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It was shocking to hear about the recent Boeing 737 max crashes recently. Even more worrying that it was software possibly to blame.
There’s been a few places I have worked where to be honest, I would be reluctant to fly, if I knew they had provided and tested (hopefully thoroughly), the software within and controlling it.
The anti-stall feature of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, apparently activated before the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 plane nosedived into the ground.
The same mechanism was suspect in the Lion Air crash in October 2018. Between the two crashes, 346 people died onboard.
The feature, called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), is designed to help prevent a stall if a plane flies at too sharp an upward angle and, as a result, the wings lose their lift. But if activated at the wrong time, like shortly after take off, the system can force the nose down, causing the 737 to suddenly lose altitude.
All Boeing 737 Max 8’s across the world have now been grounded for some weeks.
How such software could get through safety checks from the US and national aeronautical authorities, clearly needs reviewing. More seriously, it’s come out that in both crashes, the two planes were similar in that they lacked two key safety features, that possibly could have prevented both accidents. Essential sensors were being sold as ‘optional extras’, at extra cost.
Those two safety features in question were an “angle of attack indicator” and an “angle of attack disagree light”, both of which were not included in the aircraft by Boeing as standard safety features, according to a report in the New York Times. If features or services are essential to a product or project, should they not be priced in from the start and delivered, to preserve the integrity of the whole project?
What has this got to do with social housing system project delivery?
You might well ask.
I am seeing in more and more projects, essentials initially priced in and sold, such as hand-holding support on go-live, over weekend cutovers, that come back twelve or eighteen months later as ‘Change Control’. In any procurement, cost will make up a significant part of scoring criteria. Lower cost tender bids are clearly more favourable. However in the process of agreeing a solid project plan, finalising a PID (Project Initiation Document) and subsequent reiterations of the project plan, much can change.
Be careful that in your projects, some of your ‘safety features’ are being quietly dropped and re-added later as ‘extras’. Limiting the number of included data conversions, is a common slight of hand. I have often asked at the initial sale, “So you are saying that just two data conversions and ago-live one for a £2m systems project is sufficient, in your professional opinion”?. “Have you examples recently where that has been the case”?
In my mind at that point I am probably aware of at least two projects where that supplier has been involved, where they are on their 4th or 5th (and often maybe more!). I have still to have been given a valid site to contact, from any of these suppliers, where they managed what’s been suggested.
So, in your projects be aware of the safety features you need, have them priced in and don’t lose them in the duration of your 12-20 month project. Otherwise, just like those unfortunates in the Boeing 737 max 8 disasters, your budget and perhaps your project may tend towards crashing and burning.
Clearly too, when Boeing do crack that software clitch. IMHO, they should send all their directors, CEO & managers on the maiden flight!
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Steve Miller - Jet Airliner.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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