Digital transformation. It’s a new buzzword, for sure – a catchphrase that is both confusing and sometimes meaningless to CIO’s. While several vendors are attempting to provide a one-size-fits-all solution to digital transformation, smart CIO’s understand that this is not feasible. It doesn’t come in a box, and it doesn’t come in a cloud.
Defining Digital Transformation
Lots of CIO’s use the term digital transformation to describe their move from old, outdated architectures and on-site systems, including waterfall development, to microservices driven by API, migration to the cloud, and agile development.
In part, of course, these are all forms of digital transformation. However, alone, they do not define it.
What digital transformation entails is how an organization decides to use technology, along with its people processes, to change how that organization does business and aligns it with customer expectations relative to its products or services.
This is a mouthful, to be certain. But broken down and simplified, it means that businesses launch and develop new digital solutions that will provide both its in-house staff and its customers with high-quality experiences. The goal is to establish a more current and relevant model that will keep it competitive and increase its revenue stream.
What Drives Digital Transformation?
Put simply, it is customer demand.
Think for a minute about Amazon and the digital transformations it continues to design and launch – everything from embracing outside sellers, to Prime, to same-day delivery, to the use of AI and ML to track customer explorations and purchases, to make future buying recommendations. Consider Alexa and its newest device, the Portal. Think about Amazon’s futuristic commitment to drone delivery and the software that will be required to make this happen.
What Amazon has done is increasing consumer expectations for every online retailer in terms of what they want in both availability and delivery. Moreover, other big-box retailers are rushing to follow suit – namely Target and Walmart. Also, the following suit means new digital solutions, from the order to the warehouse, to the delivery.
Consider restaurants and grocery retailers who are rapidly developing digital solutions for ordering and delivery – chatbots being one prime example.
What digital transformation has come to mean for retailers that offer products is that they are turning those products into services before our very eyes. So those services are every bit as important as the products themselves.
Service industries are no different. Digital transformation has meant that they, too, have had to upgrade their digitization to remain competitive. The healthcare and travel industries have experienced major digital disruptions that have required constant, continual, and rapid software development.
Challenges of Digital Transformation
Now that we have at least a cursory definition of digital transformation, and understand the “why” of its importance, the question becomes how does an organization meet the challenges of this transformation in a wholly successful way?
The pressure is on to create these digital solutions and to launch them as quickly as possible. That pressure is felt by CIO’s and IT departments that have been given directives from CEO’s and Boards of Directors to come up with these transformations now. Also, to meet these directives, CIO’s are making some rather sweeping changes, adding new roles, and setting up in-house innovation “laboratories” to explore new technologies and their potential usefulness.
The Key Question
Before specific digital transformations are embraced and begun, the organization must ask itself one question – what are the outcomes we want to achieve for our customers?
Those outcomes are often determined by what the competition is doing.
Consider the insurance industry, for example. Traditionally, when a customer was involved in an accident, he was told to get three estimates for the repairs, to submit them, and then receive an “approved amount for those repairs. The entire process might take up to 14 days or so.
Today, however, digital transformations in the form of newer algorithms and mobile apps, customers can now get their claims resolved in a matter of minutes. They take a picture of the damage and then upload it to a claims officer for review and estimate.
This transformation involves much more than just the customer and the claims adjuster. It involves processes and people throughout the entire organization, and it has to work seamlessly if it is to be of economic value.
Such digital transformations demand that new software be developed quickly but also that it performs without glitches. Such performance requires a new modern testing platform – one that will ensure that the product provides the premier user experience right out of the gate. Otherwise, your reputation (and customers) is lost. It may be great to be the first-to-market with a new transformation, but if the software is mediocre, that advantage is lost.
What Does a Modern Testing Platform Look Like?
Here are a typical legacy development and testing scenario. The IT development team designs and develops a piece of software. It is then sent over to the QA team for testing, along with the directive to get that task finished quickly. Because the QA team is in a hurry and using less effective legacy testing solutions, the result can easily be defective software and resultant poor user experience. Worst case scenario? A huge bug that sends customers elsewhere.
Moreover, even when a bug is discovered, the fix can be a time-consuming task, because that bug is embedded in the code – and lines of dependent code have been written on top of it. The release is delayed.
This is what happens when there is a disconnect between development and QA, and testing doesn’t occur until after the sprint.
A new, modern testing platform eliminates this costly and inefficient process. And it looks like this.
- Development and QA are integrated. Testing occurs after each agile sprint; developers are alerted of an issue and can address it right then.
- Actual and potential defects are identified early and addressed at the point of identification.
- When the final product is deployed, it is bug-free and provides seamless user experience, because testing has occurred all along the way.
In short, a modern testing platform is an agile testing platform.
Creating an Agile Testing Environment
Now that the importance of testing all along the way has been established, how is this accomplished?
One word – Agile.
Developers are embracing agile – short sprints of development that involve a team approach, flexibility, and collaboration of the entire team during the development phase.
A modern testing platform must be agile too. But, the more that development teams adopt agile processes, the more testers struggle. This is because they have not been traditionally incorporated into the development process. Also, this has to change.
The collaborative nature of agile development must now include collaboration with testers so that each iteration is tested before moving on. In short, testers must be made part of the team in agile development, so that they can focus on testing throughout the total software development lifecycle.
Speaking to Agile Testing Methods
In short, there are four testing methods in a modern agile environment – Behavior Driven Development (BDD), Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD), Exploratory Testing, and Session-Based Testing. Here’s a brief rundown of each.
Behavior Driven Development (BDD)
This testing is based upon the end-user behavior and the behaviors that the product should thus exhibit. It is set up in advance to be a guide to engineers as they create tests. Automated testing functions determine the accuracy and continue to refine the code until it passes. The benefit of BDD testing is in its strategy. Test cases are written and executed early on, at the end of each iteration, rather than at the very end of the development cycle. BDD puts the user experience first and is best used for feature-focused software.
Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD)
This approach is like BDD – it requires that tests be created first so that developers can write code that will pass these tests. Testing is very user-based and may even involve input from customers and potential customers on the features that should be developed.
One of the benefits of involving customers is that the need to re-design and develop after launch is reduced.
This type of testing is unique because the goal of testers is to try to “break” the software, to expose and document flaws that should be re-designed before launch.
Tests are crafted after each iteration is developed and will relate to how customers will use the software in real-life situations. Exploratory testing is not scripted and can be somewhat random, but the results can point to improvements that must be made before moving forward.
This is a variation of exploratory testing, although it differs because it is scripted and more structured. It is like exploratory testing, however, because tests are developed based upon mimicking the user experience.
Testing occurs during defined sessions, and results are documented and returned to the developer/project manager who is debriefed on those results. The debriefing includes what happened during the testing, what results were achieved, the obstacles encountered, and what now must be done. Session testing is generally seen as an intermediary activity that will help determine what type of testing should occur next.
Agile Testing Environments
To implement agile testing, certain conditions will make it effective:
- Testers should be involved very early in the development process. This is how they can gain the insights they need to design testing processes.
- Test Should Occur Frequently. When teams need to work fast, they have generally adopted a DevOps environment with continuous integration. This required more frequent testing, but very targeted and thoughtful testing so that it does not slow down the process.
- Tests need to be created quickly, to keep pace with an agile, DevOps environment. Again, this requires involvement from the beginning.
So, What’s Next for Modern Testing?
Agile is already a familiar development environment. The inclusion of testing into this environment has been slower. Moreover, yet it is the most logical and efficient methodology. Gradually, the importance of involving testers in development from day one is becoming more and more recognized. This will place new demands on testers too – more significant automation skills, more in-depth understanding of code, and ability to sustain collaborative relationships with others involved in the software development lifecycle.
Kristin Savage is interested in writing and planning to publish her own book in the nearest future. Also, she has been a reviewer at Pick Writers for a few years and is known for her thorough approach to accurately assess newcomer translation services. You can find her on Facebook.