Showing posts with label IT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IT. Show all posts

Monday, July 15, 2019

How an Agile Focus for Enterprise Architects Builds Competitive Advantage in the Digital Transformation Age

Transcript of a panel discussion on how Enterprise Architects should embrace agile approaches to build more competitive advantage for their companies.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: The Open Group.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Our next business trends discussion explores the reinforcing nature of Enterprise Architecture (EA) and agile methods.

We’ll now learn how Enterprise Architects can embrace agile approaches to build competitive advantages for their companies. To learn more about retraining and rethinking for EA in the Digital Transformation (DT) era, we are now joined by Ryan Schmierer, Director of Operations at Sparx Services North America. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan Schmierer: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: We are also joined by Chris Armstrong, President at Sparx Services North America. Welcome, Chris.

Chris Armstrong: How are you, Dana?

Gardner: I’m great, thanks. Ryan, what's happening in business now that’s forcing a new emphasis for Enterprise Architects? Why should Enterprise Architects do things any differently than they have in the past?

Schmierer: The biggest thing happening in the industry right now is around DT. We been hearing about DT for the last couple of years and most companies have embarked on some sort of a DT initiative, modernizing their business processes.

But now companies are looking beyond the initial transformation and asking, “What’s next?” We are seeing them focus on real-time, data-driven decision-making, with the ultimate goal of enterprise business agility -- the capability for the enterprise to be aware of its environments, respond to changes, and adapt quickly.

For Enterprise Architects, that means learning how to be agile both in the work they do as individuals and how they approach architecture for their organizations. It’s not about making architectures that will last forever, but architectures that are nimble, agile, and adapt to change.

Gardner: Ryan, we have heard the word, agile, used in a structured way when it comes to software development -- Agile methodologies, for example. Are we talking about the same thing? How are they related?

Agile, adaptive enterprise advances 

Schmierer: It’s the same concept. The idea is that you want to deliver results quickly, learn from what works, adapt, change, and evolve. It’s the same approach used in software development over the last few years. Look at how you develop software that delivers value quickly. We are now applying those same concepts in other contexts.

First is at the enterprise level. We look at how the business evolves quickly, learn from mistakes, and adapt the changes back into the environment.

Second, in the architecture domain, instead of waiting months or quarters to develop an architecture, vision, and roadmap, how do we start small, iterate, deliver quickly, accelerate time-to-value, and refine it as we go?

Gardner: Many businesses want DT, but far fewer of them seem to know how to get there. How does the role of the Enterprise Architect fit into helping companies attain DT?
The core job responsibility for Enterprise Architects is to be an extension of the company leadership and its executives. They need to look at where a company is trying to go ... and develop a roadmap on how to get there.

Schmierer: The core job responsibility for Enterprise Architects is to be an extension of company leadership and its executives. They need to look at where a company is trying to go, all the different pieces that need to be addressed to get there, establish a future-state vision, and then develop a roadmap on how to get there.

This is what company leadership is trying to do. The EA is there to help them figure out how to do that. As the executives look outward and forward, the Enterprise Architect figures out how to deliver on the vision.

Gardner: Chris, tools and frameworks are only part of the solution. It’s also about the people and the process. There's the need for training and best practices. How should people attain this emphasis for EA in that holistic definition?

Change is good 

Armstrong: We want to take a step back and look at how Ryan was describing the elevation of value propositions and best practices that seem to be working for agile solution delivery. How might that work for delivering continual, regular value? One of the major attributes, in our experience, of the goodness of any architecture, is based on how well it responds to change.

In some ways, agile and EA are synonyms. If you’re doing good Enterprise Architecture, you must be agile because responding to change is one of those quality attributes. That’s a part of the traditional approach of architecture – to be concerned with the interoperability and integration.

As it relates to the techniques, tools, and frameworks we want to exploit -- the experiences that we have had in the past – we try to push those forward into more of an operating model for Enterprise Architects and how they engage with the rest of the organization.
Learn About Agile Architecture
At The Open Group July Denver Event
So not starting from scratch, but trying to embrace the concept of reuse, particularly reuse of knowledge and information. It’s a good best practice, obviously. That's why in 2019 you certainly don't want to be inventing your own architecture method or your own architecture framework, even though there may be various reasons to adapt them to your environment.

Starting with things like the TOGAF® Framework, particularly its Architecture Development Method (ADM) and reference models -- those are there for individuals or vertical industries to accelerate the adding of value.

The challenge I've seen for a lot of architecture teams is they get sucked into the methodology and the framework, the semantics and concepts, and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to do things with the tools. What we want to think about is how to enable the architecture profession in the same way we enable other people do their jobs -- with instant-on service offerings, using modern common platforms, and the industry frameworks that are already out there.
We are seeing people more focused on not just what the framework is but helping to apply it to close that feedback loop. The TOGAF standard, a standard of The Open Group, makes perfect sense, but people often struggle with, “Well, how do I make this real in my organization?”

Partnering with organizations that have had that kind of experience helps close that gap and accelerates the use in a valuable fashion. It’s pretty important.

Gardner: It’s ironic that I've heard of recent instances where Enterprise Architects are being laid off. But it sounds increasingly like the role is a keystone to DT. What's the mismatch there, Chris? Why do we see in some cases the EA position being undervalued, even though it seems critical?

EA here to stay 

Armstrong: You have identified something that has happened multiple times. Pendulum swings happen in our industry, particularly when there is a lot of change going on. People are getting a little conservative. We’ve seen this before in the context of fiscal downturns in economic climates.

But to me, it really points to the irony of what we perceive in the architecture profession based on successes that we have had. Enterprise Architecture is an essential part of running your business. But if executives don't believe that and have not experienced that then it’s not surprising when there's an opportunity to make changes in investment priorities that Enterprise Architecture might not be at the top of the list.

We need to be mindful of where we are in time with the architecture profession. A lot of organizations struggle with the glass ceiling of Enterprise Architecture. It’s something we have encountered pretty regularly, where executives are, “I really don’t get what this EA thing is, and what's in it for me? Why should I give you my support and resources?”
Learn About Agile Architecture
At The Open Group July Denver Event
But what’s interesting about that, of course, is if you take a step back you don’t see executives saying the same thing about human resources or accounting. Not to suggest that they aren’t thinking about ways to optimize those as a core competency or as strategic. We still do have an issue with acceptance of enterprise architecture based on the educational and developmental experiences a lot of executives have had.

We’re very hopeful that that trend is going to be moving in a different direction, particularly as relates to new master’s programs and doctorate programs, for example, in the Enterprise Architecture field. Those elevate and legitimize Enterprise Architecture as a profession. When people are going through an MBA program, they will have heard of enterprise architecture as an essential part of delivering upon strategy.

Gardner: Ryan, looking at what prevents companies from attaining DT, what are the major challenges? What’s holding up enterprises from getting used to real-time data, gaining agility, and using intelligence about how they do things?

Schmierer: There are a couple of things going on. One of them ties back to what Chris was just talking about -- the role of Enterprise Architects, and the role of architects in general. DT requires a shift in the relationship between business and IT. With DT, business functions and IT functions become entirely and holistically integrated and inseparable.

When there are no separate IT processes and no businesses process -- there are just processes because the two are intertwined. As we use more real-time data and as we leverage Enterprise Architecture, how do we move beyond the traditional relationship between business and IT? How do we look at such functions as data management and data architecture? How do we bring them into an integrated conversation with the folks who were part of the business and IT teams of the past?

A good example of how companies can do this comes in a recent release from The Open Group, the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge™ (DPBoK™). It says that there's a core skill set that is general and describes what it means to be such a practitioner in the digital era, regardless of your job role or focus. It says we need to classify job roles more holistically and that everyone needs to have both a business mindset and a set of technical skills. We need to bring those together, and that's really important.
As we look at what's holding up DT we need to take functions that were once considered centralized assets like EA and data management and bring them into the forefront. ... Enterprise Architects need to be living in the present.

As we look at what's holding up DT -- taking the next step to real-time data, broadening the scope of DT – we need to take functions that were once considered centralized assets, like EA and data management, and bring them into the forefront, and say, “You know what? You’re part of the digital transmission story as well. You’re key to bringing us along to the next stage of this journey, which is looking at how to optimize, bring in the data, and use it more effectively. How do we leverage technology in new ways?”

The second thing we need to improve is the mindset. It’s particularly an issue with Enterprise Architects right now. And it is that Enterprise Architects -- and everyone in digital professions -- need to be living in the present.

You asked why some EAs are getting laid off. Why is that? Think about how they approach their job in terms of the questions that would be asked in a performance review.

Those might be, “What have you done for me over the years?” If your answer focuses on what you did in the past, you are probably going to get laid off. What you did in the past is great, but the company is operating in the present.

What’s your grand idea for the future? Some ideal situation? Well, that’s probably going to get you shoved in a corner some place and probably eventually laid off because companies don't know what the future is going to bring. They may have some idea of where they want to get to, but they can’t articulate a 5- to 10-year vision because the environment changes so quickly.

What have you done for me lately? That’s a favorite thing to ask in performance-review discussions. You got your paycheck because you did your job over the last six months. That’s what companies care about, and yet that’s not what Enterprise Architects should be supporting.

Instead, the EA emphasis should be what can you do for the business over the next few months? Focus on the present and the near-term future.

That’s what gets Enterprise Architects a seat at the table. That’s what gets the entire organization, and all the job functions, contributing to DT. It helps them become aligned to delivering near-term value. If you are entirely focused on delivering near-term value, you’ve achieved business agility.

Gardner: Chris, because nothing stays the same for very long, we are seeing a lot more use of cloud services. We’re seeing composability and automation. It seems like we are shifting from building to assembly.

Doesn’t that fit in well with what EAs do, focusing on the assembly and the structure around automation? That’s an abstraction above putting in IT systems and configuring them.

Reuse to remain competitive 

Armstrong: It’s ironic that the profession that’s often been coming up with the concepts and thought-leadership around reuse struggles a with how to internalize that within their organizations. EAs have been pretty successful at the implementation of reuse on an operating level, with code libraries, open-source, cloud, and SaaS.

There is no reason to invent a new method or framework. There are plenty of them out there. Better to figure out how to exploit those to competitive advantage and focus on understanding the business organization, strategy, culture, and vision -- and deliver value in the context of those.

For example, one of the common best practices in Enterprise Architecture is to create things called reference architectures, basically patterns that represent best practices, many of which can be created from existing content. If you are doing cloud or microservices, elevate that up to different types of business models. There’s a lot of good content out there from standards organizations that give organizations a good place to start.
Learn About Agile Architecture
At The Open Group July Denver Event
But one of the things that we've observed is a lot of architecture communities tend to focus on building -- as you were saying -- those reference architectures, and don't focus as much on making sure the organization knows that content exists, has been used, and has made a difference.

We have a great opportunity to connect the dots among different communities that are often not working together. We can provide that architectural leadership to pull it together and deliver great results and positive behaviors.

Gardner: Chris, tell us about Sparx Services North America. What do you all do, and how you are related to and work in conjunction with The Open Group?

Armstrong: Sparx Services is focused on helping end-user organizations be successful with Enterprise Architecture and related professions such as solution architecture and solution delivery, and systems engineering. We do that by taking advantage of the frameworks and best practices that standards organizations like The Open Group create, helping make those standards real, practical, and pragmatic for end-user organizations. We provide guidance on how to adapt and tailor them and provide support while they use those frameworks for doing real work.

And we provide a feedback loop to The Open Group to help understand what kinds of questions end-user organizations are asking. We look for opportunities for improving existing standards, areas where we might want to invest in new standards, and to accelerate the use of Enterprise Architecture best practices.

Gardner: Ryan, moving onto what's working and what's helping foster better DT, tell us what's working. In a practical sense, how is EA making those shorter-term business benefits happen?

One day at a time 

Schmierer: That’s a great question. We have talked about some of the challenges. It’s important to focus on the right path as well. So, what's working that an enterprise architect can do today in order to foster DT?

Number one, embrace agile approaches and an agile mindset in both architecture development (how you do your job) and the solutions you develop for your organizations. A good way to test whether you are approaching architecture in an agile way is the first iteration in the architecture. Can you go through the entire process of the Architecture Development Method (ADM) on a cocktail napkin in the time it takes you to have a drink with your boss? If so, great. It means you are focused on that first simple iteration and then able to build from there.

Number two, solve problems today with the components you have today. Don’t just look to the future. Look at what you have now and how you can create the most value possible out of those. Tomorrow the environment is going to change, and you can focus on tomorrow's problems and tomorrow’s challenges tomorrow. So today’s problems today.

Third, look beyond your current DT initiative and what’s going on today, and talk to your leaders. Talk to your business clients about where they need to go in the future. That goal is enterprise business agility, which is helping the company become more nimble. DT is the first step, then start looking at steps two and three.
Architects need to understand technology better, such things as new cloud services, IoT, edge computing, ML, and AI. These are going to have disruptive effects on your businesses. You need to understand them to be a trusted advisor to your organization.

Fourth, Architects need to understand technology better, such things as fast-moving, emerging technology like new cloud services, Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) -- these are more than just buzz words and initiatives. They are real technology advancements. They are going to have disruptive effects on your businesses and the solutions to support those businesses. You need to understand the technologies; you need to start playing with them so you can truly be a trusted advisor to your organization about how to apply those technologies in business context.

Gardner: Chris, we hear a lot about AI and ML these days. How do you expect Enterprise Architects to help organizations leverage AI and ML to get to that DT? It seems really essential to me to become more data driven and analytics driven and then to re-purpose to reuse those analytics over and over again to attain an ongoing journey of efficiency and automation.

Better business outcomes 

Armstrong: We are now working with our partners to figure out how to best use AI and ML to help run the business, to do better product development, to gain a 360-degree view of the customer, and so forth.

It’s one of those weird things where we see the shoemaker’s children not having any shoes because they are so busy making shoes for everybody else. There is a real opportunity, when we look at some of the infrastructure that’s required to support the agile enterprise, to exploit those same technologies to help us do our jobs in enterprise architecture.

It is an emerging part of the profession. We and others are beginning to do some research on that, but when I think of how much time we and our clients have spent on the nuts and bolts collection of data and normalization of data, it sure seems like there is a real opportunity to leverage these emerging technologies for the benefit of the architecture practice. Then, again, the architects can be more focused on building relationships with people, understanding the strategy in less time, and figuring out where the data is and what the data means.

Obviously humans still need to be involved, but I think there is a great opportunity to eat your own dog food, as it were, and see if we can exploit those learning tools for the benefit of the architecture community and its consumers.

Gardner: Chris, do we have concrete examples of this at work, where EAs have elevated themselves and exposed their value for business outcomes? What’s possible when you do this right?

Armstrong: A lot of organizations are working things from the bottoms up, and that often starts in IT operations and then moves to solution delivery. That’s where there has been a lot of good progress, in improved methods and techniques such as scaled agile and DevOps.
But a lot of organizations struggle to elevate it higher. The DPBoK™  from The Open Group provides a lot of guidance to help organizations navigate that journey, particularly getting to the fourth level of the learning progression, which is at the enterprise level. That’s where Enterprise Architecture becomes essential. It’s great to develop software fast, but that’s not the whole point of agile solution delivery. It should be about building the right software the right way to meet the right kind of requirements -- and do that as rapidly as possible.

We need an umbrella over different release trains, for example, to make sure the organization as a whole is marching forward. We have been working with a number of Fortune 100 companies that have made good progress at the operational implementation levels. They nonetheless now are finding that particularly trying, to connect to business architecture.

There have been some great advancements from the Business Architecture Guild and that’s been influencing the TOGAF framework, to connect the dots across those agile communities so that the learnings of a particular release train or the strategy of the enterprise is clearly understood and delivered to all of those different communities.

Gardner: Ryan, looking to the future, what should organizations be doing with the Enterprise Architect role and function?

EA evolution across environments 

Schmierer: The next steps don’t just apply to Enterprise Architects but really to all types of architects. So look at the job role and how your job role needs to evolve over the next few years. How do you need to approach it differently than you have in the past?

For example, we are seeing Enterprise Architects increasingly focus on issues like security, risk, reuse, and integration with partner ecosystems. How do you integrate with other companies and work in the broader environments?

We are seeing Business Architects who have been deeply engaged in DT discussions over the last couple of years start looking forward and shifting the role to focus on how we light up real-time decision-making capabilities. Solution Architects are shifting from building and designing components to designing assembly and designing the end systems that are often built out of third-party components instead of things that were built in-house.

Look at the job role and understand that the core need hasn’t changed. Companies need Enterprise Architects and Business Architects and Solution Architects more than ever right now to get them where they need to be. But the people serving those roles need to do that in a new way -- and that’s focused on the future, what the business needs are over the next 6 to 18 months, and that’s different than what they have done in past.

Gardner: Where can organizations and individuals go to learn more about Agile Architecture as well as what The Open Group and Sparx Services are offering?

Schmierer: The Open Group has some great resources available. We have a July event in Denver focused on Agile Architecture, where they will discuss some of the latest thoughts coming out of The Open Group Architecture Forum, Digital Practitioners Work Group, and more. It’s a great opportunity to learn about those things, network with others, and discuss how other companies are approaching these problems. I definitely point them there.
Learn About Agile Architecture
At The Open Group July Denver Event
I mentioned the DPBoK™. This is a recent release from The Open Group, looking at the future of IT and the roles for architects. There’s some great, forward-looking thinking in there. I encourage folks to take a look at that, provide feedback, and get involved in that discussion.

And then Sparx Services North America, we are here to help architects be more effective and add value to their organizations, be it through tools, training, consulting, best practices, and standards. We are here to help, so feel free to reach out at our website. We are happy to talk with you and see how we might be able to help.

Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You have been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on reinforcing the relationship between Enterprise Architecture and agile businesses. And we have learned how Enterprise Architects should embrace new approaches and digital practitioner, leading-edge thinking to build competitive advantages for their companies.

So a big thank you to our guests, Ryan Schmierer, Director of Operations at Sparx Services North America. Thank you so much, Ryan.

Schmierer: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And thank you, too, to Chris Armstrong, President at Sparx Services North America.

Armstrong: You are more than welcome, Dana. 

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect agile business innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series of BriefingsDirect discussions sponsored by The Open Group.

Thanks again for listening, please pass this along to your IT community, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: The Open Group.

Transcript of a panel discussion how Enterprise Architects should embrace agile approaches to build more competitive advantage for their companies. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC and The Open Group, 2005-2019. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Delta Air Lines Improves Customer Self-Service Apps Quickly Using Quality Assurance Tools

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast with Delta Air Lines development leaders on gaining visibility into application testing to improve customer self-service experience.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to a special BriefingsDirect podcast series, coming to you from the HP Software Universe 2010 Conference in Washington, D.C. We're here the week of June 14, 2010, to explore some major enterprise software and solutions trends and innovations making news across HP’s ecosystem of customers, partners, and developers.

I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions and I'll be your host throughout this series of HP sponsored Software Universe Live discussions.

Our customer case study today focuses on Delta Air Lines and the use of HP quality assurance products for requirements management as well as mapping the test cases and moving into full production. We are here with David Moses, Manager of Quality Assurance for and its self service efforts. Thanks for joining us, David.

David Moses: Thank you, very much. Glad to be here.

Gardner: We're also here with John Bell, a Senior Test Engineer at Delta. Welcome John.

John Bell: Thank you.

Gardner: Tell me about the market drivers. What is the problem set when it comes to managing the development process around requirements and then quality and test out through your production? What are the problems that you're generally facing these days?

Moses: Generally, the airline industry, along with the lot of other industries I'm sure, is highly competitive. We have a very, very quick, fast-to-market type environment, where we've got to get products out to our customers. We have a lot of innovation that's being worked on in the industry and a lot of competing channels outside the airline industry that would also like to get at the same customer set. So, it's very important to be able to deliver the best products you can as quickly as possible. "Speed Wins" is our motto.

Gardner: What is it about the use of some of the quality assurance products that helps you pull off that dual trick of speed, but also reliability and high quality?

Moses: The one thing I really like about the HP Quality Center suite especially is that your entire software development cycle can live within that tool. Whenever you're using different tools to do different things, it becomes a little bit more difficult to get the data from one point to another. It becomes a little bit more difficult to pull reports and figure out where you can improve.

Data in one place

What you really want to do is get all your data in one place and Quality Center allows you to do that. We put our requirements in in the beginning. By having those in the system, we can then map to those with our test cases, after we build those in the testing phase.

Not only do we have the QA engineers working on it in Quality Center, we also have the business analysts working on it, whenever they're doing the requirements. That also helps the two groups work together a bit more closely.

Gardner: Do you have anything to add to that, John?

Bell: The one thing that's been very helpful is the way that the Quality Center tabs are set up. It allows us to follow a specific process, looking at the release level all the way down to the actual cycles, and that allows us to manage it.

It's very nice that Quality Center has it all tied into one unit. So, as we go through our processes, we're able to go from tab to tab and we know that all of that information is interconnected. We can ultimately trace a defect back to a specific cycle or a specific test case, all the way back to our requirement. So, the tool is very helpful in keeping all of the information in one area, while still maintaining the consistent process.

Gardner: Can you give us a sense of how much activity you process or how many applications there are -- the size of the workload you’ve got these days?

Bell: There is a lot. I look back to metrics we pulled for 2008. We were doing fewer than 70 projects. By 2009, after we had fully integrated Quality Center, we did over 129 projects. That also included a lot of extra work, which you may have heard about us doing related to a merger.

Gardner: With that increase in the number of applications that you're managing and dealing with, did you have any metrics in terms of the quality that you were able to manage, even though that volume increased so dramatically?

Moses: We were able to do that. That's one of the nice things. You can use your dashboard in Quality Center to pull those metrics up and see those reports. You can point out the projects that were your most troublesome children and look at the projects where you did really well.

Best-case scenario

You can go back and do a best-case scenario, and see what you did great and what you could improve. Having that view into it really helps. It’s also beneficial, whenever you have another project similar to one that was such an issue. You can have a heads up to say, "Okay, we need to treat this one differently this time."

Gardner: It’s the visibility to have repeatability when things go well, and, I suppose, visibility to avoid repeatability when things didn't go well.

Moses: Exactly.

Gardner: Let’s take a look at some of the innovation you've done. Tell me a bit about what you've worked with in terms of Quality Center in some of your own integration or tweaking?

Bell: One thing that we've been able to do with Quality Center is connect it with Quick Test Pro, and we do have Quality Center 10, as well as Quick Test Pro 10. We've been able to build our automation and store those in the Test Plan tab of Quality Center.

This has really been beneficial for us, when we go into our test labs and build our test set. We're able to take all of these automated pieces and combine them into test set. What this has allowed us to do is run all of our automation as one test set. We've been able to run those on a remote box. It's taken our regression test time from one person for five days, down to zero people and approximately an hour and 45 minutes.

Also, with the Test Lab tab, we're able to schedule these test sets to run during off hours. A lot of times our automation for things such as regression or sanity, can run on off hours. We schedule those to run at perhaps 6 o'clock in the morning. Then, when we come in at 8 o'clock in the morning, all of those tests would have already run.

That frees up our testers to be doing more of the manual functional testing and that allows us to know that we have complete coverage with the automation, as well as our sanity pieces. So, that's a unique way that we've used Quality Center to help manage that and to reduce our testing times by over 50 percent.

Gardner: Thank you, John. David, there have been some ways in which your larger goals as a business have been either improved upon or perhaps better aligned with the whole development process. I guess I'm looking for whether there is some payback here in terms of your larger business goals?

Moses: It definitely is. It goes back to speed to market with new functionality and making the customer's experience better. In all of our self-service products, it's very important that we test from the customers’ point of view.

We deliver those products that make it easier for them to use our services. That's one of the things that always sticks in my mind, when I'm at an airport, and I'm watching people use the kiosk. That's one of the things we do. We bring our people out to the airports and we watch our customers use our products, so we get that inside view of what's going on with them.

A lot on the line

I'll see people hesitantly reaching out to hit a button. Their hand may be shaking. It could be an elderly person. It could be a person with a lot on the line. Say it’s somebody taking their family on vacation. It's the only vacation they can afford to go on, and they’ve got a lot of investment into that flight to get there and also to get back home. Really there's a lot on the line for them.

A lot of people don’t know a lot about the airline industry and they don’t realize that it's okay if they hit the wrong button. It's really easy to start over. But, sometimes they would be literally shaking, when they reach out to hit the button. We want to make sure that they have a good comfort level. We want to make sure they have the best experience they could possibly have. And, the faster we can deliver products to them, that make that experience real for them, the better.

Gardner: I should think the whole notion of self service is usually important. It's important for the customer to be able to move through and do things their way, and I suppose there are some great cost savings and efficiencies on your end as well.

Dave, you could just highlight a little bit about how the whole notion of self service embedded into applications. It's important how some of the quality assurance tools and processes have helped there.

Moses: I go back to anytime you have to give up whenever you're having an issue with products, while you're online. You're on a website, and you have to call customer service. I think most people just sort of feel defeated at that point. People like to handle things themselves. You need a channel there for the customer to go to, if they need additional help.

So many clients and customers these days are so tech savvy. They know the industry they are in, and they know the tools they're working with, especially frequent flyers. I'd venture to say that most frequent flyers can hit the airport, check-in, get through security, and get to their plane really quickly. They just know their airports and they know everything they need to know about their flight, because this is where they live part of their lives.

You don't want to make them wait in line. You don't want to make them wait on a phone tree, when they make a phone call. You want them to be able to walk into the airport, hit a couple of buttons, get through security, and get to their gate.

By offering these types of products to the customers, you give them the best of both worlds. You give them a fast pass to check in. You give them a fast pass book. But, you can also give the less-experienced customer an easy-to-understand path to do what they need as well.

Gardner: And, to get those business benefits, those customer loyalty benefits, is really a function of good software development overall, isn't it?

Moses: Exactly. You have to give the customer the right tools that they want to get the job done for them.

Gardner: For other enterprises that are perhaps are going to be working towards a higher degree of quality in their software, but probably also interested in reducing the time to develop and time to value, do you have any suggestions, now that you’ve gone through this, that you might offer to them?

Interim approach

Bell: In using Quality Center, we've used an interim approach. Initially, we just used the Defects tab of Quality Center. Then, we slowly began to add the Requirements piece, and then Test Cases, and ultimately the Releases and Cycles.

One thing that we've found to be very beneficial with Quality Center is that it shows the development organization that this just isn't a QA tool that a QA team uses. What we've been able to do by bringing the requirements piece into it and by bringing the defects and other parts of it together, is bring the whole team on board to using a common tool.

In the past, a lot of people have always thought of Quality Centers as just a little tool that the QA people use in the corner and nobody else needs to be aware of. Now, we have our business analysts, project managers, and developers, as well as the QA team and even managers, because each person can get a different view of different information.

From Dashboard, your managers can look at your trends and what type of overall development lifecycle is coming through. Your project managers can be very involved in pulling the number of defects and see which ones are still outstanding and what the criticality of that is. The developers can be involved via entering information in on defects when those issues have been resolved?

We've found that Quality Center is actually a tool that has drawn together all of the teams. They're all using a common interface, and they all start to recognize the importance of tying all of this together, so that everyone can get a view as to what's going on throughout the whole lifecycle.

Moses: John hits on a really good point there. You have to realize the importance of it, and we did a long time ago. We've realized the importance of automating and we've realized the importance of having multiple groups using the same tool.

In all honesty, we were just miserable in our own history of trying to get those to work. You really take certain shots at it. For the past eight years, if we can go back that far, we've been using Quality Center tools for Test Director, just trying to get things automated, using the tools we had at the time.

The one thing that we never actually did was dedicate the resources. It's not just a tool. There are people there too. There are processes. There are concepts you're going to have to get in your head to get this to work, but you have to be willing to buy-in by having the people resources dedicated to building the test scripts. Then, you're not done. You've got to maintain them. That's where most people fall short and that's where we fell short for quite some time.

Once we were able to finally dedicate the people to the maintenance of these scripts to keep them active and running, that's where we got a win. If you look at a web site these days, it's following one of two models. You either have a release schedule, that’s a more static site, or you have a highly dynamic site that's always changing and always throwing out improvements.

We fit into that "Speed Wins," when we get the product out for the customers’ trading, and improve the experience as often as possible. So, we’re a highly dynamic site. We'll break up to 20 percent of all of our test scripts, all of our automated test scripts, every week. That's a lot of maintenance, even though we're using a lot of reusable code. You have to have those resources dedicated to keep that going.

Gardner: Well, I appreciate your time. We've been talking about the quality assurance process and the use of some HP tools. We've been learning about experiences from Delta Air Lines development executives. I want to thank our guests today, David Moses, Manager of Quality Assurance for in the self-service function there. Thank you, David.

Moses: Thank you, very much.

Gardner: We've also been joined by John Bell, Senior Test Engineer there at Delta Air Lines. Thanks to you too, John.

Bell: It's been a pleasure.

Gardner: And, thanks to our audience for joining us for this special BriefingsDirect podcast coming to you from the HP Software Universe 2010 conference in Washington, DC.

Look for other podcasts from this HP event on the website, as well as via the BriefingsDirect Network.

I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this series of Software Universe Live Discussions. Thanks again for listening, and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast with Delta Air Lines development leaders on gaining visibility into application testing to improve customer self-service experience. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2010. All rights reserved.

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McKesson Shows Bringing Testing Tools on the Road Improves Speed to Market and Customer Satisfaction

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast from the HP Software Universe 2010 Conference in Washington, DC on field-testing software installations using HP Performance Center products.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to a special BriefingsDirect podcast series, coming to you from the HP Software Universe 2010 Conference in Washington, D.C. We're here the week of June 14, 2010, to explore some major enterprise software and solutions trends and innovations making news across HP’s ecosystem of customers, partners, and developers.

I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and I'll be your host throughout this series of HP sponsored Software Universe Live discussions.

Our customer case-study today focuses on McKesson Corp., a provider of certified healthcare information technology, including electronic health records, medical billing, and claims management software. McKesson is a user of HP’s project-based performance testing products used to make sure that applications perform in the field as intended throughout their lifecycle.

To learn more about McKesson’s innovative use of quality assurance software, please join me in welcoming Todd Eaton, Director of Application Lifecycle Management Tools in the CTO’s office at McKesson. Welcome to the show, Todd.

Todd Eaton: Thank you.

Gardner: Todd, tell me a little bit about what's going on in the market that is making the performance-based testing, particularly onsite, such an important issue for you.

Eaton: Well, looking at McKesson’s businesses, one of the things that we do is provide software for sale for various healthcare providers. With the current federal government regulations that are coming out and some of these newer initiatives that are planned by the federal government, these providers are looking for tools to help them do better healthcare throughout their enterprises.

With that in mind, they're looking to add functionality, they're looking to add systems, and they look to McKesson, as the leader in healthcare, to provide those solutions for them. With that in mind, our group works with the various R&D organizations within McKesson, to help them develop software for the needs of those customers.

Gardner: And what is it about performance-based testing that is so important now. We've certainly had lots of opportunity to trial things in labs and create testbeds. What is it about the real-world delivery that's important?

Eaton: It's one thing that we can test within McKesson. It's another thing when you test out at the customer site, and that's a main driver of this new innovation that we’re partnering up with HP.

When we build an application and sell that to our customers, they can take that application, bring it into their own ecosystem, into their own data center and install it onto their own hardware.

Controlled testing

The testing that we do in our labs is a little more controlled. We have access to HP and other vendors with their state-of-the-art equipment. We come up with our own set of standards, but when they go out to the site and get put in to those hospitals, we want to ensure that our applications act at the same speed and same performance at their site that we experience in our controlled environment. So, being able to test on their equipment is very important for us.

Gardner: And it's I suppose difficult for you to anticipate exactly what you're going to encounter, until you're actually in that data center?

Eaton: Exactly. Just knowing how many different healthcare providers there are out there, you could imagine all the different hardware platforms, different infrastructures, and the needs or infrastructure items that they may have in their data centers.

Gardner: This isn’t just a function of getting set up, but there's a whole life-cycle of updates, patches, improvements, and increased functionality across the application set. Is this something that you can do over a period of time?

Eaton: Yes, and another very important thing is using their data. The hospitals themselves will have copies of their production data sets that they keep control of. There are strict regulations. That kind of data cannot leave their premises. Being able to test using the large amount of data or the large volume of data that they will have onsite is very crucial to testing our applications.

Gardner: Todd, tell me the story behind gaining this capability of that performance-based testing onsite -- how did you approach it, how long has it been in the making, and maybe a little bit about what you’re encountering?

Eaton: When we started out, we had some discussion with some of the R&D groups internally about our performance testing. My group actually provides a performance-testing service. We go out to the various groups, and we’re doing the testing.

We always look to find out what we can do better. We’re always doing lesson learns and things like that and talking with these various groups. We found that, even though we did a very good job of doing performance testings internally, we were still finding defects and performance issues out at the site, when we brought that software out and installed it in the customer’s data center.

After further investigation, it became apparent to us that we weren’t able to replicate all those different environments in our data center. It’s just too big of a task.

The next logical thing to do was to take the testing capabilities that we had and bring it all out on the road. We have these different services teams that go out to install software. We could go along with them and bring the powerful tools that we use with HP into those data centers and do the exact same testing that we did, and make sure that our applications were running as expected on their environments.

Gardner: Getting it right the first time is always one of the most important things for any business activity. Any kind of failure along the way is always going to cost more and perhaps even jeopardize the relationship with the customer.

Speed to market

Eaton: Yeah, it jeopardizes the relationship with the customer, but one of the things that we also drive is speed to market. We want to make sure that our solutions get out there as fast as possible, so that we can help those providers and those healthcare entities in giving the best patient care that they can.

Gardner: What was the biggest hurdle in being able to, as you say, bring the testing capability out to the field. What were some of the hang-ups in order to accomplish that?

Eaton: Well, the tool that we use primarily within McKesson is Performance Center, and Performance Center is an enterprise-based application. It’s usually kept where we have multiple controllers, and we have multiple groups using those, but it resides within our network.

So, the biggest hurdle was how to take that powerful tool and bring it out to these sites? So, we went back to our HP rep, and said, "Here’s our challenge. This is what we’ve got. We don’t really see anything where you have an offering in that space. What can you do for us?"

Gardner: How far and wide have you been able to accomplish this? Are you doing it in terms of numbers of facilities, in what kind of organizations?

Eaton: Right now we have it across the board in multiple applications. McKesson develops numerous applications in the healthcare space, and we’ve used those across the board. Currently, we have two engagements going on simultaneously with two different hospitals, testing two different groups of applications, and even the application themselves.

I’ve got one site that’s using it for 26 different applications and other that’s using it for five. We’ve got two teams going out there, one from my group and one from one of the internal R&D groups that are assisting the customer and testing the applications on their equipment.

Gardner: From these experiences so far, are there metrics of success, paybacks, not only for you and McKesson, but also for the providers that you service?

Eaton: The first couple of times we did this, we found that we were able to reduce the performance defects dramatically. We’re talking something like 40-50 percent right off the bat. Some of the timing that we had experienced internally seemed to be fine, well within SLAs. But as soon as I got out to a site and onto different hardware configurations, it took some application tuning to get it down. We were finding 90 percent increases with our help of continual testing and performance tweaks.

Items like that are just so powerful, when you are bringing that out to the various customer, and can say, "If you engage us, and we can do this testing for you, we can make sure that those applications will run in the way that you want them to."

Gardner: How about for your development efficiency? Are you learning some lessons on the road that you wouldn’t have had before that you can now bring into the next rep. Is there a feedback loop of sorts?

Powerful feedback

Eaton: Yes. It’s a pretty powerful one back to our R&D groups, because getting back to that data scenario, the volume and types of data that the customers have can be unexpected. The way customers use systems, while it works perfectly fine, is not one of the use cases that is normally found in some applications, and you get different results.

So, finding them out in the field and then being able to bring those back to our R&D groups and say, "This is what we’re seeing out in the field and this is how people are using it," gives them a better insight and makes them able to modify their code to fit those use cases better.

Gardner: Todd, is there any advice that you would give to those considering doing this, that is to say, taking their performance testing out on the road, closer to the actual site where these applications are going to reside?

Eaton: The main one is to work with your HP rep on what they have available for this. We took a product that everybody is familiar with, LoadRunner, and tweaked it so it became portable. The HP reps know a lot more about how they packaged that up and what’s best for different customers based on their needs. Working with a rep would be a big help in trying to roll this out to various groups.

Gardner: Okay, great. We’ve been learning about how McKesson is bringing performance-based testing products out to their customers’ locations and gaining a feedback capability as well as reducing time to market and making the quality of those applications near 100 percent right from the start.

I want to thank our guest. We’ve been joined by Todd Eaton, Director of Application Lifecycle Management Tools in the CTO’s office at McKesson. Thank you so much Todd.

Eaton: You’re welcome. Nice talking to you.

Gardner: And, thanks to our audience for joining us for this special BriefingsDirect podcast, coming to you from the HP Software Universe 2010 Conference in Washington, DC.

Look for other podcasts from this HP event on the website under HP Software Universe Live podcast, as well as through the BriefingsDirect Network.

I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this series of HP-sponsored Software Universe Live Discussions. Thanks for listening, and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast from the HP Software Universe 2010 Conference in Washington, DC on field-testing software installations using HP Performance Center products. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2010. All rights reserved.

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