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Three tips for communicating the business value of testing to the C-Suite

As the end of the line in software development, testing doesn’t get much attention from strategic decision-makers. That is, until a bug slips under the radar, goes live with launch and leads to catastrophe.

In 2016, 548 software failures from 363 companies affected more than 50 percent of the world’s population (4.4 billion people), according to the Tricentis Software Fail Watch. Collectively, these failures affected $1.1 trillion worth of assets. Part of the issue is that testing leaders struggle with communicating the strategic value of quality, often because the tools they use produce metrics and data which fails to show the impact of their work on business goals.

To prevent a crisis of commerce and corporate character, QA teams need modern tools and workflows that enable testers to implement thorough QA processes, across multiple projects and development methodologies, and that provide actionable insights that help your team improve the practice over time. But to convince business leaders to invest in the people, processes and tools they need, they have to understand how investing in quality will benefit the business.

Why business leaders should value testing

Not only can a strategic approach to quality save money and help companies avoid releasing bugs into production — if done right, QA can also increase time to market, improve customer satisfaction and help drive revenue.

Here are some points that may help you communicate the strategic business value of QA testing to colleagues higher up the ladder when you are making the case for expanding your team or upgrading your quality platform.

1. Effective QA tools and processes prevent risk.

Consider that 33 percent of companies with more than 1,000 employees say an average hour of downtime costs them $1 million or more. Downtime related to bugs, security flaws, hacks and human error cost 81 percent of companies more than $300,000 an hour, on average, and nearly all (98 percent) say that an hour costs them $100,000-plus. Outage prevention is key.

With effective testing tools, the QA team can fully understand and diagnose where things are going wrong, then identify patterns to gain insight to potential future issues.

2. Modernizing testing can increase productivity.

The more efficient the testing team can be, the better the development team can be. Tools that support collaboration between testing and development, and alignment with waterfall, agile and DevOps methodologies enable QA testing to begin before developers complete coding in a test environment.

That means testers can diffuse issues from the early stages of software creation through launch. As the dev team resolves issues in their infancy, before they have embedded themselves in an application, the team increases its time-to-market and minimizes the time it takes to resolve issues.

3. Quality can be measured in business terms.

Metrics like defect leakage and pass/fail rate, while valuable for testers, may be too granular to resonate with executives. The problem with reporting these traditional metrics is that they don’t paint the whole picture. While it’s important to communicate something like defect leakage, you need to provide some context that gives the metric business meaning. One of the best ways to do that is by identifying trends over time. For example, if you’ve noticed that defect leakage is trending down, can you shed some light on why you’re seeing that trend (Did you make a process or tool change? Identify an opportunity to reduce it during an earlier release?). Then, tie your efforts back to quantifiable business goals. What’s the average cost of a defect, and how many fewer are you seeing in production today?

Ultimately, you should strive to help executives understand what good quality should look like and how you’re improving it over time. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid reporting on negative or worrisome trends. If you’ve identified defect leakage trending up in a particular area, you may have spotted early warning signs of a high risk area. What are the potential risks, and what needs to change in order to mitigate them? Do business or testing priorities need to be re-assessed to address these risks?

Effective reporting analyzes testing from multiple facets, allows testers to identify patterns and takes business goals into consideration so that it’s possible to translate your success into business language. These insights should help you drive smarter, faster testing, as well as improvements to both testing processes and to the product. Over time, this can add up to some pretty significant benefits — whether it’s accelerating time to market, better serving customers, or identifying opportunities for improvements in your products that can change the trajectory of the business.

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