Usability and the $1 trillion mistake

Is this a case of fat fingers, a usability flaw or poor design that enabled a Citigroup trader to have placed an order to sell $16 billion, instead of $16 million? P&G shares plunged by 23% because of this individual erroneous trade. What followed was the algorithms kicked in and automated trading saw the Dow loose a tenth of its value in less than half an hour. (And Accenture dropped to 4 cents down from $42!)

Before we go blaming human error, questions should be asked why that error occurred. How can someone make such a simple mistake so easily? Was it a case of entering two many 0s? (Don’t stop to look or think, answer the question as soon as you’ve read it – how many zeros are there in this number? 160000000. Same thing again, how many zeros are in this number 12,000,000. That’s a bit easier isn’t it. Only an ‘N’ separates the B from the M on a qwerty keyboard, in a hurry, easily mistaken?)

I’d start by looking at human factors and experience design, and question why (assumption here) the IT team who implemented the system didn’t have before a UX designer on the team to think about the human factors. Could this be the most costly example of poor design?

Article: Big drop, was it all a mistake?

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