Understand and Capture the Value of Change

Change is good, but not everyone readily embraces it. Sometimes, it can even be difficult to see the value of change, or the opportunity for it. Take this example from earlier in my career.

At one of my past jobs, a new CIO decided to hold a monthly meeting with all the department managers. In this meeting, they would pore through all the monthly operational data, presumably to make informed decisions for the coming months.

My coworker was tasked with the unenviable job of pulling all this data together from various and disparate sources, then combining it into a massive report. Once the data was compiled, he sent it to the printers, who printed the 800-page report, bound it and sent it back for use in the CIO’s monthly meeting. This report grew so large over time that it consumed his entire job. Once a report was finished, he began work on the next one.

A few years later, the company replaced the CIO but the meeting remained on the calendar, so the work of compiling the report continued.

One day, my manager informed me that my coworker had put in his two-weeks notice, and that I inherited the task of creating this report — in addition to my testing duties. As you can imagine, I was not excited about this news, but agreed to start the transition process with what little time we had.

The more I learned about the effort and cost involved in report creation, the more I questioned the value of it. I took a copy of the report, plopped it on the desk of each manager and asked one single question: “What is the value of this report?”

Only one of the 12 managers claimed to get any value from the report. That manager pointed to one valuable line of data buried deep in the middle. The managers all stated that the report was of value to the CIO only.

Armed with this information, I marched to the CIO’s office. I asked her if she was familiar with the report I was holding. She was. I asked her the same question, “What is the value of this report?” She replied that the managers needed the report, but she found little use for it herself.

I told her how much the monstrosity of a report cost to create, in both time and money, then followed that up with what each of the managers told me about the value of the report, even pointing to the single line of data that one manager cared about. She laughed and said, “Well then, I guess we don’t need this report!” She told me to cease production of it, putting a smile on my face when I reported the news back to my manager.

The value of change extends to our work at Applause, where clients might experience institutional blindness to a problem. Recently, we completed some analysis for a client on high-severity bugs that kept cropping up in production. The client contracted with Applause solely to run regression test cases against release candidates across all of their platforms, except for the test cases that were part of their extensive automation suite. Exploratory testing was not part of the contract, and not something the client wanted. “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” the client said.

This approach, however, was ineffective, as the client continued to run into a problem. Users reported many critical issues in production, and the client wanted to know why.

After analyzing the reported issues, the reason became crystal clear. The steps to reproduce these issues were neither covered in the client’s test suites, nor in their automated tests. We shared some analysis we ran for another client that showed that 70% of their high-severity issues were caught through exploratory testing, which ran in addition to their scripted and automated tests.

The client, previously averse to exploratory testing, has since asked to add it to the release candidate testing efforts, a service Applause is happy to provide. In this case, the value of change was presented to the client directly, but it’s often more difficult to recognize an opportunity to evolve. Seize it.

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John Kotzian
Test Architect
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