The Impact of Poor Software Quality

August 21, 2020

Today, businesses are defined by the their ability to provide quality software to their clients and customers. Building and maintaining quality software isn’t necessarily easy, but poor quality software can stifle growth and ultimately upend your business.

The impact of poor software quality is difficult to define it in strict terms. Software quality is judged in the context of technical and budgetary requirements and many other external factors. And judgment by consumers is the prime measure for rating the quality. Apart from that, features like reliability, stability, and need for maintenance also impact software quality.

Taking it all into consideration we can say that quality software is defined by four major aspects.


What Determines Software Quality?

Compliance with Technical Requirements

This involves whether the code conforms to the specified technical requirements or not. A few deviations are always expected but if there are major or frequent deviations from technical requirements, then it points towards poor software quality.


This aspect judges the quality of software based on whether it meets the expectations of the user and offers satisfaction or not. Depending on the extent of satisfaction, you can determine whether the software is excellent, just average, or poor quality.

Industry Compliant

Software being developed for any industry has specific regulatory and technical compliance requirements that need to be met. These may be internal or external to the organization such as CMMI or ISO 25000 compliance. UI and UX

One of the major features that determine the quality of the software is how it is designed and structured. High-quality aesthetics combined with intuitive controls make for good software. On the other hand, if the software looks dates or has subpar user experience, it’ll be classified as poor.

Disasters Caused by Catastrophic Software

Many organizations and businesses do not take software quality as seriously as they should, which leads to poor user experience and loss of revenue. It should be kept in mind that the consequences of poor software can be far-reaching that can sometimes go out of your control. That’s why it’s essential to maintain quality assurance at all times. Here are some of the worst disasters caused by catastrophic software mistakes.

NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter Loss

Sent on a mission to Mars in 1998, the Climate Orbiter craft got lost in space which continued to confuse the engineering team for quite a while. After some time, it was found out that a sub-contractor present in the engineering team didn’t
convert English units into metric ones which caused the $125 million orbiter to go to waste. It is believed that the spacecraft crashed into the Mars’ atmosphere which debilitated its communications system.

Mt. Gox Bitcoin Hack

Japanese Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, was established in 2010 and it was the largest exchange of cryptocurrencies at that time. In June 2011, it was hacked which resulted in a loss of more than 850,000 bitcoins which are currently worth over $7.5 billion! Later on, the firm was able to recover 200,000 bitcoin but the company head admitted that they weaknesses in their software that led to the hack.

Patriot Missile Malfunction

There are instances where the cost of poor software isn’t measured in financial terms but human lives. In the month of February in 1991, a US Patriot missile defense system deployed in Saudi Arabia wasn’t able to detect an attack that was happening on the army barracks. A government investigation later found out that a software glitch led to this issue as the tracking calculation was wrong. This resulted in the loss of 28 American soldiers’ lives.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Inauguration

Prior to the inauguration of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 in the United Kingdom, the staff quality tested the new baggage handling mechanism that was designed to handle large volumes of luggage every day. Tests were performed with 12,000 pieces of luggage and the system worked perfectly every time. However, what they failed to account for is human intervention. Turns out that on the day of opening, a passenger forgot something important in their bag and removed it from the system causing the entire system to shut off. In the next 10 days, more than 500 flights got canceled while 42,000 pieces of luggage didn’t travel with their owners.

What Causes Lead to Poor Software Quality

There is a multitude of underlying causes that lead to poor quality software. These may include the following:

  • Lack of Domain Knowledge – The head of the team or the developer might not be aware of the industry or domain he’s writing software for. It can lead to poor technical requirements compliance which automatically results in bad software.
  • Lack of Technical Knowledge – If you don’t have a software engineering team with the required expertise and experience to write the flawless code, it would lead to unreliable and unstable software that would be full of technical bugs.
  • Unrealistic Budgets/Deadlines – Sometimes the decision-makers don’t understand the time and financial requirements to create high-quality software. Needless to say, with limited funds and time on hands, the software quality is compromised.
  • Poor Software Structure – Sometimes inexperienced software engineers use poor code or employ bad industry practices which can lead to poor quality software. For instance, a UI developer might use a lot of JavaScript to make your website look aesthetically pleasing, but it will substantially affect the loading time.
  • Lack of Communication – Often times the people running the business aren’t aware of the technical jargon and limitations and fail to convey their expectations properly. Similarly, if there are multiple teams working on software and there is a lack of collaboration that also leads to disjointed software.
  • High Maintenance Software – If the software continuously leads to failures and breakdowns which require fixes and patches all the time, it means it is high maintenance. This doesn’t only cost you more but results in poor user experience.
  • Usability Issues – If the users for whom the software has been developed fail to understand or use it or there’s a steep learning curve, it’s considered poor quality software. This is often caused by a lack of communication between the front and back end teams.

The Impact of Poor Software Quality

In the digital world, it is impossible to overstate the adverse consequences of poor software quality. Today, good software is what defines a business and the quality of service it provides. Without a good software solution that is reliable, feature-rich, and stable, your chances of succeeding as a business are slim. Here are some of the major consequences of having bad software quality. 

  • If it is a customer-facing software, it directly results in loss of revenue which means your bottom line suffers. This is a direct financial disadvantage.
  • Poor software for customers or users also leads to reputation damage since nobody wants to deal with websites, apps, or services that are unreliable or bug-ridden.
  • Poor quality software requires high maintenance which means your development costs and other related expenses start to build up.
  • If the software is for internal use, it causes frustration and annoyance for your employees since they have to deal with the issues on their own and resort to workarounds.
  • Poor software is often a security risk which means any hackers or a person with malignant intentions can get into your network causing a data breach.
  • If your internal software has poor quality, it also results in loss of productivity which also translates into financial damage to the company.

How to Avoid Poor Quality Software

It is now clear how costly bad software can be to your business. It could turn into a nightmare for both your customers and you. This is why it is pivotal to focus on the quality of the software you are going to deploy in your business, may it be a website or a software application designed for internal use. Here are a few tips that can lead to high-quality software:

Plan Your Technical Requirements & Expectations

Before you go to the development team, you should clearly outline what your primary requirements and expectations are on which there won’t be any compromise. Then offer a breakdown of your secondary and tertiary requirements which will define different components of your software. You can also give guidelines about design, visuals, and user experience.

Give Adequate Budget & Time to a Seasoned Development Team

First of all, ensure that the team you have hired or are outsourcing your project is capable of handling the demands you are making. Make sure they understand your requirements and expectations. Also, have enough budget and time to complete the development process without rushing it. If you are financially handicapped, cut some corners, and lower your expectations.

Make Quality Assurance Mandatory

Without premium quality assurance, never put software into use. Ensure that your team tests it for all the bugs, inconsistencies, bottlenecks, and weaknesses before it is launched. This is especially true for the software designed for your customers.

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  1. David Jones

    What this article fails to mention is how there has been a paradigm shift in software development, to Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Where the products they produce now are coded with the following fundamental objectives:
    1. Cost liability reduction, through code and support/QA reduction.
    2. Maximum RoI, with products going to market before they are fully functional or even working sensibly. Often without due care and attention to design basics, such as UI, logic and quality.
    3. All of this being facilitated with the “just-in-time” damage limitation approach to fixing product issues, only after the product has gone to market, to reduce liabilities, such as class action and onerous support load impacts, for the producers.
    Arguably, all the major tech companies are either already on what would be described as MVPs or are in the process of moving their entire product lines to MVP models. Examples of this would be all of Apple’s and Microsoft’s operating systems and software products.

    What we are experiencing is an over commoditisation and devaluing of the entire tech industry (as some of the above points are appearing in even hardware products, although the higher risk of liability to the producers means this is nowhere near as rife as it is with software).

  2. Mark

    Impact of wrong requirements?


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