Covid-19 thrust us into a new world where digital business is now often the only business. In response, longstanding digital transformation barriers — from regulatory compliance to internal resistance — were dismantled, and digital transformation is now more accessible than at any time in history. There’s a tremendous opportunity to take this momentum and run with it, as long as one of the most common threats to rapid innovation isn’t still holding your organization back.
Breaking Through Barriers
I’m keenly aware that the great impact on digital transformation is an unexpected byproduct of the pandemic. Often, crisis-related projects create a boot camp-like scenario that pushes enterprise organizations to their limits, revealing their agility to deliver software much faster than ever expected. Decades-old systems with all sorts of complex interdependencies and brittle code nobody understood couldn’t be updated fast enough until there was no other option than to update immediately.
Many organizations and agencies have risen to the challenge. From manufacturers shifting to the development and distribution of entirely new product lines to longstanding brick-and-mortar retailers making an unexpected leap into e-commerce, teams have proven fast innovation is certainly possible at the enterprise level.
In some industries, the most menacing digital transformation barriers have long been a complex web of governmental regulations. For example, across Asia, purchasing insurance policies has long required face-to-face meetings. With Covid-19, those restrictions were lifted to make core services accessible without physical interaction, enabling organizations to launch a much-anticipated digital transformation.
The sudden pivot to remote work also removed any lingering doubts about the value — and necessity — of migrating applications and workloads to the cloud.
In a mid-March 2020 survey of CIOs, 68% reported that moving to the cloud would become a higher priority. Though IT leaders used to consider cloud a major risk, they now recognize cloud’s benefit toward flexibility, scalability and speed to market, all of which are essential for digital transformation.
Digital Transformation: Full Speed Ahead?
With these barriers removed, it should be much simpler to move forward with starting or advancing your digital transformation. Take this new freedom and run with it — right?
The fact that many enterprise organizations managed to release successful Covid-19 response applications extremely fast shows “quality at speed” is feasible. The same could be said about the achievements of leading enterprises that modernized their entire application delivery process in order to release innovations faster than their competitors. However, the constant stream of software failures hitting the daily news feeds shows it’s certainly not easy.
One formidable barrier remains: software testing.
If you’re currently balancing software testing between expedited development and release processes, you’re forced to choose between two bad options: Release fast with inadequate testing or lose your time-to-market advantage. In fact, software testing is routinely cited as the top enemy of application delivery speed. Most recently, the GitLab Global Developer Report found developers cite testing as one of the biggest sources of delays — more than actually implementing the code or planning what to develop.
Making matters worse, testing is incredibly expensive. The latest World Quality Report found 23% of an organization’s application development budget is spent on testing. Why is most testing so slow and costly? Largely, because it lacks its own digital transformation. The World Quality Report has found the vast majority of testing is still performed manually. As former Merck CIO Clark Golestani so memorably put it, “I have more automation in my coffee maker than most enterprises have in their testing processes. This is not only expensive; it also holds back innovation.”
Fixing Software Testing: Three Takeaways For IT Leaders
Here are some ways IT leaders can stop software testing from endangering this unprecedented opportunity to advance your digital transformation:
1. Stop manual testing.
You simply can’t release quality applications quickly unless most of your testing is automated. Manual testing can’t keep pace with the highly accelerated release cycles required for digital transformation. Testers should focus on designing effective tests and performing the “exploratory” testing that truly requires human creativity. Automate the rest.
As a first step, find out how much time and money your organization is spending on manual testing (often via outsourcing), then build an attack plan from there.
2. Align testing with business risk.
There’s no point in spending time and money to design, implement, run, review and maintain tests that don’t matter. Yet, my organization analyzed the tests at most enterprises, and we found you could eliminate 67% of tests without increasing your risk exposure at all.
To streamline testing, ensure that the business priorities are driving testing; the focus should be on covering your top business risks as efficiently as possible, not creating a certain number of test cases. Also, support the adoption of “change impact analysis” technologies that pinpoint exactly what tests are needed for due diligence on each release.
3. Provide executive support for testing transformation.
Change is hard. Manual testing practices have probably been entrenched in the organization for years, and they can’t be replaced overnight. Getting the results you need in terms of speed and agility requires more than equipping the organization with new technologies. You also need to foster a new mindset, establish new processes and allocate the resources required to lead that transition.
There will inevitably be bumps along the road — but the best way to keep the initiative moving forward is to ensure it has strong executive support from start to finish. Communicate why it’s critical for top-level goals, begin with a clear roadmap for the path forward and ensure progress to key milestones is measured — and recognized.
The current crisis will subside, but the need to rapidly respond to uncertainty and unexpected changes will not. Take this opportunity to advance your digital transformation and run with it, but don’t forget about transforming testing. Modernized testing can act as a catalyst for your transformation — enabling you to release innovations faster, and at a lower cost.
*Originally published in Forbes