In our many years in the IT industry we noticed that there has been a shift in the approach to “quality and testing”. It moved from testing after the complete IT-product was delivered, towards quality and testing as a focus of each deliverable. With this shift the end-client, being directly represented in agile teams, became more involved in the early engineering of the right level of quality.
The change in position of the client implies that another focus of the work is necessary. But how to determine the right focus? We found an important part of the answer in Stephen Covey’s influential book “Seven habits of highly effective people”. One of the seven habits is “begin with the end in mind”. This means step one in any endeavor is to determine “the end”, or in other words the goal.
A few decades ago, the goal for IT delivery was pre-defined in much detail. IT systems were mainly focused on supporting administrative processes and IT projects had a fixed time and fixed budget because the client above all required efficiency. We worked in separated, function-oriented, teams that were very skilled and experienced in specialized tasks such as requirements-elaboration, programming, testing and operations. Those teams communicated mainly by sending large bunches of deliverables to other teams.
The (Covey-) end was defined in team plans with clear budgets and fixed end-dates at least for the development team and test team. The test plan was mostly directed by the client IT-manager.
The test team executed their systems- and acceptance tests within the limits of their test plan. A useful guide for creating the test plan and controlling the testing process was the TMap method. The client, being the IT manager, often was very satisfied about the results, measured in development costs and delivery time. Unfortunately, due to the often lengthy realization time, the end product didn't fit very well in the user environment that in the meantime had changed. So, the end users were not happy, but they just had to deal with it.
How different is today’s situation! IT itself is not the goal anymore, the business value that can be achieved by applying IT solutions, is the goal. The (Covey-) end is to incrementally deliver IT solutions that generate some kind of pursued business value for the businesspeople and the end-users. Product-owners translate the desires of end-users to small and easy to grasp user-stories. Cross-functional teams, with team members that together possess all knowledge and skills to perform the necessary activities, will pick up all tasks needed to deliver the results, including quality engineering and testing activities (QE&T).
The (Covey-) end for QE&T is to demonstrate that the quality level is sufficient to reach the goal and pursued business value (see the VOICE-model of TMAP). An important activity is to define which quality attributes are relevant for the product-owner/end-users so that the right quality can be built in from the start.
To ensure to deliver quality at speed cross-functional teams apply quality engineering practices and use automation of tasks as described in the TMAP body of knowledge for quality engineering & testing.
Today’s approach enables IT delivery teams to directly satisfy the end-users and quickly respond to new and changed desires.
This way the move from the traditional “testing at the end” towards today’s “building in quality from the start” changes the role of testing from “bringing the bad news of insufficient quality” to “enabling the team to continuously deliver valuable IT-solutions to the end-users”.
We will not be surprised if the next shift in the future of IT delivery will be towards realizing PURPOSEFUL IT-products. We will keep you updated!
Published: 15 March 2022
Authors: Rik Marselis