Technology Leaders Discuss Quality’s Role in Digital Disruption

In 2018, we’re all familiar with the idea of digital disruption and the need for transformation.

To better understand what’s disrupting the software development world, we sat down with Matt Diamond, Executive Director, Business Systems and Quality at Dell SecureWorks, Christina Critzer, SVP Intelligent Automation at SunTrust, and Todd Joseph, Technical/Executive Consultant at Joseph Consulting at Quality Jam 2018. Here are the top six things we learned.

1) Improving Quality and Embracing DevOps is About Process First

While getting development and testing technology right is obviously important, the biggest hurdle most companies face when it comes to improving quality and embracing DevOps is around process.

It’s critical to have a change management strategy in place, as embracing DevOps and emphasizing quality will change how individuals across teams operate. Given how disruptive this change can be, getting your people on board with the culture shift is the first step to success. In fact, Gartner estimated that by 2018, 90 percent of organizations attempting to use DevOps without specifically addressing their cultural foundations would fail. Rather than making a wholesale change, Gartner analysts recommend transitioning projects where there is a critical business need first, then carefully rolling out changes to the rest of the organization.

2) Internal Communication and Alignment Are the Biggest Harbingers of Success

If leaders expect their teams to embrace DevOps, they must foster internal alignment and carefully communicate what will change. 

As you embark on a transformation, it’s easy to focus on the benefits, but you also need to talk about the difficult parts, because not everything will be smooth. Specifically, it’s important to communicate what new tasks each person will need to do, how team structure will change and why that change is necessary. It’s also essential to ensure alignment around those changes to make sure everyone is on board.

Todd Joseph, Technical/Executive Consultant at Joseph Consulting, says he’s worked with lots of organizations who struggle with the people aspect of agile transformation. “Sometimes they are agile but they’re not integrated with test, they haven’t staffed test appropriately, or they haven’t integrated with their operations team.” He says it’s crucial to anticipate what each individual will be going through as you introduce these changes, specifically testers and members of the operations team.

3) It’s Possible to Move Fast and Maintain Security

It seems that today’s imperative to move faster while increasing security is a double-edged sword, because how can you do both at the same time? It’s all about having the right processes in place.

According to Christina Critzer, SVP of intelligent automation at SunTrust, making the move to faster deployment models comes with its fair share of hesitation in her industry. “Being in financial services, if you make a mistake on somebody’s bank account — there’s a little less appetite for risk.”

The panelists agreed that while you don’t have to trade speed for security, you do have to understand what impacts security. That understanding can help you build a security framework, and as long as your teams operate within the confines of that framework (which can be quite broad), you can simultaneously increase speed and security.

4) Cryptocurrency Has Yet to Disrupt, But AI and Big Data Have Arrived

Three of the biggest topics that get thrown around when talking about digital disruption are cryptocurrency, AI and big data. But how much have they really disrupted the world in which we live?

Cryptocurrency will absolutely be a digital disrupter in the long term, but the technology is simply not mature enough yet to have reached that point.

AI and big data, on the other hand, are disrupting the world as we speak. While AI still has maturing to do, organizations are starting to use it with great success. And big data is already seeing a second wave of disruption thanks to GDPR. Going forward, the tax on possessing data will rise, and as a result we’ll see a shift from collecting as much data as possible to only collecting what’s necessary. We can also expect to see companies change how they define and secure a variety of data elements.

5) There’s No Right or Wrong When it Comes to Centralized vs. Decentralized QA Teams

As more teams adopt agile, many questions arise about whether to have a centralized or decentralized QA team. It turns out there’s no right answer — both come with pros and cons and it’s simply a matter of what’s best for your team. In some cases, you may even have a mix.

The key is to be clear on each team’s roles and responsibilities and outline a process that everyone agrees to follow. At the end of the day, team structure is not as important as process and alignment.

“It’s not really until rubber meets the road and you embark on that journey and have, perhaps, a couple of false starts, or don’t get the exact results that you anticipated” that leaders realize where there may be issues with new team structures and responsibilities, Critzer says. Some individuals and groups will embrace new roles more readily than others.

6) Learning Technical Skills Proves Valuable for Testers

In the face of disruption, testers who have a broad skill range — those who understand when testing should be manual or automated, can construct automated test cases and know how to move fast while maintaining quality — will prove most in demand.

As a result, testers would be wise to broaden their skill set to include more technical expertise, including basic coding skills, to give themselves an advantage in the job market.

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