Our systems, processes, technology, and tools should help us achieve our goals. But, do enough of our conversations revolve around quality? Just how important is quality, and can you improve it without completely upending your business? Finally, what is about to happen in the QA landscape? We asked Reinier Verschure, Chief Quality at Xebia.
"We empower companies to deliver high-quality software." - Reinier Verschure
We see organizations struggle in their software delivery. They have a large variety of problems that prevent them from delivering high-quality software into production. We see it as our added value to look beyond the initial symptoms and uncover the root causes of these problems. That’s why we start every engagement with a thorough analysis and advice phase. We also support the customer with technical expertise to get the work done and implement significant improvements.
Our strength is that we operate at the crossroads of organization, processes, and technology.
"To improve quality, you must look beyond the problem to find and solve the underlying issues."
Why do companies fail to prioritize quality?
Quality is often regarded as an afterthought, and not seen as a necessary upfront investment. Consider a start-up that builds a product as quickly as possible and has the quality overseen by the team. When the start-up scales, teams grow and dependencies and complexity grow. This requires other measures to be implemented to assure the end product’s quality.
Organizations typically start to invest in quality when something breaks or slows them down. So, the question is when to start investing in quality. We excel in supporting these organizations to make the right decisions. These decisions always balance different metrics in software development: lead time (speed), performance, test coverage, and first time right (product maturity).
"We operate at the crossroads of organization, processes, and technology."
Will quality always be a challenge for companies?
Yes – we see a continuous struggle between delivering features for end-users and building quality in. The common idea in the alignment of business and IT is that IT must deliver as much functionality as possible, as soon as possible. Investments in quality are perceived to hold back this functional drive. Part of our involvement is to prove to the organization that investments in quality accelerate high-quality software delivery. The results of high-performing teams show that building quality in from the start improves agility, delivery speed, and quality of the product. We embrace those results and implement these consciously at our clients.
What do today's companies need the most?Organizations need to become less dependent on individuals and heroes and should focus on reducing complexity by standardizing technologies and way of working. This helps in building resilient organizations with a strong, flexible workforce. Development processes should gear up to support these organizations: no waste, organized for flow, and frequent delivery. This, in turn, is backed with appropriate tooling that facilitates this.
We see organizations that lack oversight on how to engage in these endeavors. Starting with the introduction of new technologies without a proper team setup will not yield the expected results. Only when this approach is embedded within the organization, new paradigms such as cloud or agile adoption can be implemented correctly.
What can your team offer companies struggling with quality?
We empower companies to deliver quality software. We do this by conducting analyses and giving tailored advice on teams and technologies. Our strength lies in the combination of consulting and hands-on technical implementation - we help our clients by leading by example.
Our assessments and audits focus on all relevant aspects of software delivery: from organizational setup to the technical implementation. This helps our clients to obtain a thorough understanding of the root causes for their quality issues and the necessary and specific steps forward. We initiate a head start for our clients by injecting our knowledge, experience, lessons learned, and skills from day one.
We create awareness and raise knowledge for our clients to empower them. Our learning journeys for managers and teams enable them to incorporate quality into business processes. The journeys range from management to technical teams.
"10 out of 10 projects are not hindered by technology but by organizational impediments and lack of leadership."
What's next? What will you focus on in the next few months or even years?
- Growth in analysis/assessment capability: a lot of ground can be gained by looking at symptoms and uncovering underlying problems in a holistic way. Impediments in the organization, team set up, and collaboration models need to be addressed once and for all to let software development teams reach their full potential.
- Learning journeys: since quality needs to be embedded throughout the software delivery process, why not take the software delivery lifecycle as the basis of the learning journey? For each step, management and technical staff should be offered skills and techniques to make deliberate choices on achieving the desired level of quality. This allows teams to build the right thing right.
- Quality off the beaten path: quite some innovations have impact on various aspects of software delivery: principles of DevOps and SRE determine how to shape teams, a growth towards using SaaS services places new requirements on governance. This all impacts software quality, let alone implications of internationalization and AI.
- Observability over Monitoring: observability and automation are essential in enabling continuous change without compromising quality. Observability gives companies ongoing insight into the quality of service while the systems are running. As observability builds upon logging and metrics obtained from the systems, it is important to design and implement observable systems from scratch.
- Functional Monitoring: digital product innovation lacks clearly defined functional monitoring to claim success. Adhere to the DASA principle "Begin with the end in mind" and define success metrics: is it an increase in revenues, customers, or number of transactions? Functional monitoring allows you to create meaningful increments and measure success. Organizations should only start innovations that add business value that can be expressed in these metrics.