executive involvement in quality

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What the C-Suite wants: How to maximize executive involvement in quality initiatives

Quality assurance is one of those things that’s incredibly important, but often ignored. In fact, most C-Suite executives tend to treat it like an insurance policy. They know that they need it, but typically don’t pay attention to it until they have a good reason to. If you’re a VP of Quality or a CTO at an organization with minimal executive involvement in quality, that’s a problem because it makes getting the buy-in you need from your peers particularly challenging.

Of course, if quality assurance is part of your remit and you’re looking to advance your agenda, getting that buy-in is critical. You need it to secure the budget dollars necessary for everything from hiring top talent to getting the right tools and processes in place. You also need buy-in if you want to change the company culture from one where the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the testing team when things go wrong to one where everyone feels responsible for the overall quality and success of your products.

If you want to break through with other executives and get them to better understand and appreciate the importance of quality, you need to think strategically. That means working with your testing team to define annual goals that align with the business objectives your C-Suite cares about most. Then it’s just a matter of tracking the right metrics to demonstrate how you’re progressing against those goals.

Speak the language of the C-Suite

While engineers and testers often relish tracking the details of their work, when it comes to quality assurance most executives lack the time and inclination to go that deep into the weeds. That’s because they are too busy looking at how to meet the organization’s bigger, overarching objectives. Practically speaking, that means that if you want to get the C-Suite’s attention, you have to speak their language. Specifically, you have to identify the business objectives that they’re focused on, and show them how the work that you’re doing is contributing to those goals.

Let’s take a look at some of the objectives your C-Suite is most concerned with, examples of how quality assurance can help them meet those goals and how to quantify the work you’re doing with the right metrics.

1. Becoming an industry leader

Perhaps more than anything else, most executives are striving to make their business an industry leader. They want to beat the competition, attract new customers and ultimately charge a premium for delivering a superior product or service.

From a testing point of view, it’s not hard to envision how your goals can be crafted to directly support this objective. Producing high-quality code with fewer redundancies can go a long way toward speeding up the time to market of your company’s latest products and features. It can also result in better customer reviews that, over time, will help build your company’s reputation for creating great user experiences.

The bottom line is that if your company wants to be an industry leader, it needs testers who will take the time to understand and optimize your user experience. In terms of metrics, you can demonstrate how you’re contributing to this overarching business objective by measuring the percentage of testing that’s either automated or occurring in tools as part of the software development lifecycle. This is important because the higher that percentage, the more time your team has to focus on testing user experience.

2. Driving customer retention

When you’re on the quest to become an industry leader, it’s not enough just to win new customers. The C-Suite knows that you also have to retain those customers for the long haul. Of course, one of the keys to customer retention is providing good service, since good service generally translates into happy customers.

Specifically, that means working quickly to resolve bugs and to deploy the necessary updates in production. Automating smoke tests can be helpful in this regard, as can being able to continually run tests upon all code changes, rather than waiting for the end of an iteration. The latter is particularly useful because it means more predictable release dates, since bugs found later in the process take more time to resolve than those that are found immediately. To measure testing’s contribution to driving customer retention, make sure to track the number of defects found in production.

3. Carefully managing costs

One of the most important parts of running any successful business is managing expenses. Fail to do so and they can quickly eat into your bottom line, putting pressure on the entire business. As such, the C-Suite is always keenly focused on costs.

Customer support can be a major cost basis if customers are constantly finding defects and calling in to complain about them. As a QA team, you can help to save the business the cost associated with triaging customer support tickets as they come in, debugging your software and notifying customers of upcoming releases — all of which can quickly add up. To demonstrate the value you’re providing, be sure to track the number of support tickets due to defects as well as any decrease in the number of repeatable manual processes.

4. Fostering a strong culture

Companies want to be seen as being a great place to work so that they can attract top talent. In order to do that, they need to have a strong company culture. Although there are many different ingredients that go into creating a great work environment, opportunities for training and career advancement are essential. As such, be sure to track this information so that you can report it back to the C-Suite. They’ll be interested to know, for example, how many hours per year each member of your team has spent training on using new technologies and how many people have been promoted. Not only that, prospective hires will appreciate any investment you make in best-of-breed technologies for software development and testing.

Bring the C-Suite along on the journey

Now that you know what your C-Suite cares about, how you can align your goals to their objectives and how to demonstrate the progress you’re making, you’re in a good position to engage with your C-Suite. Just remember that everything you do needs to tie back to business objectives. When it does, the C-Suite will be much more interested and engaged in what you’re doing.

That, in turn, will give you the opportunity to bring quality to the forefront so that executive involvement in quality comes more naturally. It will help you to get the budget you need and to create a culture where everyone is focused on ensuring the highest possible standard for your products and services. If this feels daunting, just remember that it doesn’t have to be hard. Just take the time to understand what your executives truly care about and align what you’re doing to their business objectives. To help demonstrate your success, it may be worth investing in a business intelligence tool that makes it easy to report on metrics across your testing team.

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