“We need an app/website/Internet of Thingamajigs Alexa VR experience!” was the cry from the board room. And so, your organisation starts its journey towards establishing your digital presence. While the journey starts with best intentions, it can quickly become costly, time consuming and never quite reach the intended destination.
However, what do you do if you are a non-it organisation or a start up with limited resources? How do you ensure that you are engaging the correct partner?
The ability to make the technology ambitions of an organisation realisable is only achievable through engagement with suppliers with whom the path to successful delivery of solutions is well-trodden and understood. The right supplier can work with you to deliver the right solution for your needs, however, how do you know if a supplier is the right fit to become a ‘trusted partner’ and what part can the right test approach play in measuring and evaluating that your journey is on the right path?
Define your outcomes
While your stakeholders may wish to turn your ‘concept to cash’ without delay, investing time in building an agreed vision of what you want to achieve smooths the path to delivery.
Clearly stating your requirements can significantly reduce any potential delays that could occur when you start to build your product. Asking (and documenting) the following questions will go a long way to helping you build what you expect;
- What problem will it solve?
- Who will benefit from it?
- What are the most important outcomes that will make it a success?
- How will it interact with other Solutions?
- Who are your users/customers?
- What will they use your solution for?
- How will they misuse your solution and how to prevent this?
- How will they access your solution?
- How many will access your solution and when?
By defining clear requirements that your solution should fulfil, you can better communicate your vision to your potential supplier and clearly state what you need of their services.
From a quality assurance perspective, this ensures that a test approach can be implemented which will adequately evaluate and measure that the solution delivers the outcomes you need and that each party understands their responsibilities.
Look for Synergy
Synergy is a term that is used as a target attribute of any partnership, however it is often expected to happen organically without planning and cultivation. The key to selecting the right partner is looking for where they have strengths in the areas you have weaknesses. Testing is often a neglected part of this assessment, and may even be an afterthought instead of an integral aspect of the development.
When assessing prospective suppliers, you should question and assess;
- Will they spend time with you to understand and build to your requirement or will they look to you to fit your operating model around their solution?
- How do they measure quality? Does it provide the evidence you need to validate your solution build is progressing to plan?
- Do you understand their working practices and are they open, transparent and measurable so that you understand the position of your solution build at any given point?
- Do they need to integrate with other parts of your organisation, and their systems? How will this be approached while ensuring any impact to other systems is understood and tested?
The right partner will allow you to implement a ‘one team’ operating model, where the outcomes you require are owned across each organisation. Testing then becomes an integral part of verifying that the team is delivering expected outcomes.
Continuously evaluate your position
Once you have the foundations in place you can build a business partnership with clearly agreed outcomes and ownership. However... it doesn’t stop there.
What methods can you use to measure that you are continually progressing in the right direction?
Often the outcomes of a technology project are agreed upfront and then only measured when the supplier delivers the ‘finished’ product. Only at that 'final' point will you discover if the solution matches.
This is after significant cost and time has already been invested.
Implementing a test approach which evaluates if your outcomes are being met at the earliest opportunity in the Software Development Life Cycle can significantly improve the team’s ability to stay on track. You can do this by clarifying your expectations with a supplier i.e.:
Engage with a supplier that promises:
- Continuous feedback loops into your organisation
- Strong, open communication channels across the team that allows you to evaluate where you are
- Flexibility to change course if required with minimal impact to time and budget
Once you have chosen your supplier and they are building your dream product, you must think about your team’s assurance approach. You should ask;
- What have I asked my supplier to contractually deliver?
- How do I establish that they have delivered what they have signed up to?
- What do we need to test to prove the delivered solution meets my requirements?
- What type of tests can we conduct to prove that my customers have a ‘usable’ product?
- What is the earliest point in the development life cycle we can test our requirements will be met?
- Do we all understand how each organisation approaches their test responsibilities and how the results will be communicated and evaluated by the whole team?
- How do we get our project stakeholders/users/customers involved as early as possible to validate the solutions meets their expectations?
Note the recurring theme of testing – building in the ability to test throughout the project will help to ensure that you get what you want. So a supplier who can work with you on answering these questions can set you on the path to a successful delivery.
Of course, both parties may not have all the skills required to address all of these questions but asking them as part of your test approach definition allows for any gaps to be understood and highlighted at an early stage.