Changing the Testing Conversation from Cost to Value


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The software testing business is in the grip of a commoditization trend in which enterprises routinely flip flop between vendors—vendors who are engaged in a race to the bottom on price. This trend introduces perverse incentives for service providers, undervalues skill, and places excessive emphasis on processes, tools, and methods. The result is a dumbing down of testing and the creation of testing services that are little more than placebos. Using examples drawn from three recent projects in the banking industry, Iain McCowatt explores the dynamics of commoditization and introduces a quality model that can be used for framing the value of testing services. As a testing vendor, learn how to pursue a differentiation strategy, shifting the emphasis of the testing conversation from cost to value; as a customer of testing, learn how to make informed decisions about the value of what you are buying; as a tester, learn how to buck the trend and find professional growth.

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Changing the Testing Conversation from Cost to Value

  1. 1. Changing the Testing Conversation from Cost to Value Why testing has become a commodity, and what you can do about it © Can Stock Photo Inc. / frenta Iain McCowatt @imccowatt imccowatt
  2. 2. Introduction • What this presentation is • What this presentation is not
  3. 3. Project #1
  4. 4. Project #1 • • • • • An opportunity Staffing decisions Things start to unravel Micromanagement, master/slave Focus on process, KPIs galore • And ultimately…
  5. 5. Project #1 GAME OVER • This wasn’t the first testing vendor • Nor were they the last • There will be more
  6. 6. Commoditization: Introduction • Investopedia: – When a product becomes indistinguishable from others like it and consumers buy on price alone, it becomes a commodity
  7. 7. Commoditization: Where? • More common in the enterprise, particularly in organizations with global buying power • Endemic in the consulting industry • May be less common amongst software vendors
  8. 8. Commoditization: Origins • How to run fast: put one foot in front of the other, quickly • Who here could win Olympic gold?
  9. 9. Commoditization: Origins • A lot of people see testing like this: Test Plan Write scripts Execute Cycle 1 Execute Cycle 2 Execute Cycle 3 Sign off
  10. 10. Commoditization: Dynamics Demand for skilled testers Testing failures Collaboration Perceived as low skill Perceived as commodity Supply of cheap testing Supply of skilled testers Negative effect Choice of effect Demand for cheap testing
  11. 11. Commoditization: Dynamics Vendor A competes on value Vendor A competes on price Vendor B competes on value Both stand to win long term relationships Customers get better testing Vendor B competes on price Vendor A: loses market share Vendor B: grows market share Vendor A: grows market share Vendor B: loses market share Race to the bottom: short term revenue, short term relationships Everyone loses
  12. 12. Commoditization: Consequences • • • • • • Master/Slave, chilling effects on collaboration Information starvation Fungibility and economic incentive to juniorize Focus on control, process and method Demand for skill suppressed …and ultimately the projects suffer
  13. 13. Project #2
  14. 14. Project #2 • • • • • What’s the problem? Your competition can do it cheaper No budget! If IBM said it, it must be true Let’s give it a try • That was a leap of faith, but…
  15. 15. Project #2 A Happy Client • A second year, a second release • A growing portfolio
  16. 16. Spot the Difference • This was not a commodity testing service. • But what was different?
  17. 17. Sources of Differentiation • People – Passion – Skill – Creativity • Relationships and trust • New ideas, new technologies • Location
  18. 18. NOT Sources of Differentiation • • • • • • Process Methodology, branded or otherwise Templates and other “accelerators” Tools and technology, unless new and unique ISO, CMMI etc. Just about anything easily replicated or at home in buzzword bingo
  19. 19. Project #3
  20. 20. Project #3 • • • • • Passion speaks volumes The managed service misnomer Early conversations, aspects of quality Where’s the code? Tests as experiments • Just getting started, but…
  21. 21. Project #3 The Future Looks Bright • Taking a very different approach predecessor • Building on a solid relationships • And pricing? Part of the conversation, but not defining it
  22. 22. Reframing the Conversation • We focus on software quality but rarely discuss the quality of testing • Perhaps a quality model might help? • This model formed part of the conversation on Project #3…
  23. 23. A Model of Testing Quality
  24. 24. What can you do?
  25. 25. Customer • Observe vendor behavior: are they interested in you and your problem? • Do they understand your problem? • Do they care? • Do they have any ideas? • Do they have the skills to deliver?
  26. 26. Vendor • Dare to be different • Sack the salesmen, consult • Be prepared to say “No”: – If they want it cheap, let them go somewhere else – Don’t follow anyone off a ledge • Education, education, education • Shared values => relationship => business worth doing
  27. 27. Tester • • • • Empowerment starts with YOU Don’t wait to be given a learning agenda Learn how to learn Learn anything and everything that might help you • Select, remix, invent
  28. 28. A Final Word • Commodity testing isn’t going anywhere: both demand and supply will remain • Some of us (vendors) are successfully exploiting this to build differentiated services • This shows there is a demand for something better • Skilled testers can find fulfilling roles
  29. 29. Questions?