Can business software be life critical?

As a business programmer, I’ve worked on quite a few things where there is much more at stake than just money. Just a few of them:

- scheduling & routing of ambulances and firetrucks 

- scheduling & routing of trucks carrying time-sensitive medical supplies 

- clean-room quality control of medical devices 

- distribution of pharmeceutical formularies 

- medical claims processing & adjudication 

- formulas & recipes for large batch food processing 

- medical demographic databases of allergies 

- distribution of mission critical airline parts with linked certifications 

- certification of automotive safety devices, including airbags 

- building contractor specifications, including electrical & plumbing 

- clinic scheduling 

Just because something won’t hurt you immediately doesn’t mean that it can’t hurt you “eventually”. You can see from my examples that so much we program does affect the welfare of many, even if indirectly. 

We really have reached the point where software QA is just as important as engineering QA. We programmers aren’t the only link in the chain, but we are an important one. 

I have looked at horrendous enterprise code that supported critical health and safety issues and thought, “Do you really want to get on that plane?” or “Are you sure you want to take that pill?” (Hopefully QA catches most of the potential culprits.) 

Thanks for getting us to think about it a little more. This sort of thing should always be on any good developer’s mind.