For those who have been avidly following the news, the startling revelations of Volkswagen having programmed engine software to falsify emissions when a car was believed to be in test mode seem like the plotline of a John Grisham novel, writes Rory Canavan.

However, if ever there was a case for quality software asset management (SAM), then this must surely be it. From the outset, we can ask ourselves the following SAM operational questions:

  • Where was the testing process?
  • Where was the version and edition control?
  • Where was the change management procedures?
  • Where was review/continuous improvement process?

Whilst SAM could have been used to prevent or mitigate the potential business and reputational damage Volkswagen is currently experiencing (and due to experience for some time to come) this sorry tale only serves to reinforce the notion that operational SAM processes should be linked to business goals and aspirations; and for those who might think that SAM is just the generation of effective licence position (ELP) reports, then let me bring you up to speed - The core processes required to create compliance reports should also have business and IT objectives associated with them if they are to gain relevance in a company once a SAM framework goes live.

Once the software had gone BAU, it would have been prudent for VW IT to continuously report on vehicles emissions, and not just from a test scenario, but also from the testing track - and this is not to test the emissions from the engines, but rather to validate the software is working properly.

Michael Horn (Head of VW in the US) has testified in front of a US Senate hearing that there was no corporate strategy to circumvent US vehicle emission standards, rather he believes that this was the underhand work of a couple of rogue programmers. Even if this was the case, though, there was clearly a lack of corporate governance, not to mention the demonstrable absence of good software asset management.

This story, I fear, will run and run - not least because partner car manufacturers who have also used the offending engine in question will be legally challenged by US authorities for their lack of governance in assessing the engine for its environmental impact - which I can only imagine will result in counter-claims against VW from the likes of Audi and Mercedes.

About the author

Rory Canavan, founder and owner of SAM Charter, with a technical background in business and systems analysis, Rory has a wide range of first-hand experience advising numerous companies and organisations on the best practices and principles pertaining to software asset management. This experience has been gained in both military and civil organisations, including the Royal Navy, Compaq, HP, the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) and several software vendors.