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How to accelerate software development without compromising quality or compliance

When it comes to bringing software to market, organizations in regulated industries must contend with compliance and risk-management issues. Technology teams at these organizations must often contend with bureaucratic processes that hinder agility. It’s critically important for organizations developing software in regulated spaces to align quality with development initiatives. To accelerate time to market without compromising quality or risking non-compliance, testing should be embedded throughout the software delivery pipeline.

The obvious and hidden costs of poor quality

Across industries, most companies are developing at least some software, whether it’s to optimize internal business processes or increase customer engagement. Many of these organizations in traditional industries are scrambling to release software for a new world. It can be an impossible goal if leadership is at odds with the technology team in regards to the methods and tools developers and testers use.

Moving fast to beat competitors and grab market share is vital, but releasing software that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted for compliance and quality can quickly negate such advantages. Even when an organization is willing to embrace a more agile approach to software development, companies can fall short of their visions. Without advancing their approach to testing in tandem, they leave a significant gap in their efforts to minimize and mitigate risk.

Consider the ramifications when applications crash, don’t perform as expected or become the conduit for security breaches. In such cases, companies can lose customer confidence and loyalty, along with market share — and in some industries, face serious legal or financial penalties. Research has shown that a single poor experience with an app or product can prompt users to delete the app or walk away from the product forever. Specifically, about 37% of users will think less of a brand if its mobile app crashes or causes errors, according to a study by Dimensional Research. Nearly half will delete the app on the spot.

Moreover, companies can be fined if they fail to comply with industry regulations. Such negligence can even hurt employee hiring and retention, as top talent opts to work for companies releasing high-quality software.

No wonder improving software quality was named the top priority by respondents to Capgemini’s World Quality Report 2017-18 survey.

The failure to make software testing a strategic priority

So why the gap between understanding the importance of software quality and delivering on that vision?

Responsibility for ensuring quality is often limited to a single area or department – even though the impact of poor quality spans the entire organization. Moreover, too many companies test software late in the development cycle, cramming it in at the end of a sprint or right before a release.

When testing is treated as an afterthought rather than as a strategic priority, companies significantly boost the likelihood of releasing subpar software that fails to satisfy both internal requirements and external regulations and expectations. Even companies not required to comply with stringent industry regulations are often charged with compliance to general regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation going into effect in May 2018.

It’s not that companies don’t consider testing important. It’s that they have not approached testing in a way that makes it an integral part of software development from the start.

Harness the power of smarter testing

If development teams are creating software more quickly, testing teams must also test faster. It starts by introducing testing earlier in the lifecycle – in other words, shifting left – and viewing quality as a job shared by everyone responsible for delivery, not just QA. The good news is that a growing number of companies recognize the need for this evolution. To that end, more organizations are moving testers out of centralized testing departments to embed them within development teams, as noted in Capgemini’s World Quality Report.

Companies can enact this change without increasing risk by introducing exploratory testing and other approaches, and by using tools designed to address risk concerns. Exploratory testing helps surface issues – such as usability problems – that go undetected during technical or specification-based testing, providing developers with valuable feedback they can address during development.

When introducing testers earlier in the development cycle, organizations can strategically determine what types of testing takes precedence by aligning testing with the development cycle. For instance, while it may be unwise to test the user interface early, it might make sense to test APIs at the onset of the development cycle.

Ensuring quality and security in software releases is one of the most important jobs in the development organization. Yet it’s not just the responsibility of the QA team – it’s the job of all those responsible for bringing the company’s software to market. As the World Quality Report notes, “Back to basics focus on application quality shows testing has come of age in the new context of agile applications,” By embracing an approach that moves testing further left in the development cycle, your organization can better mitigate risk while improving quality. In turn, you boost the likelihood of achieving a better market position and driving higher revenues.

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