Austin-SPIN - Archives - Mar05

Special joint ASQ / ASPIN meeting

Software Risk, Don Shafer, Athens Group

To view slides of Don Shafer' s March ASPIN presentation on "Software Risk ", please click here.

Software Risk - Why must we keep learning from experience? We think that we have software risk under control. But, the off-shore oil and gas exploration business is where semiconductor manufacturing was in the 1970's. At an opportunity cost exceeding $4M per day per platform, software failures are big issues. Why is there such high risk of software failure in the off-shore oil exploration regime? Cited by Kongsberg Offshore A.S. in HSE Evaluation Report No. 00-4002: "The statistics show that the software failure is about four times as frequent as the hardware failure and slightly more frequent than the pure thruster failure." Based on IMCA data, the percentage of "Loss of Position Class 1" dynamic positioning(DP) problems that were caused by software for a recent 5 year period was 33%. Can we mitigate the risk? FMEA, FMECA and good software engineering practices will go a long way toward reducing today's DP software risks. This is not rocket science but the lack of good engineering practices. The Airbus 300 series and the latest Boeing 7x7 aircraft are completely fly by wire. The airbags in your automobile have autonomous processors with embedded software. Embedded medical devices contain processors run by software. We would never tolerate the number of software failures in these devices that occur on DP systems. Why don't they fail at a 33% rate? This presentation will propose a set of software and hardware life cycle processes along with a mitigation model for identifying and eliminating software risk within DP systems. Several recent incidents will be analyzed to show how these processes would have mitigated the potential for failure. Attendees will be able to take away processes they can implement in their own organizations to reduce software failures.

About the Speaker:
Don Shafer is a co-founder, corporate director and Chief Technology Officer of Athens Group, an employee-owned consulting firm, integrating technology strategy and software solutions. Prior to Athens Group, Shafer led groups developing and marketing hardware and software products for Motorola, AMD and Crystal Semiconductor. He earned a BS degree from the USAF Academy and an MBA from the University of Denver. In addition, Shafer's work experience includes positions held at Boeing and Los Alamos National Laboratories. He is currently a graduate lecturer in software engineering at Southwest Texas and the on-site instructor-in-charge of the University of Texas Software Project Management Certification Program. With two other colleagues in 2002, he wrote Quality Software Project Management for Prentice-Hall now used in both industry and academia.

CommunicationsChair Austin-SPIN,
Aug 23, 2009, 8:21 PM