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April 5, 2016

In this age of competitive markets and disruptive technology, innovation and change are critical to business success. Businesses must transform and reinvent. And yet, businesses simply cannot temporarily shut down or discontinue operations for customers. Any interruptions can cause irreversible damage to the brand and reputation of the business and competition will eat into their market share. This means the transformation journey must be seamless and smooth, and cannot disrupt existing business operations. Embarking on the transformation journey can be like trying to change the wheels of your running car, without stopping at the curb.

IT has emerged as both, a business enabler and also the driving force behind the need to reimagine and transform. Simply put, if a business has to transform, its IT must also transform. However, in a world where the default is digital, IT systems are constantly playing catching up, and large transformation programs pose unprecedented challenges. With huge investments in legacy, non-scalable, complex systems, any changes to the IT landscape can be difficult to manage.

Against this backdrop, the Quality Assurance (QA) and Testing function plays an important role in addressing IT challenges and ensuring the success of transformation programs. While there is no winning formula, large transformation projects involve multiple components and architecture models, which must be addressed comprehensively in the assurance strategy. In my webinar, 'How to assure large transformational programs?', I have discussed why a robust assurance strategy, combined with strict governance norms and continuous monitoring, are must-haves for transformation success. It is also vital for QA strategies to be aligned with the business and architecture design. However, setting up a rigorous assurance process is not without trials. Let's examine some frequently faced challenges.

First, the mindset towards the QA and Testing function needs to change. The priority assigned to assurance and testing is often low, compared to other phases of the software development life cycle (SDLC). This has direct impact on testing resources and schedule. But that's not all.

Another hazard is testing done in isolation, without the involvement of SDLC teams, business users, and other stakeholders. This silo-based approach poses a grave threat – assurance strategies will be out of sync with design and development goals.

The role of automation cannot be neglected. Automation of software testing offers great benefits in terms of time and quality cost savings. Successful transformation programs don't support an 'automate everything' approach. Too much or too little automation also pose challenges to transformation projects, underlining the need for an optimal automation strategy. For instance, components suited for repeatability, such as regression tests, are best automated.

The scope of the assurance strategy must be in line with business design to adequately address all business requirements. Gaps in addressing business requirements result in compromised testing and sub-optimal systems.

Finally, adequate test coverage must be ensured through a combination of component and process testing. Implementing an Application Lifecycle Management system and leveraging it extensively for test management helps establish end-to-end traceability, reduce transaction cost, improve control, and establish a transparent view on demand. Early, frequent, and continuous validation facilitates early defect detection, which in turn, optimizes the cost of quality. An effective metrics portfolio, comprising key performance indicators, helps track program direction and make course corrections early.

Let me share with you the successful transformation undertaken by a large global life insurance corporation. One of their largest transformation projects succeeded because of a robust and comprehensive QA strategy encompassing early validation, effective change management and test data management, on-time reporting, test automation, and a synergistic integration approach. The project was delivered on schedule, with a 20% saving in overall effort, and QA was recognized at an organizational level. The critical success factor was an intelligently crafted assurance strategy that veered away from traditional test cases, to an innovative testing approach. Following this astounding success, this company is now moving towards a unified Testing Centre of Excellence (TCoE).

This successful transformation proves a point – your business needs to envision and implement a robust and agile QA strategy to charter such transformations. A strong quality assurance and testing function goes way beyond simply validating requirements. It takes your business a step closer to creating and sustaining more value, driving excellence, and also delivering superior customer experience. Also read this earlier post on why businesses need the right assurance vision to continuously innovate.

Pradeep Karthikeyan has over 10 years of experience in executing and managing transformation programs primarily within the Insurance domain. Pradeep has worked extensively with customers in the European and Asia-Pacific geographies helping them create and innovate on Assurance practices within large transformation programs. In his current role, Pradeep is leading a Digital transformation for a large Nordic insurer.


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