Large Scale Software Failures

I tend to follow the news quite regularly, and if you are like me, you are probably aware of the catastrophe that is British Airlines and the new Heathrow T5 terminal.  The accumulation of a mountain of 20k pieces of luggage should give you some indication of the size of the problem.  The gist of the story is that a new £4.3 billion terminal just opened, and what was supposed to be a technologically advanced baggage handling system wasn’t quite up to task.

While I haven’t seen an official diagnosis of the problem, I can’t help but wonder if a group of software developers somewhere locked in a closet are to blame–not that I’ve ever seen a project end like that.  I’ll be curiously watching to see what some type of official report says.

This just brings back the thought of the FBI’s Virtual Case File, a $100 million software failure

It looks like Jeff Atwood has a nice collection of large scale failures catalogued as well.

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3 Responses to Large Scale Software Failures

  1. shawn Hinsey says:

    It’s interesting to me that th3 other large scale airport baggage disaster that this brings to mind, the fiasco in Denver’s DIA, was also likely caused by software, or at least engineering. Perhaps this might tip off the decision makers to the fact that this problem requires a bit more engineering than it might superficially seem to.

  2. jlockwood says:

    “…I can’t help but wonder if a group of software developers somewhere locked in a closet are to blame…”
    Or a group of developers distanced by thousands of miles from the customer. In any case, the success rate of software projects in general is still horrifyingly low (if success of a project is judged by delivery of the intended functionality within the specified time and budget constraints).

    With this sort of problem in particular, I find it amusing how often business decision makers and developers as well try to take on the role of the industrial engineer. Operations such as baggage handling can be very complex and require a rather holistic solution. Too often we fool ourselves into believing that software alone can fix operational shortcomings.

  3. Mr_Simple says:

    Or better yet, a group of MANAGERS locked in a basement not listening to the developers!