The Dangers of Not Testing Software

Some consider testing software an unnecessary project expense.

Consider Healthcare.gov, the poster child for poorly executed software production. Despite Quality Assurance (QA) testing starting only two weeks before the platform went live, Healthcare.gov was pushed to the public.

Opening day for the site was madness. The copious number of users not only caused slow performance, but caused the site to crash. The site also housed major security flaws, making users’ data vulnerable to attackers.

At the close of the site’s first day, only six people successfully signed up for healthcare. Project contractors confessed that the project’s failure was due to not properly engaging QA.

Reflecting on the Healthcare.gov debacle, below are three dangers of skimping on quality assurance practices.

1. Finding issues in production inflates project costs.

Finding issues in production is notably more expensive to fix than if issues are found in QA. Involving QA early in a project helps stakeholders stay within budget.

Healthcare.gov spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars creating a site that did not work, then spent several hundred million more to fix issues that should have been avoidable. Bloomberg Government estimated that the project totaled $2.1 billion in the end.

2. Project timelines are derailed.

Project leaders for Healthcare.gov were so adamant about releasing the product on the scheduled date they compromised the quality of the product, even disregarding memos stating the site was not ready to go live.

Unsurprisingly, compromising quality in attempt to meet deadlines can result in months of unplanned time spent fixing issues, thus missing the target date anyway.

3. Projects become subject to unknown risks.

Quality Assurance is like a house inspection.

House inspections are an important part of the home buying process. What if there is a leak you can’t see or termite damage? Such issues always reveal themselves and can be expensive and inconvenient to fix later.

QA Analysts inspect software and report issues to developers. Once developers fix the issues, QA Analysts retest to ensure the issue has been resolved. This process occurs to ensure stakeholders receive the high quality, functional product they expect.

Had Healthcare.gov properly tested and engaged their QA team, the platform wouldn’t have suffered from the plethora of performance issues, security risks, and privacy issues.

Testing software should not be viewed as a superfluous expense or a waste of time, but a necessary activity to ensure high-quality standards which are expected by end users and stakeholders.

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