Top 10 Software Failures Of 2011

System Failure

This top ten list of 2011 shows that software failures are costing companies and consumers large amounts of money. What is worse is that people are losing jobs and in some cases their liberty because of avoidable software failures. The worst software failures have damaged reputations, impacted negatively on financials ($) and caused stress to users.

The top ten list of 2011 shows that software failures are costing companies and consumers large amounts of money. What is worse is that people are losing jobs and in some cases their liberty because of avoidable software failures.

Voted on by consultants, this year’s annual software bugs survey is based on major software failures of the past twelve months, from glitches that generated massive fines in the banking and finance sector to mass recalls of faulty vehicles. The report also highlighted computer ‘glitches’ in the financial and automotive industries and this year both of those sectors are prominent in the top ten, taking four of the top ten slots.

The main problem caused by software bugs is negative financial impact and, in almost every case, consumers end up losing out. Deficiencies in software quality often result in costly emergency fixes and/or damage to a brand’s reputation, but each of the top ten 2011 software failure examples could easily have been avoided through an effective quality management strategy identifying and resolving potential glitches before they appear.

1. Financial services giant fined $25 million for hiding software glitch that cost investors $217 million

A software error in the investment model used to manage client assets resulted in this international financial services giant being fined $25 million (£15.7 million) by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company also had to repay the $217 million (£136 million) backers lost when told that market volatility rather than software failure was to blame for their investment losses.

2. Computer system bugs cause Asian banking facilities’ downtime

Computer system problems at one of Japan’s largest banks resulted in a nationwide ATM network of more than 5,600 machines going offline for 24 hours, internet banking services being shut down for three days, delays in salary payments worth $1.5 billion (£939 million) into the accounts of 620,000 people and a backlog of more than 1 million unprocessed payments worth around $9 billion (£5.64 billion).

3. Cash machine bug benefits customers by giving them extra money

An Australian bank began giving out large sums of money from 40 cash machines across one city. Officials at the company said they were operating in stand-by mode, so could not identify the account balances of customers.

4. Leading smartphones suffer an international blackout

Core and back-up switch failures resulted in network services across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America going down for 3-4 days. The blackout left millions without email, web browsing or instant messaging services and were reportedly due to server problems at one data centre, in Slough.

5. Bugs in social networking app for tablet just hours after delayed release

Just hours after its release, this social networking sites’ long-awaited tablet app was already receiving reports about minor bugs from clicking through to pages via panel icons to problems posting comments.

6. 22 people wrongly arrested in Australia due to failures in new NZ $54.5 million courts computer system

A new NZ $54.5 million ($42.7 million or £26.8 million) computer system linking New South Wales courts and allowing documents to be lodged electronically led to damages claims for unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution, after 3,600 defects in the electronic transfer of data from the courts to the police’s database led to the wrongful arrest of 22 individuals.

7. 50,500 cars recalled after airbag-related software glitch

A glitch in the automaker‘s software design and testing approach, that meant airbags for passengers in the right rear seat during a crash may not be deployed, resulted in the recall of 47,401 vehicles in the US and a further 3,099 in Canada and Mexico.

8. Recall of one million cars addresses fire and rollaway concerns

A Japanese car company was forced to initiate a worldwide recall of over one million vehicles affected by a design flaw allowing residue from window cleaners to accumulate, which can degrade the switch’s electrical contacts and potentially cause a fire over time. This recall followed a global 2.5 million recall by the same company due to design flaws that allowed vehicles to shift out of park and engine stalls.

9. Telecoms glitch affects 47,000 customers’ meter readings and costs company NZ $2.7 million

After a software glitch that resulted in customers hitting their data limits early, some 47,000 customers, who were overcharged, were reimbursed by a New Zealand telecoms company in a NZ $2.7 million ($2.1 million or £1.3 million) payout.

10. Army computer glitches hinder co-ordinated efforts in insurgent tracking

An army computing system designed to share real-time intelligence with troops on the front line has hindered troops by being unable to perform simple analytical tasks. The $2.7 billion cloud-based computing network system runs slowly when multiple users are on the system at the same time and the system’s search tool made finding the reports difficult as the information mapping software was not compatible with the army’s existing search software.

UPDATE: Have you read my new post, “Top 10 Software Failures Of 2012“?

Phil Codd is Managing Director & Chief Markets Officer (Northern Europe, India & South Africa) at SQS. He joined SQS in 2008 from SAP where he held the position of MD. He has also held senior roles for the Irish operations of major multinational software vendors; Oracle and Siebel. He has over 25 years’ experience in the IT industry, which has been dominated by sales into Financial Services, Commercial and Government Sectors. He studied Computer Studies in London and spent most of the eighties working for small software companies in the UK in a variety of roles from software development to business development before establishing Ingres in the Irish Market in 1990. In the following years he has covered all the major fields of interest in IT; data warehousing, business intelligence, and CRM & ERP while helping companies with their strategic goals & objectives in these areas. His interests include shared services, the subject of governance, risk & compliance and how small & medium companies can benefit from technology.

  • http://derailleurconsulting.com/ Chris R. Chapman

    What would make this article even more interesting would be links to source material to reference each of the incidents so details could be cross-checked and verified. A link to the source survey questions would help, too.

    • http://www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk/ Christian Harris

      Good point Chris. Phil has now added links to all the source materials.

  • http://lgan123.myopenid.com/ Simon Smith

    Wow, that’s a lot of software failures, resulting in some huge money loss! It’s amazing how much we rely on this types of programs and when it has a glitch everything goes wrong! 

  • sweetie

    Okay there going mishaps development. Departments goal avoid
    mistakes article. Valid wasn’t technology marketing. Operational was
    inconvenience of expected. Functionality regarding ATM code was
    improper. Possible malfunction in hardware was. Prior companies could avoid these. Intangibles if they used demonstration. Saves allot in technology large account. Mistakes cost your company millions or failure. Always rival to immediate rescue. Learn this in tech industry. Your winner with full success. Once error always remembered then discarded. Operating systems vary engineers. Learning this for those eager accepted. Microsoft and IMB what ever! Many to fully with errors yes. Could been avoid with research!

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