With the Shift-Up series thus far, we have explored the importance of testing and thinking as a customer. The basic premise is that we need to add another dimension to Quality Assurance other than Shift-Left and Shift-Right. This new dimension focuses on how your customer is actually using your application and if the intersection of your application, customer behavior, and your company’s business objectives all align.
To keep up with DevOps, testing and QA teams typically adopt a shift-up approach to move quality further up the software development lifecycle. The goal is to complete system testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing (UAT) to ensure a bug-free release. While product quality has a direct correlation to increased revenue and positive business outcomes, this isn’t enough in the 21st-century marketplace. QA’s job isn’t just to de-risk applications by finding defects earlier but to help de-risk business strategy and potential problems with your user base by reporting customer experience defects.
Customer experience transformation is a key initiative for any business that wants to position itself for the 21st century. Two important concepts involve updating and digitizing technology, and creating persistent customer relationships. According to Bain & Company, customer experience transformation starts with “… simplifying your core business and digitizing it where it matters.” McKinsey & Company writes that in any customer experience transformation, “… the voice of the customer can be used to identify upstream and cross-functional issues and address the root causes of problems.” In short, to see positive results, you need well-tested, high-quality digital assets that reflect ever-evolving customer needs and desires.
On May 21, 2018, Bank of America announced that it was rolling out its chatbot, Erica, to all its mobile customers. On the surface, the premise makes sense. It’s making the bank more relatable. It’s providing real-time customer support to people where artificial intelligence (AI) assistants like Siri and Alexa are becoming the norm. It doesn’t have the limitations that some phone-based IVRs have, and it aims to provide immediate assistance instead of making us wait for a human (we’ve all shouted “representative” or pressed zero dozens of times to get a real person). Erica is a great way for Bank of America to optimize the customer experience.
But let’s pull back the covers and ask some basic questions. How does Erica know the customer so well? How does Erica pull from different sources of information? How does Erica know what products and services to offer? What systems, both homegrown and third party, does Erica need to be effective?
It’s no secret that the digital revolution is quickly changing the way businesses and customers interact with each other. Like Blockbuster, companies that don’t understand the evolving needs and tastes of their customers will die, while companies like Netflix that fail fast, quickly adopt technology, and evolve, will thrive.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m the Forrest Gump of quality assurance (QA). Since 1998, I’ve been through the beginning of automated integration testing and service virtualization through being a co-founder of Class I.Q. (now IBM Greenhat). I’ve been through the first phases of an automated testing center of excellence (ACOE). I’ve been there for the start of risk-based testing, and I’ve been a part of the transformation of QA from a somewhat necessary function to something that is now the core and chief concern of any company putting out quality software and apps.