How do you take a global retail enterprise and turn it into a fast-paced organization that can react at speed to customer demands and market changes?
That was the challenge facing Office Depot’s European development team, and the answer was agile. Mikey Warner, Director of QA at Office Depot Europe, shared his team’s story at Quality Jam London, and here’s what we learned. (Read more below the video.)
The Challenge: Bringing Speed to a Fragmented Environment
Office Depot Europe serves multiple countries, each of which has its own operating model and unique needs. Until recently, each group also had its own code base. This setup left the organization with a very fragmented environment, as a single development team would need to roll out new features to each group independently, costing the company time and money.
Recognizing these challenges, the company knew it was time for a change. As Warner puts it: “Office Depot decided to transform our e-commerce platform a few years ago because we had a fragmented code base, which meant we couldn’t react to competitors’ features if they brought something else out or to new trends in market, so it put us a little bit behind the curve and was more expensive to maintain. We really needed to transform onto one platform with one single line of code, which would enable us to react to the market a lot faster and bring in new features like personalization and reactive frameworks.”
Alongside its e-commerce platform transformation, the Office Depot team identified a handful of QA challenges it would need to overcome to realize its goals. Warner shares that most of these challenges stemmed from the fact that the QA team was always playing catch up. Specifically, he points to:
Lacking tools for test management and test automation
Relying on user stories that were too big and thus spanned more than one sprint
Receiving user stories without detailed acceptance criteria, mostly due to unclear definitions
Having a QA backlog post go-live
Not having an industrialized process the team could easily apply to rollouts in each country
The Solution: Launching a Digital Innovation Center
In an effort to resolve these challenges and increase speed to market, the Office Depot team began its move toward agile.
“When Office Depot decided to embark on this e-commerce transformation, the development team felt it was important to remove ourselves a little bit from what was this big corporate behemoth with a set way of doing things. We knew that way of doing things probably wouldn’t work in this instance, so we were able to set up a brand new office as a Digital Innovation Center and hire people who had worked in the digital space before that had the modern way of thinking we were looking to implement,” Warner explains.
He continues that when they began the transformation, the team knew the traditional lifecycle management tools they had in place would not be a good fit for what Office Depot wanted to accomplish. As a result, they started searching for a new solution, and that search led them straight to qTest.
“We set ourselves up as a boutique consultancy within a monolith of a legacy organization. We wanted to be innovative, disruptive leaders in the field, and we felt that QASymphony mirrored some of that ethos. The fact that they deliver their code in an Agile way, listen to their customers and regularly develop their product based on that feedback — that’s a partner I want to work with,” Warner says.
The team found particular value in how qTest Explorer allows testers to record their activities so that they no longer have to stop, take a screenshot and document their work when they find a bug. Instead, they can continue working and know that they have all the evidence they need to show the developers, which has proven a huge efficiency gain.
The Result: Moving Rapidly Toward Agile
Having set itself up as a boutique consulting center with technology to match, the Office Depot team is now well-equipped to embrace a more agile way of working. And while Warner admits they still have inroads to make, he says they’ve come a long way already.
To start, the team has put QA front and center by rewriting the definitions of what it means when new features are “ready to play” and “done.” Notably, Warner led this initiative by involving members from QA and development along with business analysts and product owners. Now, the team operates under the mindset that anyone who contributes to the process of delivering a user story or a new feature is a first class citizen, and this has made a positive impact on how QA functions within the larger operation.
Next, the team built out their technology beyond qTest, integrating tools like Jira, Jenkins, Serenity BDD and NeoLoad. With this stack in place, qTest serves as a one-stop-shop for information about tests and provides bidirectional feedback to the other solutions. Warner points to the ease of integration with qTest as another value-add for the team.
Critically, qTest also makes it easy to extract insights on all of these activities. Whether it’s pulling data into a deck for senior management or checking progress on a daily basis, the data available in qTest has helped Office Depot’s newly formed Digital Innovation Center measure its success and continue to improve. Warner concludes: “We’re about three years into our e-commerce transformation. We’ve made a few mistakes along the way, but the important thing is we’ve actually learned from those mistakes.”