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Communicating the value delivered by testing - An organizational necessity

More often than not testing is perceived as a cost instead of a value-add. This perhaps can be best attributed to the inability of the testing organization to justify the true value or impact testing brings to business. This inability also stems from the fact that today's testing teams don't have a solid framework that helps them clearly map testing metrics to the key business objectives outlined by the organization.

Most of the existing frameworks provide a mechanism to map QA metrics to engineering impacts like quality, cost, and productivity improvements, etc. However, the issue arises when testing organizations try to use the same frameworks to extend the mapping of the engineering impact to business levers like increase in revenue and reduction in cost.

Let me elaborate!

I had a client, a bank to be precise, that was trying to upgrade an existing software product in order to ensure continued support from the product vendor. The bank was generating revenues of approximately 8 MUSD per annum using this software product. The client's internal systems (IS) team knew that if the support for the product was lost the bank would have to put this revenue at risk. However, from a business standpoint, they could care less of whether the IT upgrade was done or not. They were clear that the product was important to business and hence all they wanted was for the upgrade to be done quickly, with minimal cost to them. In order to achieve this, the QA team identified the accelerators/ enablers to use and came up with a strategy to automate the test data mining activity.  By executing the plan, the QA team helped business to roll out the new upgraded version of the product with a very aggressive cycle time.

However, while executing on the program, the team happened to unearth some functional defects that were present all the while in the system. These were potential bombs waiting to go off in production. So to prevent these from seriously disrupting business, the test team automated the entire data mining activity, making it possible to find data combinations that caused these defects to show up in functional testing. 

Now, while the process of testing the product upgrade was pretty straight forward, the unearthing of the underlying defects in the older version of the software, proactively by the testing team, definitely demanded a Wow response from business. This is where I believe a value articulation framework becomes absolutely necessary - A framework that captures value delivered by test teams beyond the usual elements of cost, quality and productivity improvements.

The value articulation framework can help test teams to convert the improved quality impact into a more concrete business impact statement. In the above example, with a value articulation framework, the team would be able to clearly analyze and figure out the loss the bank would incur had these defects rolled into production. This type of analysis would help the test team clearly establish the kind of business value being delivered by them to the organization.

Articulating the value in business terms, especially for test teams, is no more a good to have, it is mandatory. A good value articulation framework is an essential piece, without which, test teams will continue to struggle to justify their value to business.

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