For young and growing businesses in the UK, digital is part of their DNA. Creating applications that solve problems and address the needs of consumers and businesses alike. They push boundaries and share a passion that creates innovation; their ideas establishing new product categories that competitors strive to compete with.
However, it is never easy to know which ideas and products are going to succeed. Often, the business elements are right, such as need and timing, but the product fails and continues to plateau without any upward progression. Sadly, plenty fall into this category and the reasons can be many. But, one sure practice that stands out between successful products and the rest, is their attention to quality and to make quality a central part of what they do.
The presence of poor quality
Indicators of poor quality come in many different shapes. It could be a negative online review left by a customer or a serious security flaw that allows in cybercriminals. Perhaps it’s a spike in the volume of call centre complaints or a slow system that sends a buyer away to a competitor. It could even be employees that have started to lose faith in a project. However they appear, these problems can lead to business or product failure if the issues are not addressed.
You can go a step further.
It may even be possible to say that no product has succeeded either operationally or as a business from a position of poor quality. If that is the case, then the choice is an obvious one – investing in quality.
A common characteristic of all successful businesses is that they have all understood and invested in quality, with the knowledge that it will be rewarded as part of their overall approach. This is the difference between hoping that a product will be successful and organising for success.
A causal link between success and product quality
Once this is pointed out it makes sense.
Knowing that there is a causal link between successful products and good quality should not be a revelation. Of course, there are risks if the necessary quality management is not put into place against the software development that is being carried out. We know this instinctively, but so many are prepared to skip it or under pursue it.
Usually, this is because there is a misunderstanding that quality assurance (QA) processes will cost too much money but more likely, it has to do with a low understanding of software testing and the absence of a quality culture within an organisation.
Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge around quality also means that businesses may not be good buyers of QA solutions. Whether they choose to build an internal capacity or subcontract it, getting the right results will be difficult without confident leadership in this area. Add this to the belief that testing may only be a cost activity, test avoidance or poor decisions can become common.
In some respects, the product type or regulatory environment of the marketplace, make the choice an easier one for some businesses. Traction can be difficult or impossible in markets where compliance and strict adherence to standards is a minimum at point of entry. In this environment, test capability grows quickly as the consequences are otherwise existential.
However, whichever market a business participates in, quality is still a determining factor in eventual success.
Making positive changes
For businesses looking to make changes, a starting point might be the introduction of vocabulary associated with software testing. This might take the form, in the initial stages, of dedicating a person to testing and for them to be responsible for test activities – even if this is a dual-purpose role. That person should be supported with a relevant learning programme and certainly gain industry-recognised qualifications such as the ISTQB Foundation Level, which is well within the reach of most development and project professionals. By doing this, the language of testing and the standardisation of meaning are introduced, which will be essential as the commitment to quality progresses.
Whilst this is a modest start, it does bring a business to a point where someone is taking responsibility for testing and changing the awareness and knowledge levels within the team. From here, deeper learning can be undertaken, the dedicated staff brought in or a better opinion is given on what is needed from a subcontractor.
Either way, the issue of quality is being addressed.
Those that have already undertaken these initial changes may want to turn their attention to how they pursue test maturity in line with the aspirations of the business and development complexity. The factors that decide whether a product or business will be successful are many, but the absence of quality will always predetermine disappointment.