Costly Code: The Price Of Software Errors

Discover the financial impacts of software bugs and effective strategies for developers to mitigate them through quality assurance practices and balancing debugging with development.

Margarita Simonova
Margarita Simonova
Founder and CEO of ILoveMyQA

February 11, 2024

8 min

Costly Code: The Price Of Software Errors

When developing software, we often think about the various features it will provide and how it will improve users’ efficiency. We seldom want to think about what hidden bugs the software might contain or consider any worst-case scenarios in which users are harmed by the application. Unfortunately, in the world of software development, a single flaw can quickly escalate into a big issue.

Because just one simple mistake can have huge consequences that could even threaten the existence of the software development company itself, it is important to have adequate quality assurance (QA). In this article, we will take a look at the costs involved for companies when they experience errors. We will then see some ways to mitigate the issue. Let’s get started!

The Costs Of Bugs

Software errors are more than just a minor inconvenience. According to CISQ, poor software cost the U.S. economy $2.08 trillion in 2020 alone.

The costs of software bugs are not just limited to the direct costs that a software developer must make to fix the bugs. Another loss is productivity loss because bugs contribute to worker downtime, disruptions and delays. Financial loss also occurs due to a loss of reputation—because buggy software can indicate to clients that you do not produce high-quality products. Furthermore, bugs can introduce security risks, which can have a large financial impact in the form of cyberattacks, data breaches and financial theft.

Bugs Through The Software Development Life Cycle

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is the standardized steps that a developer goes through when creating and maintaining software. These steps include planning, analyzing, designing, implementing, deploying and maintaining.

Software bugs can occur at any stage of the SDLC. If a bug is introduced at an early stage of the SDLC and is not immediately addressed, then its costs will only increase as it progresses through the SDLC. For example, fixing a bug in the planning stage can cost $100 if found early, but that same bug can escalate to become a $10,000 problem if it is discovered later on in the production stage. That’s because a bug can have a domino effect that leads to additional costs and delays.

During the software development process, different security steps can be taken. For example, in the design phase, team assembly helps put together the right group of individuals that can address security.

In the development phase, code reviews can be performed regularly to help discover errors in logic. Automated regression testing can also be used to continually ensure that changes do not disrupt any previous functionality. Smoke tests can be used to confirm that critical functionality is working as intended.

Automated tests need to be adequately integrated into software development; otherwise, they can create deployment backlogs. This can occur because developers will need to wait for test results before continuing their work.

Unit testing is a critical type of test that is needed to find software errors. This is especially a factor in legacy code, which is likely to have been developed without the same rigorous tests that are more commonly used today. Unit testing can help mitigate risks and also helps when refactoring old code to make it more readable or performant.

In addition to automated testing, manual testing is also needed. Manual testing is also good for finding logic errors that automated testing may miss. Additionally, manual testing is useful because it may take time before automated tests have been developed for the software being created.

Impacts On The User

The users of a piece of software are the ones who will be most affected by bugs. Software errors should receive priority treatment when they end up affecting the end user. Users can experience these issues through symptoms such as sluggish behavior and unreliable end-user experiences. At the extreme end, a user’s security and privacy may be at risk due to bugs.

These types of issues can result in increased costs in the long run, so prioritizing bug fixes that impact users should be a company’s top priority. The costs of fixing these errors are not just the development costs but also the costs related to lost revenue in the present and into the future because of unsatisfied customers. To determine the financial impact that bugs can cause, industry averages can be used.

Balancing Between Debugging And Improvements

Finding the right balance between fixing bugs and focusing on developing new improvements is an important part of software development. A developer needs to find the right balance that suits them best.

A typical ratio is to spend 20% of your time on reactive tasks like debugging and 80% of your time on proactive tasks such as creating new product features. Spending more than 20% on debugging can indicate that there are issues in the development process and that those issues are affecting their overall productivity.

However, it is important to dig down further into how that 20% of time used for debugging is spent. A good portion of debugging needs to be devoted to early bug detection. Early bug detection will reduce the overall amount of debugging because bugs that occur later on in the process take more time to fix. Critical bugs should be addressed first, and less critical issues can be addressed later. Using these strategies can help ensure that debugging does not take more than 20% of a developer’s time.

Conclusion

As we have seen, bugs can have a severe financial impact on a software development company. In particular, the earlier a bug appears in the development process, the more it will end up costing to fix it later on.

To address these concerns about bugs, we can invest in a QA team that engages with the development team at an early stage in the development process. This can save costs while also ultimately improving product quality, which is what all software development companies want to achieve.

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Margarita Simonova
Margarita Simonova
Founder and CEO of ILoveMyQA

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