Letter: Information technology failures in modern business

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The Independent Online
Sir: Professor Bennett, in his defence of software development practice (9 July), chooses his words with considerable care. Phrases such as 'it is certainly now possible', 'we know a great deal', and 'we certainly have the engineering capability', could mislead the unwary. Although his letter accurately depicts the current state of best practice in computer software development, he omits to say two things.

The first is that there is a gulf between best practice and even average (let alone worst) practice. It is on record that 100:1 ratios exist between measures of best and worst practice, even within individual companies.

The second is that even current best practice is often not good enough. Our levels of ambition for advanced systems continue to outrun our competence both to set and to meet specifications.

The undoubted progress that has been made in our technical understanding in recent years should neither divert attention from a widespread management abdication of responsibility for software quality, nor induce complacency that society's voracious needs can be safely met.



Tunbridge Wells, Kent