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Digital transformation

Fix the weakest link in most digital transformation initiatives

Digital transformation initiatives are all about delivering an exceptional experience—building loyalty, optimizing cost-efficiency, and sharpening your competitive edge. But risk is introduced with each application change, including your intended innovations as well as the updates from your packaged application vendors (SAP, Salesforce, ServiceNow, etc.). Given the complexity of modern systems, it’s all too easy for each update to undermine the very experience that you’re working so hard to improve.

You’ve probably had the unfortunate experience of trying to complete a home improvement project only to end up with an unpleasant surprise (like finding that your kitchen update caused a slow water leak inside a wall). That’s what commonly happens on a much grander scale as business applications evolve. The average enterprise has 900 applications, and a single transaction commonly involves an average of 82 types of technology. Consider that numerous teams evolve these interconnected systems in parallel daily, and the packaged applications they interact with roll out major updates multiple times per year, and you get an idea of the challenge that you’re up against. 

The crux of the problem here is that there’s an almost infinite number of things that could go wrong, but an extremely finite amount of time to find them without throttling delivery speed. As a result, many of these change impacts go undetected until it’s too late. A few prominent examples land organizations in the headlines. Some interrupt core business processes and compromise the integrity of the data you rely on. And most silently eat away at customer loyalty, reputation, and market position by disrupting the broader application experience in subtle but significant ways.

Per IDC, organizations are spending 40% of their IT budgets on delivering exceptional digital experiences. Yet, few organizations have a clear strategy for ensuring that these innovations don’t undermine existing functionality that customers, and the business, have come to rely on. As IT leaders know all too well, what you don’t know can hurt you. And it seems there’s a lot we don’t know about the risks of continuously evolving enterprise software applications. 

Forrester discovered that 80% of firms believed they were consistently delivering software with acceptable business risk. However, when they drilled down into the people actually testing those applications, they found that only about 15% reported that their software testing practices provided a reliable assessment of business risk.

So, what’s needed to close this digital transformation gap? At a very high-level, three strategies can help:

  • Broaden software test automation: Despite the push towards digital transformation, over 80% of software testing is still performed manually. Sadly, the bulk of the manual testing activity involves humans being paid to perform robotic checking without the speed and accuracy that automation could bring. Automating all this mind-numbing work with automated testing tools exposes subtle differences faster and more accurately. It also enables your software testers to focus on the deep analytical testing that can’t be automated. Dolby Laboratory took this path, and now releases with near zero issues escaping into production. The result: fewer tickets and unprecedented peace of mind. 

  • Zero in on what to test with each update: Even with automated testing, there’s no time to test everything with every update. Chances are that most application functionality is unscathed by a given code change or packaged application update. Technologies such as test impact analysis and change impact analysis can understand what’s changed and help you prioritize the testing of the riskiest areas (based on historical trends, production data, predictive analytics…). For example, Applied Materials was able to double their release speed—with exceptional quality—by using AI-driven change impact analysis to home in on exactly what to test in each update.

  • Business-driven quality reporting: When an IT leader asks about the status of a release, he or she doesn’t care about how many tests were run or what percentage passed. Yet, that’s still what most quality feedback revolves around. I’ve seen that organizations dedicated to delivering flawless user experiences—for example, Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton—take a much smarter approach. They first immerse their testers in the essence of the brand and business. Then, they test and report on release readiness from the perspective of their key personas, as well as by feature and by tech layer. If a change disrupts the experience for a valuable persona, it’s addressed before release. 

Continuous innovation will inevitably break things. Understand the scope and business impact, and you’ll be set to deliver a consistently exceptional experience in the face of constant change.