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A Year in Review

The following post came to mind as I was writing my year-end self-evaluation, and provides a brief glimpse of where I started the year and how I got to where I am today. 

This year has been filled with diverse challenges, including ongoing employee issues, the continued mindset of "get it out the door", another reorg of the IT department, and the real possibility of the commoditization of testing within IT. However, as is often the case, challenge spurs innovation.

In preparing for working on the team's seven-year strategic plan, I stepped back from the day-to-day operations of my team, and took a critical look at the work we were doing and the services we performed. What I saw was that the testing services we were providing for the company were, in many cases, nearly indistinguishable from the testing services provided by alternative sourcing strategies, with the primary differentiator being cost, not quality. Seeing the threat of the commoditization of testing as a real possibility emphasized, to me, the need to improve the quality of service the team provides.  

I began by redoubling my efforts to establish a testing organization that provides true value to the business. I knew that I needed more ideas than I could generate by myself, so I started looking for industry colleagues from outside the company to better understand the challenges I faced, the solutions that are available, and to discover new ideas to incorporate into our practices. Leveraging the power of social media, I have been able to establish relationships with peers and leaders from the international software testing community. Through these relationships I have received not only validation, correction, and extension of ideas that I have had regarding changes and improvements to the way that we test software, but also an influx of new and innovative ideas that, once implemented, will truly establish the team as the definitive source of testing expertise and services within the company.

Many of the ideas require a fundamental shift in the way we think about quality and the skills required to provide quality. If we view quality as value to some person at some time, then we realize that quality changes as the needs and priorities of the business change. It also highlights the importance context plays in delivery of a quality service. By moving towards a context-driven approach, the team has taken the first steps in establishing a position that allows us to stay more relevant to the business by asking the business "what is of value to you" and using that information to address their needs rather than what we think those needs are.

There is another benefit of the new paradigm in that it allows us to address the commoditization singularity - the point at which the value of the testing we provide becomes indistinguishable from the value of the testing provided by alternate sourcing strategies, and thus becomes a commodity. This paradigm shift allows us to address that by keeping in touch with the needs of the business, and having the skills and agility to be proactive as those needs are changing, rather than being simply reactive after the change is complete or, even worse, not changing at all.


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