Sherlock Holmes and the mystery of the VW Emissions Code Cheat

Das Cheater

Detectives, real and fictional, rely upon clues to solve mysteries. Criminals, real and fictional, spend more time concealing their crime than committing. That’s why it is fascinating to see the VW story continue to leak out more and more details as detectives detect and bad guys cover up.

At the heart of the VW issue is something we’ve talked about extensively here on BizTechFuturist before, the importance of software change and configuration management (SCCM). In simple terms SCCM is the process by which changes to software (and hardware) are requested, approved, implemented, tested, approved again, and deployed. This process is usually supported by pretty advanced SCCM solutions that track the status of the thousands of simultaneous changes happening in an enterprise software development group. This process is sometimes called the Software Development Lifecycle (or SDLC) and every organization has one if they are developing software. The SDLC can be Agile or Waterfall, more bureaucratic or more flexible, enforced rigorously or not.

The mystery, according to VW, revolves around not knowing who made these changes, why they made them and under who’s supervision. So that means they have no SCCM solution in place or, if they do, it is not being used effectively. Modern SCCM tools track everything and provide a detailed audit trail of every line of code that is changed, by whom, when, why and who approved the change in first place and who approved the deployment in the last place. Today’s SCCM solutions allow you to simply look at the emission control software, determine the offending lines of code and read the corresponding audit trail and you have your “smoking gun” with fingerprints and time-stamps.

What is really the question here is this: just as the Federal Government mandates seat-belts for passengers inside their vehicles, should the the government mandate software seat-belts (SCCM solutions) inside the automobile manufacturers? With hundreds of million lines of code running our cars these days, our safety has shifted from mechanical engineers to software engineers.

Elementary my dear Watson.

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