Chief Essentialist Robert Gormley helps companies transform their businesses using the latest quality assurance strategies that leverage best practices for agility, test automation and the latest IT innovations. A Certified Scrum Master with a Master’s degree in education, Robert’s experience in quality innovation and digital transformation provide a unique perspective on the impact of COVID on continuous quality throughout most organizations. Here is another interview with one of Trissential’s key technology leaders:

Q: How has the acceleration of digital transformation due to COVID-19 changed the test and QA landscape in the past year?

A: If I could describe this in one sentence it would be “doing more with less”. During the pandemic, many quality assurance budgets have been redirected, resulting in QA teams being stretched to their limits. While 2020 saw even more emphasis on automation, only one-third of organizations are recognizing the full benefits of test automation. A few more statistics show other areas of concern, for example:

  • Most QA teams are spending an average of 32 hours per week on heads down, manual testing activities, an activity found to be 25% less effective in early error detection.
  • QA teams continue to emphasize a quality strategy focused on regression testing, yet this type of testing detects roughly only 7-10% of all possible defects.
  • Despite significantly higher ROI from automation, more than half of all organizations still report doing as much manual testing as automated testing.

Finally, the rapid digital transformation demanded by the impacts of the pandemic has created a critical need for more specialty testing. This specialty testing includes accessibility testing, performance engineering, security testing, infrastructure and environment testing, and data testing. Most organizations are scrambling to solve these formidable testing gaps even as they struggle with the realities of not having the budget to support these disciplines.

Q: Why is it so important that an organization have a shared responsibility for quality across departments? How does Agility fit into that mindset?

A: Because so many budgets are shrinking, quality assurance activities are being handed over to non-traditional quality roles within the organization. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the only way to solve the increasing workload is to share the responsibility for quality assurance. Frankly, more mature Agile teams have understood that quality assurance needs to be a shared responsibility for some time now. These experienced Agile groups have found unique ways to deliver continuous quality by doing things like leveraging automated unit tests, sharing pre-test activities with business analysts, and designing more collaborative acceptance test initiatives with business stakeholders themselves. In addition, many are improving their overall technical efficiency through the use of a single toolset for orchestration.

The bottom line? An organization simply can’t achieve all the efficiency and effectiveness of highly mature Agile teams without a shared quality responsibility.

Q: Why are marketing departments becoming more involved in quality efforts?

A: Digital transformation and other impacts of the pandemic have accelerated every organization’s need to connect with their customers online, and marketing departments are the stewards of that digital landscape. Shared quality responsibility isn’t contained to just IT, it has to be shared organizationally and smart marketing teams are picking up the slack. Marketers are often the first to see the impact on the customer experience of poor quality assurance and testing strategies. These impacts are often immediate, which increases the sense of urgency at the top of the funnel. In a nutshell, marketers are incentivized to support testing gaps in areas like accessibility, data, and even security, as marketing success metrics depend on these factors now more than ever.

Q: What are the three most common fails in quality cultures?

A: First, there is the lack of executive leadership support, and a failure to recognize the increased importance of quality assurance within the organization. Second, quality strategies are focused on tactical success vs. organizational success. In other words, failing to take the long view. Third, we’re continuing to operate decentralized, siloed QA teams instead of creating the type of highly evolved competency center found in most successful Agile organizations.

Q: What do you mean by a test architecture? What is the value proposition?

A: For the last decade, when people discuss test automation, it’s boiled down to two things; a tool and test scripts. At Trissential, we’re focused on changing that narrative by emphasizing the benefits of a strong test architecture. To fully realize the benefits of automation, you have to embrace the concept of a testing platform, one that brings together all aspects of quality into one uniform testing architecture. The biggest characteristic of a strong test architecture is that it includes not only standards, but a set of best practices supporting the testing tools.

Test architecture is about having the right processes in place to support a uniform toolset leveraged by the right people with the right skillset to use them.  

Q: How is COVID driving more need for accessibility testing?

A: The pandemic has accelerated most organizations’ move to a digital landscape, and one of the biggest risks in that digital landscape is web accessibility. Less than 5% of global brands have an inclusively-designed web presence. We’re seeing the impacts of that as web accessibility-related litigation continues to rise exponentially.

Q: What are some common myths about accessibility?

 A: Misconceptions about the opportunities around accessibility are driving much of this lack of interest. For example; many people think that people with disabilities comprise only a small percentage of web users, when in fact 1 in 5 people require an inclusive, accessible web experience. Also, it’s commonly thought that people with disabilities don’t have as much spending power. In reality, many studies report that this population has nearly three trillion dollars in annual spending power. In addition, they’re extremely loyal to brands with an inclusive web presence. Lastly, management may think that compliance is complex and costly. Yet sources report that almost 50% of web accessibility issues are fairly common content changes that the marketing team can handle with ease

Q: What is the real definition of performance engineering, and why does it get confused with load testing?

A: Over the past 36 months, performance testing has evolved into a much more robust and sophisticated discipline. At the heart of this practice are important components:

  1. Shift-left Performance Testing. Traditional performance testing that occurs at the end of projects is no longer acceptable in this business climate. Shift-left Performance Testing favors frequent, iterative comparison testing after an initial baseline test.
  2. Performance Monitoring. In addition to performance testing, performance monitoring, Application Performance Monitoring (APM) for applications and environments in the cloud (hosted), has become a pivotal part of performance engineering.
  3. Infrastructure/Environment Instrumentation. Testing on the infrastructure and environments that applications run on in order to finely tune systems to be more performant in complex, multi-tiered ecosystems.

To get the best out of performance engineering, it’s important to have a strategy inclusive of all three components while delivering the testing as an on-demand service.

Q: Why is it important to have a strong performance engineering journey?

A: Most often, when organizations don’t realize the benefits of performance engineering, it’s because they don’t have one of two things, either a strategy with clear objectives OR an accurate understanding of what problem needs to be solved. A mature performance engineering journey addresses these two areas immediately before moving on to addressing the needs of people, processes, and tools.

Q: What are the critical success factors to getting remote quality – also known as “best shore” – right? 

 A:  There are many CSF’s in what most of us call best shore now..but these are the top things I look for:

  • Understand your organizational quality objectives and share a quality policy that everyone within the organization is accountable for. Organizational quality objectives provide purpose and alignment for remote workers, which is critical to motivation, job satisfaction, and job performance.
  • A strong process assurance capability that is tied to pragmatic and practical governance. Organizations that have a process for the sake of having process are much less effective and tend to push people away from their quality responsibilities.
  • Innovative, shift-left quality strategies that eliminate the traditional manual testing paradigm. When testers are required to repeatedly perform the same testing tasks, they become ineffective (the Pesticide Paradox) and dissatisfied in their jobs resulting in poor quality outcomes.

For more insights connect with Robert on LinkedIn here. 

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