There Are Repercussions to Rushing Development

Software development should never be rushed, nor should concessions be made. Robinhood lawsuit highlights what can happen when development is missing pieces.

Software development is complex. It’s complicated intricacies hidden behind the beauty in its functionality. But that beauty becomes marred when development is rushed, when concessions are made, when it’s not done right the first time. The final product of a project should have five qualities: Functionality, stability, security, context and be user-friendly. When even one of those things is missing or not fully present, the impact can be small or have a million ramifications. 

Sometimes, only one ramification is necessary to get the attention of a business. Last year, Robinhood learned the hard way what can happen when your product isn’t up to par. Well before the Game Stop debacle, Robinhood had to make changes to its platform after a young man, Alex Kearns (20), took his own life. The platform sent him automated messages regarding some options he purchased, indicating he owed over $700k. Later, he would receive an email stating he needed to deposit $170k in the next three days.

Kearns thought his life was ruined. He emailed the company several times with no response, and with no real customer service to help him, he thought he would be a financial burden on his family, with whom he was very close. As a college student, even he questioned in his last letter how a “20-year old with no income [was] able to get assigned almost $1 million worth of leverage?” His family is now in the process of suing Robinhood for wrongful death.

In the family’s statement, they said that Robinhood had poor business practices and actively recruited inexperienced investors and allowed them access to riskier trades they didn’t fully understand. The day after Alex died, he received an email from Robinhood that his restrictions were removed and he could begin trading again. So he never owed that money, and while the company fixed the problem, they didn’t communicate with the user to reassure him that there was no problem and they were investigating the issue. Robinhood’s response was to pledge to update its platform and make a donation to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

This is a pretty extreme example of what can happen when development is missing pieces, and the problem was compounded by Robinhood’s lack of clarity and poor business practices, but it is clear that the development team did not have context around all of the platform’s functionality. And if they did, then they were rushed through the process and set aside tasks for “later” and we all know “later” never comes. Whether it was configuration or restrictions doesn’t matter now, it didn’t happen and Alex Kearns paid with his life.

Don’t rush the development process. Don’t ask your devs to complete a project in half the time they say they need. Give them that time, and then understand it still might take longer. But let them do it right the first time, let them code in security and stability to support functionality and design. Give them use-cases and context around how the product will be used so they can tailor the design for ease of use. The world runs on software, it touches everything, so raise the stakes in your thought process and realize that lives, life savings, reputations, and more may be at stake when you rush engineering software.

As a business owner, your ultimate goal is to make money. When you put out products that aren’t properly developed, not only do you lose customers, but you lose money by having to fix all of the things you forced a developer to leave out the first time. It’s more cost-effective and profitable for businesses to do things one time, the right way. Development is no different.

Any kind of development takes time. It requires an expertise that most business owners do not have nor do they understand. It’s not magic, it’s architecture. It’s engineering. It’s problem-solving and outside-the-box thinking. It’s strategic and logical. It’s creative. It has a flow and cadence. It’s a combination of so many things that one person is asked to do. Support them, so they can support your product and your business and your customers.

***Here at PWV Consultants, we take mental health very seriously. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-888-333-2377 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. No one is alone!

About the Author

Pieter VanIperen, Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs. He is a 20-year software engineering veteran, who founded or co-founder several companies. He acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups, and has held the titles of software and software security executive, consultant and professor. His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.

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