Can small businesses survive software failures?

Phil Codd, managing director Ireland and UKI regional director at SQS Group, highlights the steps businesses must take to prevent software failures.

The vast majority of businesses today are incredibly dependent on software for day-to-day operations, both internally and externally dealing with customers. As a result, it is becoming increasingly clear that software failures are on the rise and are having a major impact on global organisations.

In the last two years organisations in the health sector, aviation, business and even the US Government’s prison service have been severely impaired by software malfunction. In 2016 alone, software failures caused a loss of $1.1 trillion to businesses. The operational and reputational damage software issues can cause to businesses of all sizes are huge and with no sign of the problem abating, it is vital business leaders pay attention to the main reasons behind IT system failures and act now.

The most prevalent reasons behind software failures include:

  • Cyber attacks
  • Human error
  • Legacy IT
  • Power surges
  • Software bugs
  • Poorly tested software updates
  • High volume of network traffic
  • Don’t be an easy target

As organisations’ IT systems become more complex, it is essential that quality assurance is prioritised above all else. Everybody has seen the alarming headlines of how cybercriminals have brought organisations, such as the NHS, to their knees by exploiting poor security protocol and targeting legacy IT systems. However, it is often small businesses that bear the brunt of the majority of cyberattacks. In fact, a recent government survey revealed nearly half of British businesses discovered at least one cybersecurity breach or attack in the past year.

While a small business may not think they have anything worth stealing, hackers are acutely aware of this naivety and will exploit this mentality. Depending on the scale of a cyberattack, a small business may not be able to afford the financial ramifications a major attack could bring. It’s no longer a matter of if a business suffers a data breach, it’s how far reaching the effects will be and how they can be managed most effectively.

Address the issue before it is too late

The threats to small businesses don’t stop there though. Software failures can lead to financial, reputational and operational repercussions. Smart home products have recently suffered from software bugs after an update drained the entire battery, leaving users relying on the technology to heat their homes, literally in the cold.

While businesses are of course at threat, even advanced military technology is susceptible to the dangers of software failures. In an area where cutting edge technology is the difference between success and failure, software issues simply are not acceptable. Despite this, a fighter jet, reportedly riddled with software issues[3], had a software bug in its radar device so severe that the pilot was required to turn it off and on again in-flight to reboot the system. Clearly, this poses problems to the pilot who had to concentrate on remediating software faults, rather than the potentially dangerous job at hand.

Quality must be prioritised

Clearly, IT system failures can affect businesses of all sizes and often have negative personal, economic or safety implications. Businesses must follow basic IT system hygiene when it comes to ensuring software quality and preventing serious system failures. There are no businesses that can afford to bury their heads in the sand in the digital age, and they certainly can’t ignore basic business IT protocols.

Quality must be prioritised. Of course, small businesses can take steps to mitigate risks by ensuring quality assurance practices are employed throughout product lifecycles and internal processes to improve business agility. This means quality must be the key consideration right from the moment of conception, to reduce the impact of human error.

The more prominent IT failures become, the more businesses must accept they are an issue that won’t just disappear and that the root of the problem must be addressed. The financial implications of such failures are set to increase for businesses as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into play next year. GDPR will make data protection a legal requirement for organisations, who could face fines of up to €20 million or 4% of their annual turnover, depending on which is higher, if they have not appropriately protected customer data.

Small businesses must also consider the reputational damage IT failures can cause. By prioritising quality and taking a quality first approach, businesses can be sure they are doing everything in their power to avoid IT system failures and remain competitive.

Phil Codd is managing director Ireland and UKI regional director at SQS Group

Further reading on software failures

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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