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Who Wants To Be An (Application) Millionaire?

Cast Software has undertaken a study focused on the underlying structural quality of business software applications. Published this week, the company's survey details findings suggesting that the average cost of fixing problems that remain in an application once it is operational generally exceed $1 million.

While the generalized nature of such studies brings into question the value of this kind of analysis, the company insists that it developed the study by first performing an automated analysis to measure the structural quality of 288 IT applications from 75 companies throughout a variety of industries -- so that in total, the investigation touched a total of 108 million lines of code.

Seeking to try and coin the term 'technical debt', Cast says that these hidden fix-it costs are a primary contributor to an application’s total cost of ownership.

According to Bill Curtis, Cast's chief scientist, "the purpose of our Worldwide Application Software Quality Study is to provide an objective, empirical foundation for discussing the structural quality of IT applications; that is, the extent to which IT applications are free from structural flaws that cause problems such as outages, performance degradation, security breaches and data corruption."

Using the data drawn from the automated analysis, CAST made a conservative estimate of which problems would be fixed and how much it would cost to fix them, revealing an average cost of nearly $2.82 per line of code. The average-sized application in the survey had 374,000 lines of code, translating into technical debt of over $1,055,000 per application.

Gartner has voiced its opinions on this subject and surmised that although we've long had the ability to benchmark applications at the project and process level, there has been a gap in terms of analysis tools to examine the underlying technical quality of applications. Analysts have also commented that this type of performance data, if it can be obtained, should prove valuable to organizations looking at issues such as application portfolio management and vendor lock-in.

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