Greater Emphasis on Testing Needed To Make Computer Software More Reliable and Less Costly

IMTEC-84-2: Published: Oct 27, 1983. Publicly Released: Oct 27, 1983.

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GAO evaluated the adequacy and effectiveness of federal agencies' software testing practices.

Federal agencies spend billions of dollars each year to develop and maintain computer programs used for business applications. GAO found that federal agencies generally are not managing the software testing process effectively to help ensure that the software performs its intended functions accurately and reliably. GAO believes that undetected software errors are costing agencies millions of dollars unnecessarily because such errors: (1) cost more to correct after software becomes operational; (2) often require expensive manual processing or other corrective action; and (3) sometimes result in the loss of financial assets. Too often, decisions on the amount and extent of testing depend on the discretion of individuals or on time and staff limitations, not on testing policies and requirements for the agency. Software users do not always participate in the testing process, and user roles and responsibilities in testing are not always clearly defined, which contributes to the development of software that does not meet user needs. Most agencies do not use software problem data to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the testing process in producing quality software. Further, federal agencies have not taken advantage of software technology that could improve the testing process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of federal agencies should identify and incorporate into the testing process those automated tools and testing techniques that can help the agency provide more thorough testing and more efficient resource use. This should include providing appropriate training on these tools and techniques.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of federal agencies should periodically evaluate the software testing process to determine: (1) its effectiveness in preventing errors and reducing costs associated with error correction; and (2) appropriate allocation of staff and computer resources to software testing.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of federal agencies should monitor and enforce compliance with testing policies and requirements.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of federal agencies should establish written software testing policies and requirements defining the testing procedures, criteria, and techniques required before either agency- or contractor-developed software is placed into operation. These should include specific requirements for user participation in the testing process.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services, through the Office of Software Development, should review selected software development projects in federal agencies to identify uses and potential uses of software tools and techniques that improve testing thoroughness and efficiency. This office should then report on these reviews to provide guidance to agencies for implementing tools and techniques in their testing procedures.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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