Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Why Cutting Quality is a Poor Path to Cost Savings

Software testing/quality assurance initiatives are often the first things cut from an encumbered budget.  But, as expenses mount and software projects fail, many companies find themselves asking, “Was this really the right move?”  Are these companies costing themselves more by doing so?

Oftentimes, companies that cut their testing and quality assurance are often dumbfounded when some of their software initiatives run into the ground.  And while it can feel almost as if it happens at random, the truth is their wounds are completely self-inflicted.

Would you ever run a marathon without shoes?  I didn’t think so.

How about driving a car without any oil in its engine?  Yeah, I figured you wouldn’t.

What about shoveling your driveway in flip-flops?  You’d never, right? 

You wouldn’t do any of these things because they don’t make any sense—you’re handicapping yourself from the get go.  Yet every year, countless IT departments will make an equally baffling decision: drastically cutting their software testing expenses in a madcap effort to curb their own hemorrhaging budgets. 

But, little do they know, they’re only digging themselves further into the hole.

Oftentimes, these same departments are dumbfounded when some of their software initiatives run squarely into the ground.  And while some may feel as if it seemingly happens at random, the truth isn’t nearly as convenient: their wounds are completely self-inflicted.

That’s because sacrificing quality never saves you money in the long run. 

On the surface, it’s easy to see why software testing and quality assurance are such easy targets for cost savings: they don’t appear to create value.  They cost companies money and don’t appear to generate hard revenue for the company or department.  And while that may be true in a technical sense; to think that software testing and quality assurance have no value simply isn’t being fair. 

The truth is that software testing doesn’t “create” value in a traditional sense—it protects it. 

Without testing/quality assurance initiatives, you’ll find that your projects are often endangered by the 3 Perils of Software Development: Defects, Delays, and Dollars.  And as many a CIO will attest, mounting rework and a slipping release date won’t just eat away at a project’s ROI from an expense standpoint—they can endanger its scope and viability as well. 

Only 2% of major software projects fully realize all of their goals.  Those are slim odds to begin with—made all the slimmer without quality testing.  Why make an exceedingly difficult task even harder?

The deck is already stacked against major software projects.  From changing requirements to poorly-scoped project plans, an expected ROI is in danger from the first kickoff meeting—and it must be protected at all costs.  With good testing/quality initiatives, you can sleep well knowing that those projects can actually deliver their expected value.  Without them, the sledding can get a whole lot tougher.

So the next time you see a software quality initiative like testing or quality assurance on the chopping block, think about the value it’s really protecting and ask yourself if it’s worth the risk (besides, it’s not like there aren’t other ways to save money without sacrificing quality…). 

After all, no one wants to rob Peter to pay Paul, right?


Mike Hodge
Lighthouse Technologies, Inc
Software Testing | Quality Assurance Consulting | Oracle EBS Consulting

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