The Perils of Ignoring Quality in Your Digital Transformation Projects
- April 23, 2019
- Ray Parker
We live in exciting times where emerging technologies are abounding – an era of digital transformation. Digital transformation – as the name implies – refers to a company’s strategy to transform its activities, processes, and business models by adopting a mix of digital technologies. This is often triggered because of disruption caused by rapid changes in the market. In a nutshell, it’s a complete overhaul of an enterprise and its technological foundations. With mid-to-large scale enterprises adopting digitalization front, left, and center, the onus lies on leaders and CIOs to ensure these implementations are seamless.
First, let’s look at a few examples of traditional businesses rethinking their business models using technology:
- GE is using 3D printers for their Leap Engine for aircraft, making them more efficient (19 parts in one go) and stronger (5x)
- DHL is piloting the use of Augmented Reality in their warehouse operations for vision-based picking
- Domino’s is allowing its customers to transact through any device and track the status of their orders in real-time and is also delivering orders via autonomous robots
- Disney is connecting data with guests through RFID-based wristbands in their parks
- Starbucks has introduced in-app payments to avoid waiting for lines and in-app reward systems to keep customers coming back
- Subway is redesigning their stores with self-service kiosks and smart loyalty programs
According to marketwatch.com, the global digital transformation market size is projected at US$ 462 billion by 2023. It’s important to recognize that the goal of digital transformation is more than just a technology play. Adopting new technologies to stay competitive is just a survival basic. But on the other hand, using these new technologies for maximizing market position propels companies forward and allows them to respond to new opportunities faster. This forward-motion is what incentivizes leaders to actually invest the time and money in digital transformation.
However, such adoption is fraught with challenges, a few of which are:
Insufficient Focus on Quality:
With such a hard focus on technology adoption, companies often romanticize to focus on putting a solution out there expediently, instead of investing time in proper testing. This inherently leads to a reactive approach to testing, rather than a proactive one. Companies end up spending more time fire-fighting rather than ensuring the stability and robustness of their apps and solutions beforehand. This has huge negative consequences which become obvious only in hindsight: reduced customer retention and trust, marginalized profits, lowered market repute, negative publicity, loss of competitive edge, dwindling employee morale, and more.
Being a technology leader isn’t an easy job since you have to keep yourself always in the know with what’s going on. However, all the good work and effort can go to the gallows when a small innocuous bug makes headlines, impacts brand repute, personal repute, affects profits, cripples customer loyalty, and devastates market influence.
With the arrival of AI, robotics, big data, predictive analytics, and advanced delivery models; CIOs will have to pay particularly close attention to software testing and quality assurance to deliver market-ready applications to realize greater ROI, retain customers, and inspire brand loyalty.
While on one hand the importance of digital transformation cannot be overemphasized, it is equally important to realize the importance of quality software testing. Today’s consumers are unforgiving, and a compromise on quality is not an option.
Lack of Necessary Skillsets:
The nature of digital transformations is such that they are (by default) very testing intensive. Often times, such technology implementations require more than half of the development time (roughly 55-60% by our estimates) on testing, fine-tuning, and reinforcing. For ensuring the proper delivery of such tech projects, focusing on optimizations at all levels becomes important, as does having an inherent mindset of making it scalable. Scalability safeguards future-readiness for growth, adoption, and expansion without becoming a limiting bottleneck. Testing is a key element in making sure that all new technology systems work as expected (in conjunction with the legacy systems that are not replaced), and also in handling the historical data that exists before the company decides to embark on this digital transformation journey.
Digital transformation isn’t something that can be achieved overnight, and having specialized people for the various aspects involved can help facilitate the process further. Some of the skill sets that are necessary for testing new technology adoptions and integrations are:
- Transformation Test Planning
- Independent Verification and Validation
- Functional Testing
- Data Validation Testing
- Data Migration Testing
- Test Environment Setup
- System Testing
- Performance Testing
- Security Testing
Since companies often don’t have the required in-house skillsets for ensuring a proper testing mechanism, it makes it more prudent for them to partner with experienced third parties for dedicated testing resources.
Increased Security Threats:
Adopting technology also inadvertently makes a company’s systems vulnerable to external attacks, which we’ve all seen happening rampantly. As such, cyber-security and data breaches still remain a cause of concern for the growth of the market.
Companies can often end up in a debacle with unsecured or faulty implementations of digital technologies with somewhat-devastating effects. Here are some recent examples of software failures that testing could have prevented:
- Sony’s hack cost them $35 million “in investigation and remediation costs”
- Yahoo’s hack impacted 3 billion user accounts making them a victim of one of the biggest data breaches in history
- Marriott’s hack allowed cyber thieves to steal data on 500 million of their customers
- eBay’s cyber-attack impacted 145 million of their users
- Equifax hack exposed sensitive financial data of 143 million of their customers
Lack of Knowledge of Transformation Frameworks:
To make the process of digital adoption easier, there are new frameworks that use AI and data to predict the chance of success of a strategy before implementation. Using these frameworks, digital transformation leaders can make more informed decisions pertaining to their business models.
Such frameworks are structured/formalized guidelines for companies to plan strategic upgrades to their core systems and processes, thereby enabling them to take control of their businesses rather than reacting to market changes.
Employee Pushback & Ineffective Change Management:
Company culture and employee buy-in is an important part of effective digital transformation. Unfortunately, employee pushback is a real challenge since people naturally resist change. Such inertia can be harmful to change management plans for digital transformation. This can be combatted with strong leadership, vision transparency, and trust. It is also equally important to develop a digital transformation strategy that encompasses the entire organization, not just a couple of departments. Do keep in mind that organizational structure will likely get disturbed and past roles will need to evolve.
Difficulty in Breaking Away from Legacy Systems & Development Processes:
There is comfort in adhering to the status quo. Digitization often demands rapid execution, which in turn requires teams to leverage agile methodologies and technologies for frequent or continuous product releases.
Inappropriate Budget Allocations:
When earmarking budgets for digital transformation, it is important to keep the overall value that it will bring to the organization in mind. Having a myopic view of the costs can be a deterrent in proper implementation and execution of the change.