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18F released a pretty good guide about these topics but I can't shake the feeling that many organizations aren't willing to learn these lessons. https://github.com/18F/technology-budgeting/blob/master/hand...





Guidelines are well and good, but they aren't really helpful when the people who care about them can't enforce them and vice-versa. What we need is accountability when it comes to the engineers who work on systems that are critical to large swaths of society.

You think this was an engineering decision? These failing systems were probably contracted to a politically connected company that subcontracted to lowest bidder. Not only that, but that usually these systems were created with COBOL means that it was likely created a very long time ago and minimally updated as laws/requirements changed to be compliant but thats it.

Thats not the fault of the engineer(s). A surge in traffic in the 80s or whenever it was initially created very well may have been able to be handled as designed and its normal traffic in modern pre-COVID times was the equivalent of a constant "surge" when initially designed. It was already on life support and needed a rewrite 10 years ago. Some software engineering certification/quality board wouldn't account for 30 year old systems design and population. Those are political and budget/prioritization issues. It would be a near equivalent of a bridge that was built then ignored for 50 years collapsing when a modern 18 wheeler drives over it.

All the new systems getting spun up ASAP are just quick hacks to try and get some way of addressing the problem. They are bound to be full of failures by the nature of the rapid development cycle and current crisis. In a situation like this, a quality board like proposed would be granting exceptions left and right because theoretically, something is better than nothing.


> These failing systems were probably contracted to a politically connected company that subcontracted to lowest bidder.

And what if that government body established a policy that all contractors had to be certified engineers who hadn't lost their certification due to past negligence? Suddenly there's a much higher floor for "lowest bidder".


If the software engineers have the legal capability a current professional engineer certification does to tell the project manager 'no', that might work. Its still less about engineering capability, and more about leverage and protection against retaliation for pushing back on bad ideas/timelines. Even in traditional engineering disciplines, not everyone working on the project is a certified professional engineer, in fact they are usually the minority

Good engineering can't undo bad management/process. Project management is what we really should work on to improve software quality



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