At what point does a system become so broke that you can't fix it, and must build a completely new one from scratch?

As one working in the trenches of QA/Test, I lean towards the viewpoint that we do what we can to uncover defects and quantify the level of quality, but by ourselves we can't ensure the customer experience.  Hence my sympathy last week with Mike Unum.  Of course, we constantly try to be more effective, efficient and innovative - but always within an existing process.

However, if, as may well be the case, the proportional cost of QA/Test in the product lifetime is going up, then do we still have time to reverse the trend before it comes time to sell our processes to management trainers to use as case studies?  Or should we be reading the writing on the wall ...? (I acknowledge that software quality keeps getting better.  But is the economic cost sustainable?)

Why the sudden pessimism? 

Driving in to work today an item from the new headlines got me thinking - the quality of health care is steadily getting better for those whose companies can afford the double-digit inflation.  And those who cant?

The Census Bureau estimates that over 43 million Americans did not have any health insurance in all of 2002.  Families USA, looking only at the Census Bureau data, has concluded that almost 82 million Americans under 65 (1 in 3) did not have health insurance at some point in 2002 and 2003 - and a good number of these were employed, often with good paying jobs. (And this does not even address those who have insurance, with reduced coverages.)  

Among the key findings of their report:

  • One out of three people in the United States under the age of 65 went without health insurance for all or part of the two-year period from 2002-2003 (approximately 81.8 million uninsured people—32.2 percent of those under the age of 65).  
  • Two-thirds (65.3 percent) of the 81.8 million uninsured people were without health insurance coverage for six months or longer during 2002-2003. Over half (50.6 percent) of the uninsured were without health coverage for nine or more months.  
  • More than four in five individuals (84.5 percent) who went without health insurance during 2002-2003 were connected to the workforce in December 2003—78.8 percent were employed, and 5.7 percent were actively looking for employment.  
  • A quarter (25.2 percent) of working individuals and their families with incomes between 300 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (from $55,980 to $74,040 a year for a family of four in 2003) were uninsured.  
  • Hispanic and African American people were much more likely to be uninsured compared to white, non-Hispanic people: 59.5 percent of Hispanics and 42.9 percent of African Americans were uninsured, compared to 23.5 percent of white, non-Hispanics.


What are they going to say about us (QA/Test) 5 or 10 years from now? 


Of course, our customers will vote with their feet before it comes to this, but that does not rule out the obituaries ...