Process Improvement - How Testing can help drive Process Improvement
Are you missing something with your testing? Do you know how testing can help drive process improvement as part of a project?
Ok, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, "...well we’ve always done it that way" or ‘"...well, we’ve always done it like that".
If I had even 10p for every time I’d heard either of those from a client, I’d be typing this on a Caribbean beach with Cindy Crawford bringing me half a lager and a complimentary dish of dry roasted nuts!
Companies spend fortunes on new solutions. Multi-million pound budgets and thousands of man-hours on projects. But rather than use those new systems as an opportunity to rationalise their processes to enable genuine improvement; many simply apply their existing processes to a new solution. So that they are diluting the potential benefits. Some spend even more time and money customising the new solution to fit those existing, often outdated practices.
Essentially, why bother to look and see if your processes can be improved when you can customise a solution to fit the existing processes?
Here are a couple of examples:
''Company X' was attempting to transform their new business end-to-end journey. They engaged a Microsoft Silver partner who offered a full transformative solution.
However, this would have required a change to existing processes, ending the reliance on their existing CM system. Testing was engaged late (after the requirements were agreed), expert advice was ignored, and the client chose a cut-down version which required extensive customisation. Over 60 individual integration points with the existing CMS system, each of which had to be individually developed and tested.
Most of the existing processes were maintained. Processes which were not documented in some cases, had no ownership in others and involved at least three single points of failure.
Unsurprisingly, the programme ran over-budget and was delivered late (in part due to failed integrations) therefore failed to deliver all of the expected benefits.
''Company Y' was required to replace an existing legacy customer management system that was failing and not secured. Testing was engaged after requirements were agreed and procurement decisions made. Instead of a solution that covered the entire end-to-end process (which was available), a decision was made to purchase systems at a localised level for each stage.
This resulted in four disparate systems that worked fine for the individual areas they covered but didn’t naturally talk to each other. A complex set of integrations had to be constructed, which added time and cost to the overall project effort.
More importantly, it enabled the majority of existing processes to stay in place. This was a big opportunity to reset and transform the business that was missed.
So, how can testing help change this?
A good mindset which help project drive process improvement as well as just proving that the functionality works. Fully engaged and supported testing can:
- Look at existing processes from a different perspective. An external pair of eyes, not coloured by views of the past or with hidden agendas. Challenging the status quo without bias.
- Bring experience of previous implementations of a solution or experience of other transformative programmes within the same industry.
- Bring a refusal to accept things that aren’t right. Help in rationalising processes to avoid duplication of effort and waste.
- Provide an ability to identify workarounds that may help a solution go live in a more timely and safer fashion.
- Help to establish risk within the agreed processes and the potential impact if anything goes wrong.
- Help to identify and allocate priorities within the end-to-end process.
- Identify which elements are crucial to the success of the solution and essential for Day 1, leaving future releases with minimal impact.
Testing will also help to answer key issues around processes to help you get maximum benefits from new solutions. Engaging testing as early as possible will help you determine if the scope of your testing is wide enough. Are you just proving functionality or are you looking to gain benefit throughout the end to end process?
Leading on from this, if testing is engaged early and supported by listening to it can help to identify if you are spending money on things you don’t need. Are you committing valuable time and resources to integrating/interfacing old systems to the new world just to maintain outdated practices?
Testing requirements can help to inform the procurement decisions. Ensuring that the solution does truly meet the business needs. Reducing the likelihood of including elements that don’t talk to each other. Increasing the ability to future proof the solution, identify items that are not critical path and can be pushed subsequent releases. Helping to remove single points of failure.
Testing can help you identify the key departments and personnel within the business that will support transition. People who will challenge the status quo, help define and rationalise processes that will prepare other staff for the new world.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, if it’s not applied correctly, testing will add nothing to a project. By going through the motions exercise to say ‘we tested’, it proves nothing and worth nothing. Wasting time is very expensive and gives a false sense of security to the business.
However, if utilised properly testing can help a business drive improvements through the whole of the project lifecycle and through all processes within a company. Helping solutions truly deliver what the company needs.