How to communicate software testing needs to C-Suites

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It’s not novel to say that test automation helps companies deliver better software in shorter cycles. Pretty much everyone according to a study last year uses ‘some’ form of it today – though exactly how much of it they use is an entirely different matter.

In another study, 79% of testers said that up to 40% of their software goes to market without being properly tested. If you ask CEOs, four out of ten say that over-reliance on manual testing is a big reason why, in addition to a lack of skilled developers and insufficient time.

This hasn’t translated into any sizable concern, though, because 85% of CEOs think it’s within the acceptable realm to release software that hasn’t been properly tested. Where things get contradictory is 95% of those same CEOs fearing job loss post-software failure.

There’s clearly a disconnect here between QA teams and C-Suite. The reason? These two camps speak very, very different languages. So how can QA teams communicate to C-Suite executives that improperly tested software isn’t a good idea?

Sune Engsig

Vice President at Leapwork.

The art of persuasion

Convincing C-Suite executives that test automation is a good thing is like convincing people that vegetables should be in their diet. You want to make the conversation about how they can maximize their chances at survival (and yes, you really should eat that broccoli).

Bear in mind that C-Suite executives - your CEO, CFO, or CIO - are far removed from the ins and outs of software testing. They speak in terms of the bigger picture, which among other things includes cost, quality, and time to market. All of these can be significantly affected by software testing.

The good news is that it doesn’t take long to prove that point. In 2017, a four-hour AWS outage ended up costing S&P 500 companies $150 million, all because of one single typo made by a developer while bug fixing (yes, ironic). When you break this down further and realize that this means $37,500,000 lost per hour, it’s easy to see the magnitude of damage that can be caused in such little time.

People can quite literally die from buggy software, too. The most infamous example? Boeing’s 737 Max, whose faulty MCAS software (among other reasons) caused two tragic crashes and 346 lost lives.

Even in blockbuster entertainment, we’ve seen how bad QA can cost companies millions of dollars in both lawsuits and refunds. That’s exactly what happened to 2020’s infamous Cyberpunk 2077, a video game so plagued by bad code that Sony removed it from sale on the PlayStation store.

There are lots of ways to justify the urgency of good software QA to C-Suite executives, but the point is that without it, poor-quality software can grind businesses to a halt, decimate share price and sales, as well as prompt job losses, cyber breaches, unhappy customers, and even loss of life.

How to talk about Quality Assurance “the C-Suite way”

Think of talking to C-Suite executives about quality assurance and test automation like a sales pitch.

Keep communication clear and concise. Remember, each member of the C-Suite has lots of demands competing for their attention. Think about the headline you want executives to see front and center, e.g. “If we don’t test our software properly, we’re going to lose a lot of money and get torn up by litigation.”

Show them the bigger picture! CEOs worry about delayed product launches and excessive costs; testers stress about unhappy customers and a loss of brand reputation. Your job as the QA team is to connect the dots and explain how the latter can result in the former.

Skip the jargon! The term ‘technobabble’ exists for a reason. The moment you start uttering terms like ‘regression tests’, you’ve lost the executives.

Use data and show value. If you’re trying to argue the case for more test automation in your organization, don’t walk in unprepared. The C-Suite will inevitably want to see industry data and case studies that justify the transition and show measurable business outcomes.

Be prepared for the questions they will ask: Executives will ask why any automation tools warrant prioritizing as an investment, how the solution complies with regulations, how secure it is, what additional resources the team will need. Be direct and realistic about these, and be ready to counter objections made regarding budget, familiarity with existing processes, and IT concerns.

Quality software must be treated as a fundamental pillar of business success, but the trick is to not assume your C-Suite understands from the get-go how test automation will get your organization there. At a time when the skills gap is on every IT department’s minds, taking approaches to test automation that rely on less coding is vital to mitigating risk and supercharging innovation. Just please don’t talk about regression tests.

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Sune Engsig is Vice President at Leapwork.