Update 10/11/2016: It’s now confirmed that Samsung has permanently shut down production of the Galaxy Note 7 line. Lost sales of the Note 7 debacle are expected to run more than $2.5 billion directly, with millions more in losses to the rest of the Samsung product lineup because of the tarnishing of the brand. This article from CNET has an excellent rundown on steps Samsung should take to repair the damage they’ve done to themselves. All of this only serves to amplify the fact that #QualityIsNotOptional.
It’s tempting to pile onto Samsung’s trouble with the Galaxy Note 7. That, however, is not the intent of this post.
A refresher on the latest developments: Over the past week, three stories emerged regarding replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones catching fire. After the first of those three incidents, in which a phone caught fire on a Southwest airlines flight that was still on the tarmac, the four major phone companies quietly began offering customers the option to replace the Note 7s with other phone models. The third incident involved a Kentucky man who woke to his bedroom filled with smoke from his phone. The man alleges that, after contacting Samsung, he received a text from a Samsung representative that said, “Just now got this. I can try and slow him down if we think it will matter, or we just let him do what he keeps threatening to do and see if he does it.”
Samsung just announced (59 minutes ago, as this is being written) that it is temporarily halting production of the Note 7 while it investigates quality and production problems.
Meanwhile, Samsung managed to beat earnings estimates in the 3rd Quarter. That’s truly remarkable since the Note 7 problems occurred in the same quarter, including the start of the recall expenses. But, two just-completed industry surveys indicate that Samsung’s brand is severely damaged. One survey reports 34% of consumers will not buy a Samsung phone again.
Somewhere in all of this is a lesson for you and me.
The lesson is simple: quality is not optional
Quality is not optional because quality failures create huge risks (what if that Southwest flight had been in the air?), destroy profits (the cost of 2.5 million recalled phones plus replacements plus loss of future sales), wrecks reputations (is Samsung still the premium Apple-alternative brand in the Adroid ecosystem after this?), and creates dozens of other fault lines that can swallow businesses whole. Samsung is number 13 on the Fortune Global 500 list which means they most likely have the resources to weather this storm.
Chances are that you are in a much smaller company than Samsung, one that couldn’t withstand the direct and indirect damage that Samsung has sustained. A major quality failure could be the end of your business or set you back years of progress.
No, the reason this Samsung story has become a theme for us around here is that it’s not just a great example of what can go wrong but it’s also part of a growing number of technology-based quality failures across every tech sector. Of course, our focus is in software quality and here, too, we are seeing more quality problems than ever before. It looks like things are getting a bit sloppy out there, like far too many corners are being cut for anyone’s good.
The last five years have seen a steady increase in the need for speed: speed-optimized Agile methods, minimum viable products with a steady trickle of incremental releases, test automation technology, etc. all to meet increasingly narrow time windows at the marketing and business development level. Quality is being given lip service, as the number of job ads for QA test engineers attests, but results out in the world paint another picture where speed is being given more importance than the risk of quality failures.
So here is your Coffee Thought for the week: we think #QualityIsNotOptional. What do you think?