Moving IT toward robotics and automation

Moving IT toward robotics and automation
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ryzhi)

The past few weeks of employees working from home have put enormous strain on businesses and brought into sharp focus the importance of being agile, adaptable, and able to increase the pace of innovation and change at short notice. Technology solutions such as robotics and automation are pivotal to enabling this, so we can expect to see their use rapidly accelerate over the next few months, as the economy works to get back on its feet.

About the author

Ivan Ericsson, Head of Quality Assurance, Expleo.

But whilst technology can bring immense value to businesses, pivoting toward an automation-first model is no simple task. Badly managed digital upgrades are incredibly costly and can cause companies to take two steps back before they’ve even started. That’s why, until now, many particularly large or complex industries have taken a slow and steady approach to automation.

But if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s that they need to be poised for abrupt market disruption at any moment – so this “keeping the lights” on approach to technology cannot continue. With that in mind, here are the most important things for companies to consider when embarking on a digital transformation.

Master process maturity

It makes sense that digitization has been catapulted to the top of the agenda for most businesses in recent weeks. But in order to get this right, organisations must first master process maturity. The most important part of a pivot in a new direction is to ensure that you have one foot solidly on the floor. In quality terms this means having a baseline of testing effectiveness and efficiency, and a plan to optimize opportunities to improve them both. This will provide the grounding to change direction quickly and adopt new technologies and methodologies with ease.

Ensure quality from the start

Our increased reliance on digital services in recent weeks has posed big questions about reliability. The strength of security systems of tools like Zoom have come under scrutiny. Unprecedented spikes in usage have given companies like Microsoft pause for thought as to whether their back-end systems can handle the surge, and stories of businesses rushing to upscale their VPNs to ensure remote access systems perform have been commonplace.

This is the reminder that quality and assurance should be at the heart of innovation, not an afterthought – retrofitting quality into a system is always a painful and costly exercise. The purpose of focusing on quality when delivering change is to make sure that the end product works – this is no less critical when the rush to market is accelerated, but it is more challenging. Mature agile testing approaches are needed to ensure the fast delivery of working solutions. After all – once COVID-19 has passed, we won’t remember all of the tools that were simply ‘there’, we’ll remember the ones that worked well and that we could rely upon.

Getting things right first time is absolutely vital when building trust with customers, so quality – or ensuring the tech works - must be at the top of the agenda when implementing any change. One way to ensure this is via automated testing. This removes colossal amounts of risk as well as time and expense for companies.

The result is that businesses can spend less time, money and effort on rolling out new products to customers with greater speed and frequency. At the same time, having this reassurance in place will enable them to pivot quickly and efficiently to any change that comes their way – for logistics companies, that might be introducing electronic signatures, or for transport companies, editing timetables and monitoring commuter traffic.

Mind over matter

The reality is, businesses know they need to adapt, and they’ve known this for some time. But new technologies cannot be adopted with an old mindset. Companies that really want to see results from digital upgrades need to invest time and money both in upgrading their legacy systems, and upskilling staff, so that they have the tools and the confidence to steer the ship forward.

A factory reset like this is a colossal task for any business to undertake. But rather than accept defeat, businesses just need to find the right partner with the right tools. One that not only understands their pain points and the complexities of managing digital change on a seismic scale, but has experience seeding the ‘fail-fast’ culture of startups into massive corporations, so they can assist them every step of the way.

Ultimately, if nothing is done to accelerate innovation, big brands risk being usurped by nimbler competitors with automation at their core, that are agile enough to adapt to market needs and consumer demands when the occasion demands it.

Have confidence

Companies like Dyson and Formula 1 have cemented their place in history for making the leap from vacuums and cars, to ventilators, and oxygen masks, respectively. But as the country works to overcome this devastating pandemic, it’s not just the technological elite that has proved its worth.

Nearly all office-based businesses have shown they can act in an agile manner simply by adopting a home working so quickly, such as cloud-based office software and video conferencing. Now their focus should be in developing their agile capabilities even further, by putting technology and quality at the heart of their operations.

Suddenly, for all businesses, being able to adapt quickly, maintain infallible levels of security, and ensure quality of service at all times. This can only be unlocked via quality-driven, digital transformations – if it has been possible because of social needs then it must be achievable for commercial ones. If necessity is the mother of invention so must quality be the mother of success.

Ivan Ericsson

Ivan is the Head of Quality Assurance at Expleo. He has been the Test and Quality Manager for over 20 years and have worked within numerous sectors and as well as doing billable work. Ivan head up the quality management group within Expleo Uk, meaning he define and implement our range of services and capabilities as well as supporting a wide range of client delivery engagements. In the past Ivan have run both ISEB and ISTQB training to practitioner level and he is also interested in raising the profile of testing and SQS by presenting at conferences and writing for relevant publications.