Continuous Testing: What's the Business Value?

Apr 2, 2014

Posted by Parasoft


Given the business expectations at each stage of the SDLC, Continuous Testing delivers a quantitative assessment of risk as well as actionable tasks that help mitigate these risks before they progress to the next stage of the SDLC.  The goal is to eliminate meaningless tests and produce value-added tasks that truly drive the development organization towards a successful release.

Continuous Testing—when executed correctly—delivers three major business benefits.

First, continuous tests are the artifacts that drive a central system of decision for the SDLC.  Continuous tests place a bracer around core business functionality as expressed and implemented in software.  The assessment of the validity or stability of these core business artifacts provides a real-time, quantifiable assessment of the application's health.  

Second, Continuous Testing establishes a safety net that allows software developers to bring new features to market faster.  With a trusted test suite ensuring the integrity of dependent application components and related functionality, developers can immediately assess the impact of code changes.  This not only accelerates the rate of change, but also mitigates the risk of software defects reaching your customers. 

Third, Continuous Testing allows managers to make better trade-off decisions.  From the business’ perspective, achieving a differentiable competitive advantage by being first to market with innovative software drives shareholder value.  Yet, software development is a complex endeavor. As a result, managers are constantly faced with trade-off decisions between time, functionality, and quality. By providing a holistic understanding of the risk of release, Continuous Testing helps to optimize the business outcome. 

Re-Evaluating the Cost of Quality

A critical motivator for the evolution towards Continuous Testing is that business expectations about the speed and reliability of software releases have changed dramatically—largely because software has morphed from a business process enabler into a competitive differentiator.  

For example, APIs represent componentized pieces of software functionality which developers can either consume or write themselves.  In a recent Parasoft survey about API adoption, over 80% of respondents said that they have stopped using an API because it was "too buggy."  Moreover, when we asked the same respondents if they would ever consider using that API again, 97% said “no.”  With switching costs associated with software like an API at an all-time low, software quality matters more than ever. 

Another example is mobile check deposit applications.  In 2011, top banks were racing to provide this must-have feature.  By 2012, mobile check deposit became the leading driver for bank selection. Getting a secure, reliable application to market was suddenly business critical.  With low switching costs associated with online banking, financial institutions unable to innovate were threatened with customer defection.  

This sea change associated with the quality expectations of software is also reflected in the manner in which software failures are reported.  Today, software failures are highlighted in news headlines as organizational failings with deep-rooted impacts on C-level executives and stock prices.  Parasoft analyzed the most notable software failures in 2012 and 2013; each incident initiated an average -3.35% decline in stock price, which equates to an average of negative $ 2.15 billion loss of market capitalization.  This is a tremendous loss of shareholder value.  Additionally, looking at organizations that endured multiple news-worthy software failures, it is clear that the market punishes repeat offenders even more aggressively. Repeat offenders suffered an average -5.68% decline in stock price, which equates to an average of negative $ 2.65 billion loss of market capitalization. 

The bottom line is that we must re-evaluate the cost of quality for our organizations and individual projects.  If your cost of quality assessment exposes a gap in your quality process, it's a sign that now is the time to reassess your organization's culture as it relates to building and testing software.  In most organizations, quality software is clearly the intention, yet the culture of the organization yields trade-off decisions that significantly increase the risk of exposing faulty software to the market.

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