NatWest glitch is the inevitable result of declining coding standards, claims software expert

By Peter Gothard
22 Jun 2012 View Comments

"As long as it functions, let it go" is the current mantra of IT departments, senior director of US-based software implementation firm CAST Research Labs, Jay Sappidi, told Computing in response to the ongoing customer account-freezing software glitch at NatWest and RBS banks.

The problem, which RBS Group has said is the result of a software upgrade in its payment system, is an example of a coding quality issue endemic across the IT industry, according to Sappidi.

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"We're talking about a common problem here," said Sappidi. "One of the high-profile ones in the recent past was NASDAQ in the Facebook IP. What's happening is that systems are becoming more complex, and becoming integral to doing business. Unfortunately, the quality of software has not kept pace with this level of importance.

"Because we're all in such a hurry to get code out, people will tend to say they wanted it yesterday," said Sappidi. "So what IT departments skip or compromise is checking the actual quality of the code."

"As long as it functions, let it go. That's the mantra right now. That's the philosophy of current IT departments," Sappidi added.

Comparing the current code quality checking process to "the way it was with cars back in the 60s and 70s", rather than the current ability of the automobile industry to quality check individual components, Sappidi warned the industry that quality of "actual software components" must be focused on, instead of just basic checking for functionality before releasing to customers.

"When you touch one part of the system, it's obviously going to impact other systems," Sappidi told Computing. "It's going to have an effect somewhere else."

Sappidi, whose company has worked on implementation systems for large banks in the past, finds the situation frustrating. "There are tools that people can use and integrate into the development cycle to check not just if it's functioning but if it's being built robustly and can stand up five or 10 years from now," he told Computing.

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