A recent story on Fast Company that details reasons why innovation fails got us to thinking about this topic at a more technical level. The reasons folks posted in response to this question range greatly based on personal experience. The best of intentions often go awry at the innovation execution stage, when software does not turn out as planned but must be shipped “on time.”
As consumers, we have come to expect, and highly anticipate, the annual launch of the next Apple gadget, Amazon Kindle book reader, and Microsoft Windows operating system. We also have accepted the fact that these much-anticipated gadgets and software too often ship with bugs that have to be worked out in the next upgrade, patch, etc.
And while we love the innovation and capabilities these devices and applications bring to our lives, should we really just accept that they have to be immediately fixed in subsequent updates? Or should they ship with software quality in mind, with fewer defects, right out of the gate?
Apple shares are down about 23% from its all-time high of $705 per share. Is the Apple revolution slowing down because of a decline in innovation, the loss of Steve Jobs, or is it simply the case that declining software quality is contributing to these changes? Are customers demanding better quality from their applications and gadgets when they ship, and can the innovators we rely on so heavily meet those expectations?
Think about the automobile industry, and how quality affected the choice between American and foreign-built cars. That shift appeared to happen overnight, but actually involved several missteps along the way. Toyota is another great example of an iconic brand that has suffered from software quality issues including a 400,000-car recall in 2010 after a software glitch was found to cause a lag in the anti-lock-break system of some vehicles. Just this week, Toyota recalled 2.77M vehicles, including its Prius.
When will consumers say enough is enough? Today, the quality of American cars is stronger than ever, with Consumer Reports’ having called the new Chrysler 300 the “best Chrysler in decades.” And that emphasis on quality is really starting to pay off, as Chrysler saw a 45% increase in retail sales in 2011 compared to 2010. This growth has continued throughout the year, with October 2012 being the best October Chrysler has had in five years, marking the 31st consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.
To truly be successful, software quality must be part of the innovation equation – a major part, really. With a global workforce that relies on technology for virtually every part of its daily existence, challenges such as web outages, cell phone issues and car recalls should be the exception and not the rule.