The Thriving Business of Poor Quality: Page 2

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Let’s pause for a moment and use the automotive industry to highlight issues. There are a number of rationales that push for high quality with automobiles. There are at least four drivers for this that we can parallel with IT:

• First, consumers expect it – high quality is necessary to remain a viable automotive competitor. Quality is mandatory for competitive parity. Customers will pay for better quality and will likely switch brands to find it. In contrast, many customers of systems view errors as a necessary evil as if they must always be present. If we do not accept poor quality in many aspects of our lives involving complex systems and human safety, then why should IT be different?

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• Second, is safety – consumers want cars that they and their families will be safe riding in. Again, if safety is not present then consumers may switch brands or file lawsuits for negligence. With IT, fears over safety and security can drive behavior. For example, watch the patterns of purchasing behavior after disasters, major news stories, etc.

• Third, automotive recalls to correct safety problems are very expensive, incur negative publicity and create incentives for automakers to further improve quality. There are at least two things to consider: For systems vendors, there is regulation that affects users but nothing that really pushes them to improve overall quality. And it’s hard to say if regulation would really improve matters or not, especially relative to cost. Second, the cost to deploy patches has been driven down. As it is cheap to react and patch, then what affect does this have on designing quality in the first place? If anything, the very low cost of patching may tend to shift the focus from proactive quality to reactive support.

• Fourth, lawsuits can cost automakers tremendous amounts of money. In the software industry, users and customers face a barrage of legal forms at time of purchase and in the various “click-wrap” end user license agreements that essentially releases the manufacturer from all liability other than purchase price. Those releases all further ensure that poor quality stays entrenched.

Over and over again, we reinforce poor quality as a viable business model. Not only do customers pay for vendors to fix their own mistakes but we gladly accept flawed products that distract us from attaining our goals.

Why? Why do we do this and when will we stop? In response – this behavior will only end when we make it mandatory by setting the proper expectations with our vendors.

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