Over the past 7 years working with CelticQA Solutions, I have witnessed many of our customers digital transformation journeys. At CelticQA solutions, our clients are typically companies in the Financial, Insurance, Biopharmaceutical, software & Retail sectors. They trust my team and I to design, plan implement and support software QA frameworks to ensure the safe and successful delivery of technology programs.
As the rate of technological change continues to grow and Covid-19 accelerates the pace of Digital transformation programs. I thought I would share some of the common challenges and missed opportunities that I see companies make during their digital transformation journeys. Feel free to add your own experience in the comments, I hope the following will add value to your own digital transformation journey.
- “Fail to plan, prepare to fail”– Benjamin Franklin.
80% of our success is determined by how we spend the first 20% of our time on a project.
- I cannot overestimate how important it is to determine the requirements for any project. It is very hard for the IT team to build and maintain standards if the requirements are loose. Investing in maturing this process within your organization and including all the right people in these discussions will set you and your teams up for success. It should be clear to all involved the desired business value the organization wants to achieve from the project.
- All stakeholders need to be involved Business, Development, and Quality Assurance. All too often the QA department are left out of these discussions. QA needs to be involved in these discussions if they are to build the correct Framework to ensure a high-quality product will be the output from all the inputs and the desired business value is delivered.
- The agile initiative has made the word “Documentation” ugly. This may prove to be damaging to the acceleration of technology within business and underestimate the longevity of businesses. Those businesses investing in processes that make it quick & easy to produce process documentation are creating safety nets for future digitalization success.
- “What gets measured gets done”.
Technology projects require an investment of time, money, and knowledge. CIO’s and their teams are constantly under pressure to deliver more with less. The key to maximizing the return from all resources is to optimize the return from all inputs.
Metrics are the best way to capture objective information that allow the IT leadership team to take decisive action. These metrics need to be meaningful and real-time. All too often I see beautiful dashboards recording metrics that deliver little or no value to Management and their teams.
When considering the metrics to capture, it is helpful to think about;
- Measuring the actual duration of your development cycle versus the planned duration.
- The frequency of releases and deployments
- The number of defects found in each build and their severity,
- The time it takes to fix the defects
- The no of actual features released in each release compared to planned features.
There will be several metrics behind each heading, my advice is to keep it simple and in real-time. This will give IT management and their teams time to respond if required. I would add a note of caution that Metrics that become targets can foster the wrong environment required for a culture of Software QA Excellence. The aim is to learn what works and address what isn’t, increasing the quality and velocity of releases that have real value to the business. Quality should never be compromised for speed.
e.g.: Sample dashboard from QA connector™: Measures no of tests ran, status of the tests executed, pending defect status, and their severity.
- “Is QA Testing the same as Quality Assurance?
The term QA Testing and Quality Assurance are used interchangeably. They are not the same and deliver different organizational value.
Quality Assurance programs focus on the entire process behind a product. A true QA program consists of four components, quality planning, quality governance, quality control/testing, and quality improvements.
The principal goal of QA programs is to ensure products have the right QA processes and practises to support them through their life cycle, thus reducing the cost of the product over its entire lifecycle. QA Frameworks should be robust and repeatable giving the IT Teams and the business confidence in their ability to mature digitally.
An end-to-end QA framework will incorporate processes to ensure the delivered IT project meets the desired business value that prompted the investment.
On the other hand, Quality testing or Quality control focuses on the output from a process. Its focus is on validating the developed code functions as it should and the information returned is correct. The five components of Quality Testing programs are: Test Strategy, Test Planning, Test cases, Test Data, and Test Environment.
I would highly recommend that IT Teams take time to ensure they have considered all the above five components.
I have observed a lot of organizations not taking the necessary time to set standards for writing test cases. This approach causes bottlenecks and delays if the IT Team is looking to implement automation or accelerate automation. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat with CIO’s and their teams who tell me they are not confident in the quality and coverage of their test cases.
IT Teams that focus heavily on quality control/quality testing will find their teams quickly overwhelmed by growing testing requirements once the need to scale a product arises or accelerate the pace of technology within the organization. This will result in lengthy time-to-market cycles, growing testing cycles, and increased costs for delivery.
- Organizational ownership for QA
Agile development processes have changed the QA landscape with the rise of Dev Ops teams. QA Budgets are hard to determine as they become blended with Development budgets. Typically, agile teams are a blend of Product Owner, Developers, and Testers. If the team is not quality-focused, their definition of done may not include a strong quality component. Some teams in my experience do not even build unit tests. If it is not clear who is ultimately responsible for Quality Assurance then the voice of QA is lost or finds it hard to be heard.
This presents problems for QA when looking to secure budget for QA activities. Frequently, the list of defects grows and the testing team becomes nervous about the growing technical debt list. As the list grows and the voice of QA becomes diluted the risk to the business increases with each new release. Quality Control/ testing is not the only QA component that finds it hard to be heard. QA Governance and Innovation are compromised for operational activity and the opportunity for continual improvement is not seized.
- Training and Development for IT Teams
It is widely accepted there is a shortage of IT skills in today’s world. Finding team members who have the right IT skills, experience, people skills, and good communication skills contribute significantly to developing high-performance teams. They are difficult to find and require a focused and good recruitment policy.
Once employed and engaged with a team it is important to keep the team challenged and working with new technology. Cross-functional teams and Lunch and Learns are good to help with upskilling and transfer of knowledge across IT teams.
It is wise to invest in those team members who are keen to learn and participate in self-directed learning. They can be steered to learning the technology that organizations have identified as necessary for continual digital evolution. Newly learned Technology skills must be used relatively quickly to ensure they are not lost.
Strategic Quality partners are also an effective way of raising the standards and adopting new technologies and processes into an IT team. They come with the knowledge, experience and they act as role models for the IT team which is the most effective and quickest way of changing behavior in teams.
QA practises, Testing tools, and process are evolving alongside the pace of technology. It is important to continually evolve and keep your IT teams up to speed. This will contribute significantly to delivering quality builds faster, enhancing the organizations’ ability to react to customers’ demands and keeping ahead of competition.
In conclusion, Digital Maturity is crucial for longevity in business. Digital investments require an investment in time, money, and energy. They always sound good in theory however they need to be tested to determine their real value. The vehicle to do this is a true end-to-end QA Framework for IT investments.
The four components of a true QA framework are quality planning, quality governance, quality control/testing, and quality improvements. The value of investing in building this vehicle will be experienced at many levels throughout the organization.
IT Teams will deliver high-quality builds quicker enhancing organizations ability to react to customer demands and or improve business operational effectiveness and efficiency. IT Management will have the necessary feedback to take decisive action when required. IT Leaders build confidence as they have the correct QA framework to ensure the Organisation can remain relevant and innovative.
I wish you continued success with all your digital transformation plans. I hope some of the information shared here will be of value to you and your teams.