IT Needs New Ways To Talk About Quality!

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Gartner report highlights “application development managers need new ways to demonstrate and communicate the business value of software quality for innovation projects.”

Gartner’s recent report, “How to Demonstrate the Business Value of Software Quality for Systems of Innovation,” by analyst Maritess Sobejana and published July 31, 2014, attempts to tackle the longtime challenge of aligning business and application development perspectives. The most critical systems within an organizations’ portfolio -- systems of innovation -- are high-stakes applications for organizations and thus are good place to start.

The key challenges across organizations are:

  • Business leaders want high-quality software, but their perspective on quality is often misunderstood by application development management.
  • Application development managers and their quality specialist often focus on educating business leaders about quality, neglecting to discuss the outcome of application development, which is of greater interest to business leaders.
  • Software quality objectives depend on the pace layer of the application: Systems of innovation call for a new dimension and set of objectives for software quality that must be aligned with business requirements and opportunities.

IT should stop talking about quality and start mapping their initiatives into the priorities of the business leaders. Is it really that hard?

Take growth for example. Senior executives see technology as a growth enabler and the ability to respond faster to changes and to exploit technology to develop new products and channels as critical to growing their business. However, an IT organization’s inability to be agile or adaptable (the ability to meet delivery deadlines, increase throughput) is seen as an obstacle by those same leaders.

According to the Gartner report, “The value of quality is represented by the ability of the innovation team to be responsive in its quality assurance that can deliver quickly and effectively.”   

As an IT leader, you must assess what contributes to increasing business agility. The industry response has been to adopt Agile development practices. Yet, most have failed to understand that in a world where legacy systems are abundant and new features or products rely on existing applications and systems to support them -- understanding how the product itself impacts agility is critical.

The structural quality of an application is an impediment to your organization’s ability to deliver new features on time. Brittle, highly complex applications with disproportionate technical debt will prevent highly effective teams from operating at optimal levels. Focusing on development processes alone will not make you more agile.

The cost impact of non-responsive teams can be considerable. “When your team misses the customer's buying window or when competitors can respond quickly,” wrote Sobejana, “the value of structural quality is represented by the lost opportunity cost. Lost opportunity cost represents the lost revenue or market share experienced when competitors can respond quickly or when the response misses the customer's buying window.”

At CAST, we are often positioned in the middle of this discussion with our clients. In our experience, the most successful organizations reframe quality in a business light by leveraging industry standards.  Standards bodies like OMG CISQ provide frameworks that link software characteristics to relevant business capabilities.  The ability to communicate with business stakeholders in business terms paves the way for alignment and joint initiatives that fund investment in projects that improve business outcomes.

Sample from CISQ Specifications for Automated Quality Characteristic Measures
Sample from CISQ Specifications for Automated Quality Characteristic Measures

Developing skills in understanding and communicating quality in business-oriented terms is critical to your organizations success -- and your career. The most significant skill is the ability to secure strategic support and funding for the quality initiatives and defining the underlying business value expectations of software quality that support your business strategy. Your ability to analyze the motive behind systems of innovation and how they contribute to the overall strategy will make it easier for you to identify the relevant, associated business drivers for software quality.

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Pete Pizzutillo
Pete Pizzutillo Vice President
Pete Pizzutillo is Vice President at CAST and has spent the last 15 years working in the software industry. He passionately believes Software Intelligence is the cornerstone to successful digital transformation, and he actively helps customers realize the benefits of CAST's software analytics to ensure their IT systems are secure, resilient and efficient to support the next wave of modern business.
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