Changing Realities of Digital Transformation in the Government

Changing Realities of Digital Transformation in the Government

Speakers: Dhanushka Ranganath, Quality Engineering Leader; Dries Swerts, AVP-Client Success at Cigniti

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You are listening to QA talks, a podcast for quality assurance executives implementing digital transformation in their organizations. In this show, we focus on the unique pitfalls inherent in quality assurance and quality engineering and how these executives are navigating them to position their organization for the future. Let’s get into the show.  

 LoganWelcome back to QA talks. I’m Logan Lyles with Sweet Fish Media. I’m your host for today’s episode. I’m joined by two outstanding gentlemen today. Dhanushka Ranganath, who is the former National Manager for Application and Testing Services in Australia at NEC. Dhanushka, welcome to the show. How’s it going today?  

Dhanushka: Hey Logan, good. How are you doing?  

Logan:  I am doing fantastic! 
We are also joined today by Dries Swerts. He’s the Associate Vice President for Australia and New Zealand over at Cigniti. Welcome to the show. How are you, sir? 

DriesGood. How are you doing?  

LoganI am doing fantastic. We are recording during the second lockdown in Melbourne. We are somewhat opened up in my location in Colorado here in the States. But we’ve got some time right now as lockdowns are happening and coming on and off to chat today. But for listeners, I want to give them a little bit of context for both of you. You guys have a lot of experience in the field.  

First, Dhanushka is a career testing professional with over 22 years of experience in improving software quality across organizations. He’s a leader who advocates for the impact of quality engineering to improve organizational delivery quality and increase delivery time, efficiency, and capability. He’s worked in four continents and worked with some of the world’s leading organizations. He is a mentor and a leader who believes in the right mix of people, process, and technology that can make a difference in this digital transformation era. I love that Dhanushka that the mixture of the three Ps, that has been kind of a staple to your career. Am I right? 

DhanushkaThat is true. And that’s something which most of the time people forget about, organizations forget about also, that you need all three to be balanced out in order to make the perfect mix. 

LoganYeah. We think about the process a lot. And we forget there are people that actually have to fit into this process or not.  

Alright, Dries. A little bit more about him for listeners who aren’t familiar. He is a passionate quality engineering professional, specialised in client partnerships management. He started his career as a software tester in 2004 in Belgium, where he later grew into a role to bridge the communications between client and service provider to establish high-performing quality engineering teams and solutions enabling quality software delivery. Dries moved to Australia in 2012, which is why I’m a little bit jealous of him, where he continued his professional journey and joined Cigniti Australia in 2014 as the first employee. He helped to establish Cigniti as a valuable partner for its clients across Australia and an organization to go to for quality engineering services to enable better, smarter, and faster software…Better, smarter, and faster, how do you achieve all three of those together, Dries? I’ll kick it to you as we open up the conversation today. 

Dries: Yeah. Basically as an organization, as a quality engineering organization, the main goal is bringing in better software, more user friendly and smarter software to users in different domains and different industries. And of course, to get a competitive business advantage, the speed, faster release with more confidence. So basically, that’s what we aim when delivering services to our clients. 

LoganI love it! Dhanushka, I want to come back over to you, as we mentioned at the top of the podcast, you guys are both in Australia. Something that happened a couple of years back – the Australian government launched a new digital transformation strategy a few years back. Can you speak a little bit on how that in the public sector has affected digital transformation in the private sector, at least in your area of the world? 

DhanushkaSure. Australian National Digital Transformation Strategy, which I think started in 2018 and goes to 2025, it’s a seven-year program altogether. They are very much invested in that from the national government’s perspective as well as now I have seen that it has gone into the state governments itself. Some of the things with the fact that they invoked the digital transformation agency, which actually govern the entire process. And already some of the key programs and initiatives have been rolled out, something like the digital service standard, so then everybody knows what it means in a digital world and the API standards. So then everybody gets connected together into that platform strategy.  

So think of ways of doing things like your cloud, which is a major investment, as well as a major initiative from the government perspective. So then government organizations can now without that much fear, which is holding them back to go into the cloud. And yes, they can go into the cloud, standardizing how the governments are working. So all of these initiatives have already happened as part of this strategy. And more and more with that from governments pushing into this area that all different organizations, if I take the state governments. The W.A. Gov. has a major program running called GovNext, which is essentially taking the entire infrastructure of the government to cloud. So that type of initiatives are coming up and running at this point of time, which evokes all the other organizations. So also look at how do we do our digital transformation strategies. So that goes into the medium and the large enterprises.  And also on top of all of that now, the COVID happened, which now drives digital transformation more and more. So for me, what I see is that they are looking at three main areas.  

One is how do I increase the profit margins, know your customers better, and how do I customize my customer’s experiences and how do I reduce the operational cost of my day to day operations. So that’s the key drivers of all this digital transformation, per se. So that brings in all the various different techno aspects – the transition to cloud technologies is coming in. So moving on from the on-premises to go into a complete cloud or a hybrid cloud, then the move on to SaaS and PaaS type of technology stacks. No longer you are just going to own; give me the software, no, I give you the platform, Oh! you’ll service the software…I’ll just take it. So the organizations are moving towards that line of products – IoT, data analytics, AI and ML, are coming into play. Organizations now look into how I really understand my customers more, how do I bring the business value to their customers and engaging them more into that. So that’s where those technologies are placed. And RPA, when the organizations are looking at how do I reduce my cost – operation costs, how do I automate the RPA technology, robotic technologies are coming into the place. Likewise, the technologies are driving and the digital transformation is changing the landscape of how government and from government to the large organizations and into the SMBs and so forth are changing their ways of looking at things. 

LoganYeah, what you said there about and then COVID happened and things got accelerated that much more”, you mentioned the Australian government was already two years into a seven year strategic plan around digital transformation. I saw a cartoon the other day where people are sitting around a boardroom and saying digital transformation is five to ten years away from us. And outside there is a wrecking ball that says covid-19 on swinging right towards their boardroom.  

So Dhanushka, another question that I have for you – the lack of software testing practices has been noted several times as one of the biggest reasons for digital transformation failure around the world. If we see digital transformation escalating and happening at a faster pace, but this is one of the areas where organizations in all sectors have seemed to struggle, what are some of the changes that organizations should introduce to make software testing a top priority so it doesn’t become a pitfall in their digital transformation journey? 

DhanushkaIt’s actually a good question because digital transformation changes the ways or challenges organizations to think differently. It’s not your traditional models, it’s not your traditional technologies, and it’s not the traditional approaches either. Then, this also means you need to change the approach of how you do testing also. Everything is built upon the business value and if you don’t think of that and organizations need to have that clear vision and strategy on quality to improve the business value. So that’s how the digital transformation changes the testing world also 

In the testing world, you need to really look at, what are the new technologies which I play now? How do we make a difference in that? How does the new technology changes the way in which I need to think of my own approach on the testing? And does it deliver in different delivery models moving from Waterfall into DevOps? What changes the way in which the value of the quality engineering brings? And what I personally see is you need to stick to the fundamental more now rather than losing the fundamentals of what is really testing and quality engineering instead. So at the end of the day, testing is testing. It’s whether you are testing a digital transformation program or whether you are testing a simple website, the simple fundamental skills need to stand. So having that in mind and having that clear strategy of what we need to achieve as an organization, as in this era, is really essential. And also with that, I believe that organizations need to think about how do they improve the capabilities of the testing team.  

As we said at the beginning, it’s all the pieces in that. You need to really understand, the team also needs to understand what this is, or make quality mandate in every stage of the delivery process, using the different tools to improve the quality and use the automation. You bring in the CI, the CD processes and those things will lead the way. So that’s a continuous improvement, which everybody has to really look at. Have a strategy, invest in people, process, and technology, the three Ps, and then look at continuous improvement. 

LoganYeah, absolutely. Dries I’d love to hear from you as we talk about software testing a little bit. How does shiftleft software testing approach help DevOps organizations gain a competitive advantage, with some of your experience in this area as we talk a little bit more about testing as that fits into the broader conversation today? 

Dries: Yeah, so if you really want to see the benefits of testing and the shift left, it drills down to releasing software with confidence at a rapid pace. So basically, you want to push out codes quicker with the markets to get a competitive edge to push out competition and just release more relevant software at a quicker pace. It’s causing higher customer satisfaction happening that helps you to stay relevant. And yeah, you have a first-mover advantage as well when you push out the relevant software contributing to your business out in the markets and that’s why the old shift left. So bringing that quality early in the cycle and not only just doing the testing eventually come to a go-no-go decision to release software, but you just have confidence in the whole quality engineering practices. So as a whole, there is no human intervention needed anymore. You basically automate that whole process and you can just release quicker and have that competitive advantage.  

LoganYeah, as you talk about releasing quicker there, Dries, it makes me think of the next thing I wanted to touch upon with Dhanushka. You know, enterprises are adopting a software quality engineering approach to deliver high-quality applications at high speed, like Dries was just talking about. Dhanushka, if you could speak to how software quality engineering is different from quality assurance and what does that transition look like? 

DhanushkaShift left have been happening for a few years now, so we are moving away from the whole waterfall world to ATDD, DevOps, and CD World. And as Dries said that more and more people need to start trusting each other and the engineering teams need to move into trusting each other’s teams to integrate into each other. No longer the times of, “Okay, I’ll look at the software once I release into my test environment and I’ll execute my veil documents and test cases afterward. It is more of the world of, “Okay, how do I ensure at the beginning of the program itself, from the requirements itself, that the quality is maintained and then it comes so and so forth throughout the cycles.” So that way, the engineering teams, and the coding practices, the business analysis practices, the deployment techniques, the release management models has to be all integrated into this whole process of quality engineering. So the quality assurance is more in the previous times, it was more of process-driven. And now it’s more of technology-driven. So how do I really integrate the technology and quality together? In that way, we bring the value of quality and we make the process much faster, so the time to market and all the other essentials of the modern business values are now being met through the process itself, which also brings in the individual as testing individuals or quality engineers. What do we need to really have in place? So we need to really be more savvier now, we need to be having more tools in our play, we need to have to be able to do exploratory testing. We need to be able to do automation. We need to be able to use automation in performance testing. And we need to be able to understand about what security testing is all about. And we need to also integrate ourselves into accessibility. So, as quality engineering professional, now you are much more versatile than how you were as a quality assurance personnel. So that’s the change. And that’s a mind-shift. That’s an organizational shift. That’s a business shift, which I see! 

LoganYeah, really touching on all three that makes a lot of sense. Touching a little bit more on governments and their digital transformation journeys – we’ve talked a little bit about the Australian National Governments Digital Transformation plan. You know, one of the trends, Dhanushka, is for governments really across the world to move towards smart cities and even smart nations. For example, Melbourne is using sensors to collect data on temperature, humidity, and light. Can you talk about anything that you can speak to in that specific environment and just in general, the role of cloud technologies in building this smart city ecosystem that we see the shift happening toward already 

DhanushkaThe smart city is rapidly spreading and cloud technology is actually playing the major part in that whole, as you said correctly, the ecosystem. Because bringing the cloud technology, what it does is it actually enables everybody to look at the different other technologies that come with the smart cities. Smart cities engage with biometrics, IoT, usage of AI and ML more, and usage of data analytics much more throughout that process. So with cloud technologies, that’s the backbone that enables organizations to really now emphasize on how do I utilize the rest of the world’s.  

I’ll give you a prime example. My own local council, I live about 50 kilometres away from the Melbourne city, has started a smart city strategy initiative, which now they are looking at all the different ways of how do we integrate different government organizations, the systems, the everything else to bring this city a much different experience to its residents. 5G helps of course. 5G is expanding into all the different areas to improve the capability and the bandwidth to do all of this along with the cloud technologies. Now, we are looking at using much more and more and more IoT devices. Your dumb camera at the road now becomes a smart camera. Then you integrate smart technologies to run traffic controls and then all of these things getting integrated into AI-driven models. So then, your city traffic is now controlled through AI-driven models. And then that data, it gets integrated into different types of, let’s say, police and ambulance services, so then they can respond better. The biometrics is used in a different way so then you can prevent crime or you can reduce crime. So all of these things now come together in this smart city using the initiatives. I am very excited to see how these technologies are now becoming more practical and becoming more used across every dimension, especially now supported with cloud technologies. I truly believe the cloud technologies enable that because I don’t think that in the previous world people would be thinking on these different ways of changing the world, if not for cloud technologies. 

LoganYeah, it’s absolutely opening a lot of doors, especially as you mentioned, with the expansion of 5G as well and the impact that it is having. Dries, I want to turn it over to you. I’ve got a question here I think would be great to get your insight on. What are some of the key best practices that you’d like to highlight for software testing professionals as they seek to support and accelerate all of this digital transformation that’s going on there, specifically where both of you are in Australia? And more broadly, what are some of the ways that they can contribute to this shift and the acceleration of digital transformation that we’re talking about here?  

DriesYeah, so typically as a quality engineering professional, that role is changing. I think it’s coming from really having a specialist in a particular field, like a performance specialist or a security specialist or test automation specialist. So there is more like a merge of these skills to meet all the needs required for working in these DevOps teams and agile teams. Basically, the expectation is to be a jack of all trades. Somebody has to master all the different skills and can contribute the maximum in this project. But that’s a big shift, actually, what we see. So the challenge comes to skill yourself up to stay relevant. There are different types of toolsets you need to master. We see a high percentage of open source tools, a different type of open source tools in combination with commercial tools for continuous testing to bring in more automation. So definitely a change that we see. And also that shifts to the continuous testing to provide early in the cycle, builds automation scripts on top of that so that you can run a higher volumes of tests and again, to enable more confident and quicker releases. That’s definitely something that we see.  

LoganYou know confidence in the quality and quicker releases, it’s absolutely that balancing act, right! Dhanushka, you’ve been responsible for planning, strategizing, and streamlining testing practices for multiple organizations. So I want to make sure that we give some time for you to give some similar advice. What would you offer to testing professionals out there for building efficient and effective test management strategies based on your experience? 

DhanushkaYeah, so test management strategies, it’s always about bringing the value to the organizations and making a difference. So you need to always look into adapt and improve your strategy based on the business value. That’s one of the key things. It is not, “I have a cookie-cutter strategy. I am going to put it into any organization”…It doesn’t work. And also, you need to remember what youre building is a strategy for everyone. It’s not just for the testing team. Make sure you engage all the parties in your testing strategy. Some of the major mistakes which we do is we think it is for testing team. And here’s my own piece of how do we do testing in the crossword. It’s not about just testing. It is about improving the quality across the organization and the process, bringing the BAs, bringing the PMOs, bringing the Devs, bringing the stakeholders, the business stakeholders into this process. So in that way, you need to emphasize, “Quality is the responsibility of everybody!” It’s not just the testing team’s responsibility. That’s how you build the overall strategy into that and also what researches actually touch base on, that also changes the way of how quality engineers or the professionals need to look at themselves.  

There’s a notation going as testing becoming obsolete because of the inability of our people to change to make that difference. That it’s essential for the proper testing professionals to really to be up to date with what’s happening around the world. As Dries mentioned, it’s a jack of all trades now. Having a testing certification is no longer just sufficient enough. You need to really have much more in your arsenal. What is automation? What’s your understanding of cloud technologies? Go and obtain an AWS or Azure certification as well and know how the cloud technologies work because the way which you need to test cloud technologies also now has changed. Understand about the different types of databases. Understand about how cloud architectures are built. Understand about AI and ML; what does it mean, understand about business intelligence, data analytics. So there are a lot more things coming into play from the testing individuals. So when you build your testing strategy, you need to now really understand how each and every step –  the security, accessibility and every step of your program is addressed and how you bring everybody together into that. That’s how you become successful in an organization or even in the program. 

LoganAnd it comes down to that mind-set of looking at the people, process, and technology and taking a step. I mean, it just comes back to what we kicked off and where we introduced you at the top of the episode Dhanushka. I love the way you brought it full circle there. Dries, I want to wrap things up with a question for you.If you could speak a little bit to how service providers like Cigniti and the folks on your team are helping organizations align business goals to their digital transformation objectives. You know, as Dhanushka has mentioned, it’s all about business impact value to the business. So if you could speak to how you guys and the team at Cigniti are helping organizations align their goals on the business side with the digital transformation strategies, how are they best bridging that gap? 

DriesYeah, that’s a very interesting question. We as an organization focus on the independent quality view in the whole cycle. Any business going through a digital transformation obviously needs to have SMART business goals for growing their business. We serve our clients so as to enable them to create quality products at speed. 

Also, our professional teams are very skilled. We have a lot of generalists who embrace all the latest technologies. We bring to the table a combination of experts who can help our clients focus on their business and take their worries away and smooth the release. It drills down to creating a proper strategy as well. We provide advisory services and suggest a proper risk-based testing strategy taking different factors such as time, speed, and quality in place, in consideration. And also, of course, by our quality engineering services, we can determine the fit for a particular technology if that matches the purpose of the digital transformation. 

 LoganDries, Dhanushka, this has been a great conversation; you both obviously bring a lot of experience and a lot of great advice for professionals out there. Dhanushka, if anybody listening to this would like to stay connected with you or reach out and ask a follow-up question on some of the advice and strategies that you shared today, what would be the best way for them to do that? 

DhanushkaPlease feel free to connect me through LinkedIn. You can reach out to me, I’m available and always happy to help!  

LoganDries, what’s the best way for people to follow up with any questions they may want to ping you about based on what you shared today?  

DriesIf you Google Cigniti Australia, pretty sure my name pops up somewhere. So yes, I’m based in Melbourne and we have a team in Sydney as well. Vishal, my colleague, is there. Also my colleague Shrikant is here in Melbourne. We are pretty approachable. So if you just Google Cigniti Australia, you’d definitely find us. 

LoganDhanushka, Dries, thank you so much! For everyone listening, if you’re not yet subscribed, we want to encourage you to hit subscribe and make sure that you’re getting future episodes of QATalks right in your favorite podcast player. And as always, thank you so much for listening. 

Quality Assurance is vital to an organization’s success in digital transformation. Lack of control can quickly derail a company’s technological presence, costing thousands. At Cigniti, all the solution is to build a better world with better quality software. Renowned for the global thought leadership in the industry, we try expertise from over a decade of test engineering experience across verticals. To learn how we do it, visit   

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