnerability to bad code as well.  A software like pandemic would prove highly destructive for our way of life.

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How Agile Development and QA can Manage Risk Exposure

So if every new line of code injected into a software application introduces added risk, how do companies then reduce their risk exposure?  Years ago, software programmers created a program and only then, after all of the initial code was written, began the test process.  This was a mammoth endeavor of course.  An iPhone relies on roughly 50,000 lines of code while the Windows 10 operating system relies on 50 million.  Chances are, your application may be somewhere in between.   With that many lines of code, where does one even start and how much time can one allot for testing and code remediation while when product managers are anxious to release the application ASAP?

That is one of the reasons why the Agile approach to code development has been embraced across the industry.  With the overall project now broken into a perpetual series of sprints, the amount of injected code is limited to the creation of series of manageable units.  Just like ones risk exposure to the dynamic fluctuations of the stock market is limited thanks to dollar cost averaging, segmenting code creations into small fusions lessens risk exposure.

But Agile alone is not enough.  Software developers are wonderful people, but they are human and do make mistakes.  Software code also has a way to acting in linear ways that developers fail to conceptualize.  That is where quality assurance comes into play.  Just as we are asked by health officials today to take the proper steps to lessen our exposure to viral bugs, QA tools and personnel are experienced in the art of finding software bugs.  

Eliminate Pandemic Glitches in Your Software Code

QA testing is most effective when it works in cohesion with your developers.  Developers excel in the art of creation, while firms such as OnPath Testing excel in the art of reviewing code for stability, completeness, gaps, bugs and consistency for each applicable platform.  At worst, QA testing can reduce a potential pandemic glitch to that of the common cold.  In most cases, the result is code that is more accurate and consistent, all of which translates into a more reliable product.  Reliability equates to cost savings as disrupting events for software production and the user experience of those that purchase the final product are greatly reduced.  Just like fighting a global pandemic, the cost of prevention is far less than the cost of treatment and rehabilitation.  QA is a facet of software development today that should not be ignored.  

Use OnPath Testing for Your Prevention Strategy

The old adage is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Whether it is manual or automated testing, let our QA subject matter experts at OnPath Testing design a prevention strategy that can manage and your deduce your costly risk exposures for your application development projects.  

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