System failure prevents laundry usage

Here is an interesting story. An European university has recently commissioned a new payment system for it’s laundry with the budget of $14m. In the new system, all the laundry machines in the University are networked. A student needs to create a ‘Laundry Account’, which is a one time process, upload money to his account, enter his username/pwd before using a laundry machine and the money will be debited as per usage. It has cool features where students can view the “online status” of the laundry machines, reserve the machines, view account details etc in a web based system. Looks cool.

However, the system was conceived, designed and implemented poorly. The problem included login failure, complicated processes and unproductive blockage of machines through online reservation system. Read the entire story here.

There is a lesson or two for every software person here. It goes to show that while conceiving, designing and developing a system, the technical team must always:

  • a) Focus on requirements engineering
  • Ensure the requirements are clearly understood, documented and agreed upon from the end user perspective.

  • b) Focus on design: Keep it simple
  • Rather than getting swayed by cool things, focus whether the design fully solves the business requirements and keep it simple and straight forward.

  • c) Focus on review, inspection and testing
  • I can vouch that this system was not tested properly. I bet the various reviews – like requirements review, design review, code review – etc were never done or done superficially. The test coverage and review/inspection efficiency must have been awful for the system to be messed up like this.

  • d) Ponder on the Impact on end user/business
  • Last but not least, every software engineer/manager should ponder the impact on the business and/or end users the system failure or system inadequacy will cause.

I wonder whether any one has done any business case/ROI before spending that damn $14m? Heard of overkill? I am sure this will figure in the top 10 list.

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1 Response to “System failure prevents laundry usage”


  1. 1 Aronzak August 7, 2010 at 6:28 am

    Completely wrong. The lesson here should be; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The company didn’t need to do testing, they needed common sense. Why make the usernames 20 characters long? Why make it only upper case? Why design a web based system only for IE?

    Those are fundamentals that shouldn’t need to be stated. Paying a student would result in a better system, because they would have common sense.


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© Dhandapani Ammasai, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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