Visual Basic Failures

Examples in which VisualBasic (the VbClassic version) has been a particular failure for the problem domain.

In the former VisualBasicProgrammersJournal? there was a column called 'Visual Basic Heroes'. I remember a 911 dispatching system created in VisualBasic. -- ThomasEyde

The London Ambulance Service commissioned a dispatching system (for the second time. The first had cost 7.5M and achieved... nothing), and awarded the contract to the lowest bidder (1.1M rather than around 8M). At the time ICL - one of the other bidders - said something like "We couldn't have provided the hardware for what they bid for the whole project..."

The winning contract, was headed (followers of the UK IT industry will be unsurprised to hear) by Arthur Andersen. A company which gained sufficient notoriety for large IT project failures they've changed their name...

I believe their name change may be better explained with a wish to disassociate themselves from the homonym accounting firm they descended from; a wise move, considering Andersen accounting went down in flames over Enron and other accounting scandals.

They intended to create it for the (then fairly new) "Windows" platform with the (then extremely new) "Visual Basic". And proceeded to do so.

The following debacle is reputed to have the highest casualty count of any software project in UK history - in the region of 30 to 50 deaths were attributed to the system's failure to remember to send ambulances to some of the emergency calls, the increasingly poor response times and the fact it didn't quite know which roads in London go where.

Things were only saved when they reverted back to their manual dispatching system.

Further reading -- "Software Failure: Management Failure: Amazing Stories and Cautionary Tales", Stephen Flowers, ISBN 0-471-95113-7

-- KatieLucas

Well, the obvious question here is whether this failure has anything to do with Visual Basic, or whether Arthur Andersen simply writes crappy software. You say their reputation is so bad that they changed their company's name (to Accenture, isn't it?). Did they write all their software in VB, or did they fail in lots of languages? Why do you list this as a VB failure, rather than an Arthur Andersen failure?
Arthur Andersen may have changed to their name. Possibly to what you suggest. They did (and do) have a reputation for being stunningly, gobsmackingly, amazingly good at destroying projects. That's when they're not being what I would consider outright criminal. (I'm thinking particularly of the Wessex Health Authority scandal.)


So do all the other large consultancies that started as bits of accountants. Partly this is because of a habit of picking brand spanking new tools based on what that tool promises rather that going with something they can find experience in.

None of them have managed to kill anywhere near that many people by choosing a tool badly. I'd argue that this is because no other tool so spectacularly failed to live up to its performance promises as Visual Basic version 1.

{I should possibly add a proviso that AA has a special place in my heart having turned me down as an outsourced consultant on the basis that I was "more experienced than they required for that project". This explains absolutely tons about their performance. I believe the project turned turtle and sank below the waves, although it didn't add to their already monumental lawsuit library.}

What actually staggers me is not so much that the projects fail. Heck, this is the IT industry. It's that week in and week out, AA and it's cronies feature on the front of Computing having been involved in project collapses costing millions of pounds. And then company after company goes and hires them anyway. I can't figure out what logic drives CIOs to do that apart from some twisted version of "you know, sooner or later chances are one of their projects will work. Maybe we'll be the lucky ones!!"

-- KatieLucas

This failure, over 13 years ago, was of what was called a ComputerAssistedDispatch? (CAD) system. The existing manual system had many flaws in its implementation, and the failure of the automated system resulted in the resignation of the Ambulance Chief (19921028) and an official inquiry (for more information and the report, see BigPublicFailure).

VB has/had so many apps written in it that this page is nearly useless without specifics. At one point, roughly 30% to 50% of all custom biz apps were written in VB. Thus, even if only 1 percent resulted in catastrophic failures, there should be several hundreds of actual instances.
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