Test as Transformation – Disruption

They sicken at the calm that know the storm. – Dorothy Parker

This is the second installment in my series on how testing can support technology transformation via disruptive external forces impacting both business and operating models. In my experience, transformative testing is closely aligned to the business strategy, and supports more than just technology delivery. Transformative testing should help drive innovation and identifies opportunities for both risk management and investment. Technology adoption – either to innovate or stay competitive

The first example of external disruption that has driving changes in testing and the way we support transformation is in the world of digital payment technology. There is likely to be more innovation in the next 10 years in payment technology as there has been in the last 100. We are very likely see more bundling of the capabilities that are necessary to deliver a seamless experience for digital transactions at the point of sale, online and through mobile platforms (e.g. Fiserv/FirstData). In fact, mobile experience has pulled ahead of branch location as the determining factor for bank selection and in the UK, almost 50% of all bank accounts are digital only in London (roughly double since 2010)!

The second form of external disruption is regulation – or the opportunity cost of staying in business! In the UK, a version of SOX (Sarbanes Oxley for the UK) will be rolling out of the next 2-5 years with wide ranging implications for how you do business. Even though most financial firms in the UK should be familiar with the regulations, as the US SOX requirements for banking should already be in place (US regs post 02 financial crisis – ENRON, WorldCom), this is the first time looking at IT architecture, control testing, control automation, and cultural required to adopt changes. Additionally, per a report by the Financial Times, the nearly £430m costs to UK businesses would come from extending the number to almost 2000 additional companies that fall within the proposed rules!

So how should disruption effect our test approach? Here are some key questions your test approach should be able to answer.

  • “How aligned is our test approach to our business strategy?” Do we know even know our business strategy? (Have we read it or even know where it is?) In my experience, not covering key threats to our business can actually INJECT risk into our business. Identifying risk and opportunities through gaps in coverage can be useful information for your business to take advantage of to respond to changes in the market.
  • But that depends on whether we actually understand our market and how it is changing? This is one of the primary reasons to stay active in the testing industry, so we can see problems our competitors are experience and whether or not we have adequate safeguards or need to address them. Getting in front of threats to our business is a valuable service testers can provide for and greatly increase our value. Seeing how competitors are testing their systems is also a great way to do market research for differences in products and services as well as how to validate regulatory compliance and financial risk.
  • Lastly, how closely is our test approach to aligned to our customer environment beyond technical specifications? How are our customers ACTUALLY using our systems? Do we have operational governance gaps or redundancies that are exposing us to deltas in expectations with our clients? I have often advocated for exploratory testing to go beyond functional system verification and into R&D conducted by testers. Time should be spent understanding defects that uncover systemic risks found in test to get answers for the CFO they’ll like be asked during investor calls!

Hopefully this gives you some food for thought on how testing for disruption translates into information for risk management or business opportunity that should be reported to our stakeholders! Enjoy and happy testing!

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