Why Agile Organizations Require Agile Leaders
Speakers: Dr. David A. Bishop, CEO at Agile Worx; Pradeep Govindasamy, CTO and President at Cigniti
Here is the Transcript
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.
Logan: Welcome back to QATalks. I’m your host, Logan Lyles from Sweet Fish Media. Today, we’re joined by Pradeep Govindasamy. He is CTO and president at Cigniti. We’re also joined by Dr. David. A. Bishop, the CEO at Agile Worx. Gentlemen, welcome to the show.
David: Thank you.
Pradeep: Thank you.
Logan: Awesome. Well, gentlemen, I want to tee up our conversation with a little bit of background. We’ve got two great guests joining me today with a lot of experience. First for Dr. Bishop. Dr. David. A. Bishop is a technologist, consultant, researcher, entrepreneur, and instructor with over 25 years of experience in telecommunications, transportation, government, and utility industries across many sectors there. He’s also the author of Metagility: Managing Agile Development for Competitive Advantage, Elizabeth Song, The Big Brothers Guides, and numerous other books and articles. He’s a frequent contributor to IEEE’s Engineering Management Review and an inventor of several U.S. patents. Dr. Bishop is currently CEO and founder of Agile Worx, a firm that provides program and project management, software tools, training, and consulting services. He is also a research associate with the Center for Engaged Business Research at Georgia State University and founding chair for the Atlanta chapter of the IEEE Technology and Engineering Management Society.
Logan: And now on to Pradeep. Pradeep is also our guest for the show. Today, as I mentioned, he is the CTO and president at Cigniti. He’s an industry thought leader in software testing with over 20 years of experience. He has strong expertise in setting up testing centers of excellence around test management, quality engineering, test automation, mobility, and functional testing. He’s a keynote speaker at diverse industry forums, workshops, and is also an award winning CTO in Texas and was also recognized as one of the top 100 best CIOs of Pan India.
Logan: Gentlemen, lots of experience there. Over forty five years of combined experiences as we talked about it there. Dr. Bishop, I want to open it up with you, speaking to a little bit of your experience. You know, we are talking to QA leaders through this podcast today, especially as they’re leaning in listening to more audio content and otherwise as they can’t. We’re not attending events as much these days. What are some of the key principles for QA leaders navigating the change in the world? You know, with what’s happening over the last few weeks, as well as just shifts that were going on in general. It seems like there’s a lot moving under our feet these days. What are some of the key principles you’re advising for QA leaders to navigate all of this change going on today?
David: Well, I think it’s all about agility, flexibility, and leanness. You know, agile organizations require agile leaders, so it’s all about agility and successful transformation starts at the top. So it’s not just, you know, being agile, being able to navigate change is not just about, you know, strong teams or agile teams. It’s also agile leaders. And a big part of doing that, I think, is twofold. Number one, yes, the market is sensitive, all leaders in technology have to be sensitive to what’s going on in the market. We had a lot of market changes happening right now, by the way, and that’s very critical to be sensitive to those changes. But at the same time, you want to have a vision, not a roadmap. And what that means is you have to have a vision for where you want your organization to go, but you have to evaluate all these changes and all these market opportunities against that vision and decide for yourself which opportunities you’re going to take advantage of and which opportunities you’re not. You have to make a strategic investment in the opportunities that you believe are going to take your vision where you want to go. And so that’s really about balancing market sensitivity with the strategic vision for your organization.
Logan: Yeah, I think market sensitivity is something that we just can’t avoid in this conversation. With everything going on right now. Pradeep, I really love Dr. Bishop’s comparison there, that vision, not a roadmap. What does that make you think of as you guys plan the course forward at Cigniti?
Pradeep: Yeah, absolutely, and the change or the transformation that Dr. Bishop mentioned about moving towards agile, being flexible, and adapting to the situation is what we are driving. And few years back when we were just doing the independent Quality assurance, we realized that market is shifting towards faster release, time to market and going digital. The only way you could achieve all of these is through the Agile, actually, and DevOps speed. And those are the organizational transformation that we adapted in several ways in terms of process change, in terms of tools and technology, adoption to meet the needs and also the skills transformation. That’s the key for all of us to do this workforce transformation into that. Those were some of the change management that we adopted while we go to this agile transformation.
Logan: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Pradeep, We’ve talked in previous episodes on this podcast about the importance of speed of delivery, and I think that’s probably going to be something that that comes up in conversation today as well. Dr. Bishop, I want to kick it back over to you. You know, we talk about a lot of agile test metrics being such a crucial part of the agile software development process. Can you share a few key metrics that are most effective in an agile environment today?
David: Sure. You know, when people think about agile metrics, most the time they think about velocity and capacity and burn down charts and things like that. But that’s really not the best metrics to look at, especially not these days. The key is its flow and agility is all about flow. And so what you want to look at is your work in progress. And one of the best ways to do that is with a cumulative flow diagram to figure out, OK, is my work flowing from one step to the next without any bottlenecks in one particular area? Is this testing a bottleneck? Is development a bottleneck? The whole idea is to grow a flow type of situation where you have work passing from one step to the next without being held up in any way. And so the best way to do that is with a cumulative flow diagram. Looking at your work in progress at each stage. The second thing is defects, right? We all know about defects when it comes to testing, but it’s more than just people will typically look at just the severity of defects and the priority of defects. But what you really want to look at is when, where, and how these defects are occurring. You know, where are we finding these defects? And one of these defects is coming up more in the beginning of the development process or later on with systems testing or integration testing or with customer acceptance testing. So finding out when, where, and how these defects are occurring is actually probably a little more important than just the severity of the defects and the actual defect rate. So that’s very important as well. And a couple of new metrics that’s come out of some of my research are Agile Vorticity and business momentum. And these are metrics that sort of tell you how agile you are with respect to the market. And that’s also very important to be able to figure out, OK, as my organization is agile, it could be. And what can we do to improve Agile vorticity and business momentum or metrics that sort of help answer that question.
Logan: That’s really interesting. This concept of a business momentum, I think really ties to the business outcomes that teams are really trying to drive. What are some of the factors that go into this business momentum metric, Dr. Bishop?
David: Well, it’s there are a couple of things. First of all, you have market agility and you have process agility. Market agility is the agility of the market, how fast the market is moving, what is the demand for your products, and how is the technology changing with respect to that demand. And process agility is the agility of your organization, how agile your organization is and how quickly you’re able to assimilate this new technology, this new innovation that you’re trying to get out to the market. And so business momentum itself, as essentially as especially young companies, as they begin to develop product and that product hits the market, they build up momentum over time, and the more agile they become, the bigger their business momentum gets. And so as the market begins to dissipate, the business momentum will help keep you going for a while. But it’s not going to last forever. So business momentum is sort of a way to sort of help you gauge upturns and downturns in the market, if you will, and how to prepare for them when before they begin to go down, if that makes sense?
Logan: Yes, it makes absolute sense. And the importance of that, I don’t think can be overstated in as you talk about, you know, ups and downs and changes in the market. You know, you talked about business momentum as a metric when it comes to agile transformation. Pradeep, I know that Cigniti is helping enterprises across a lot of different industries in their agile transformation journey. Can you speak to a little bit of that, to some of the metrics that Dr. Bishop shared and in some of the things that you guys are looking out with customers in their own agile transformation journey?
Pradeep: Well, so absolutely. I can speak on that. And then Dr. Bishop mentioned about the important point about the flow. That’s the key in the Agile. Right. Oh, how quickly you are going through the flow and the momentum of the speed as well, right. So in this scenario, there are a couple of metrics that we captured during this business outcome. One of them is meantime to recover (MTTR) that’s how it is called as. How quickly you fail and how quickly you recover from that situation. So the speed at which you release it to the end user, it matters actually. That’s one of the key metrics that we capture in the Agile flow. It was never captured in the waterfall model. So Agile transformation, you talk about meantime to recover from a situation on that. And the other one is total cost of quality. In the past, we talked about testing as a metric, but today we talk about in Agile transformation, the total cost of quality as relate to the business outcome and business transformation into that. What does my brand quality that I go into the end customer and how quantity as my product is? And what is the cost that I need to measure in order for me to meet the client demands in that situation? Those are the two top metrics that the C-level are tracking at this point with respect to Agile transformation in the overall journey of IT lifecycle. And most of these are relevant from the software testing and quality engineering standpoint.
Logan: Pradeep, thank you so much for adding to what Dr. Bishop talked about there. Dr. Bishop, earlier you mentioned the shift in implementing an agile environment really has to come from buy-in from leadership and a leadership change. You know, really it’s got to be a cultural shift. Can you speak more about how you see leaders doing that effectively and what advice you have for them there?
David: Sure. The first thing is to take a phased approach. The biggest mistake anyone can make is to try and make everybody agile at the same time. And to try and just say, OK, everybody in here we’re going to transform right away or we’re gonna become agile next week. You have to take a phased approach. It starts with one team at a time. One project at a time and one program at a time. And that’s very important. Start with a pilot, maybe a pilot project, maybe a pilot team, and then expand that to the program and then from one program to the next. That’s by far the best way to do it. The second thing is to teach and train. You know, a lot of organizational resistance comes from fear. Fear of change, fear, something different, fear of being exposed. And this comes from a lack of knowledge. And all too often we know we run people through them, run employees through the scrum training mill and say, OK, now you’re a scrum master. You had your scrum master training, now you’re set and ready to go. But it’s really much more than that. We need to spend more time teaching people about agile, agile fundamentals, what it’s really all about, what the reasons for transforming are, and to help make your people fully understand not just how to do it, but how it’s going to improve their job, their performance, and their team’s performance, and in turn, their company’s performance in relation to the marketplace. Everybody, every employee has to be onboard with why we’re doing this and what kind of benefits it’s going to bring to everybody. And you do that through comprehensive training program. And that’s very important.
Logan: I think two things that you said there that are really important for folks to key on, you know, the last thing I heard you mention is it’s got to be comprehensive, which speaks to that bigger cultural shift. But it’s also got to be a phased approach, like you said. Can’t just snap your fingers and expect, oh, we’re gonna make this huge shift very, very quickly. Agile is about moving quickly, but we also have to put some realistic expectations in mind when it comes to shifts in culture and approach. Can you speak a little bit more, Dr. Bishop, to some of the challenges that you see companies facing right now in their agile testing journey as we continue the conversation today?
David: Sure. Some of the common problems are, well, common problems with this industry in general are not problems, I say just challenges. the fact that we have, you know, frequently changing requirements all the time. And we have these frequent releases as a result. And dealing with this constant change in this constant turn is a challenge for everybody. And I think one of best ways to try and combat that, combat isn’t the best word, but the deal with it is to take it from a testing perspective, especially as to take a top down approach and developing your test cases and user behavior-driven testing model. And when you talk about automation, start with automating the acceptance test cases. It’s really all about a shift left, really hard shift left, if I may say that. And that’s very important. Probably one of biggest challenges I’d say want to add as well with respect to testing is embedded systems. You know, today is not just about software anymore, it’s about devices. If you look at all the innovation that’s happening today, most of the innovation isn’t happening with just e-commerce, web sites, or some kind of software. It’s about these smart devices, the center stack in your car, Alexa devices, smart meters, smart everything. And those types of products are what we call embedded systems. And these embedded systems include hardware, firmware, and software components that are developed by different teams, but have to be tested and released as one cohesive product. And so you have to balance the availability of hardware components to test against the availability of firmware components to test against and also the software bringing all that together and managing it. It’s probably the most difficult situations for testing teams today.
Logan: That definitely makes sense. I mean, we talk about the speed at which things are changing in the market, the technology, and then new devices being introduced. I love the way you said that. They’re smart everything. There is probably, you know, nothing in 5, 10 years that we won’t have an option for Smart to be in front of it. Pradeep, I want to kick it back over to you in this conversation. We’ve been talking about a lot of the challenges that companies are facing in their agile transformation and their digital transformation overall. Can you speak to some of the ways that you guys at Cigniti have been partnering with customers to overcome some of these challenges that Dr. Bishop has been talking about?
Pradeep: Absolutely. I mean, great points on the challenges. Yes, they know it’s all about smart everything. And the biggest transformation factor that we do in order to address the digital market is through automation. So automation of everything actually. Not just the functional side of the automation, but an end-to-end automated lifecycle in line with your release management schedule. You could automate your requirement validation or you could automate your entire IoT management (Internet of Things) to talk with multiple devices., tool simulators, take all those inputs, and virtually handle all those automation process and release it to the market lifecycle. And also talk about the end user experience. Today it’s all about in public market. And you need to capture all those sentiment of your end users and capture what is negative, what is positive, and what is neutral feelings of the end-user. So we capture all those customer experience through crowd based systems that we have built and assimilate all those crowds based on ethnicity, based on location, based on region, and based on various factors, and then come up with predictive analytics into that system. And it’s the transformation that we are doing is not just gathering the data, but predicting how an end user pattern will be and also come up with some diagnostic features as to, you know, if you are customer and have these challenges. This is the diagnostics that we are doing. And this is the descriptive features of it. And this is how we predict the entire release lifecycle as well. So those are some of the analytics & research and development that we are doing to address the end user experience scenarios. And the third and fourth point is about performance and security. In performance, if you look at, they want everything to be speed. With all the handheld devices they want to have the entire app to be loaded in less than five seconds into that. And when you have this scenario, if you look at what we are going through as the COVID situation, everything is all remote, work from home and everything access through digital and all of that. So we see a lot of incoming demand on handling this performance virtually. So that’s something, you know, we address the end-user market segment. The last but not least is the security. As the company goes through digital with respect to cloud or IoT, you are vulnerable to all attacks and you need to make sure that your system is highly protected. You need to go to a network scan. You need to go to application scan. You need to go to infrastructure scan. So all of this security are something that we address to our end-user through the form of cybersecurity and quality assurance into that. These are some of these solutions that we have been providing to our clients in addressing the market segments.
Logan: Pradeep, I love hearing you talk about the challenges that you and your team at Cigniti, are helping customers face, because every time we do here on this podcast your passion for customer success just really shines through. I want to ask one more follow up question for you. I know we’ve covered a number of topics today, but I wanted to specifically ask you about the role of IP in quality assurance today. Some of the investments that you guys are making there and then will definitely allow some time. We would be remiss if we didn’t ask Dr. Bishop a little bit about his book, Metagility and how that ties into the conversation today. Pradeep, do you want to give us a little bit more on some areas that you guys are focusing on investment for customers as it relates to IP and QA?
Pradeep: Sure Yeah. Well, as you noticed, Cigniti is a pure play quality engineering company. So whatever investment and reinvestment that we make is in the IP. So our tagline is Cigniti is an IP led quality engineering company. So the IP is our bread and butter . So we have invested on a product called BlueSwan for enabling our entire quality engineering services. So that talks about the metrics and measurement management, that talks about sentiment analyzer that I just mentioned about handling the customer experience, that talks about migration of platform and clients migrate from one cloud to another cloud or going from I know on prem to a cloud based solutions, what type of automation that you need to bring. And we’ve built a lot of IPs around cloud automation. We have built IPs around Internet of Things. We have built IPs around embedded testing solutions. We’ve also simulated a lot of robotic process automation in the journey of our quality engineering. So those are some of the IPs that we have built and I can’t quote the number that we have as part of it. But our first & major focus in this entire journey of IT transformation is invest in IP and making sure that these IPs are valuable to our customers as well.
Logan: I love it. Pradeep, Thank you so much for that. Dr. Bishop, I want to round out the conversation with you, talking about some of the lessons from your book, Metagility, that we mentioned earlier as we round out the conversation today.
David: Right. So I started on this journey to develop Metagility about 10 years ago. And, you know, agile is a set of principles, but there’s not really a set way to apply them. And I noticed that many organizations were really struggling with how to apply these and why they were applying them. Is the purpose of agility to make teams work better together or just improve efficiency? Or is it really to help you become number one in your market? And so I embarked on a 10-Year research study to try and answer those questions. And what came out of that research is basically a framework for how companies in the most challenging situations can leverage agility to become number one in the market. It determines what that right mix of agility really is based on our most successful case studies. So these case studies have managed to adapt agile in very unique ways. So what I would call a super agile adaptation is that this enables them to dominate their respective markets. And I think that’s very important and that’s what’s embedded in this framework. And a big part of that is this context I mentioned earlier with embedded systems. How do you manage that very difficult and challenging context and let agility answers that. It also, like I also mentioned earlier, provides a new set of metrics, agile vorticity, and business momentum that tells you how agile you are in the marketplace and what you can do to improve. These are very important advancements.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. As we round out the conversation, Dr. Bishop, any quick examples you want to share of super agile adaptation as you just mentioned there in some creative applications that you call out in some of those case studies. Maybe there’s one that kind of stood out if folks haven’t had a chance to dive into the research in the book as of yet.
David: Well, one example I would say is with a large company and the smart metering space. So within research, we typically don’t mention the names of companies. But while these organizations managed to become number one in their market and the smart metering market, they managed to get more meters on the ground than anyone else did and became number one a few years ago. And that was based on leveraging many of the principles in Metagility, which includes a lot of things, but among many others, a lot of high collaboration. The idea that you’re partnering with your client and your customers. Not just that I’m just a customer, they’ve got to be your partner, especially when it comes to testing, they help you test. There’s going to be involved oftentimes every stage of testing and be involved and working with you to help determine the vision for the product very often. And so this particular case study did a very good job of setting a vision for where they wanted the product to go. And the major decisions as to which customers they were going to work with, some customers wanted them to do everything and want everything to be perfect up front. And they made a strategic decision to let those customers go and to focus only on customers that were going to work with them as a partner to help get this new innovative technology out in the market and on the ground. And that strategy helped them become number one. They had more meters on the ground than anyone else for quite some time.
Logan: I love that. It really doesn’t matter what business you’re in or what industry you serve. I think that principle that you just shared, their Dr. Bishop, of really seeking out those best partnerships, who are the folks that you can serve the best, and who are the people who see the most value in your partnership, and want to work with you as a partner as well. Those sorts of partnerships just add a lot of velocity to business outcomes. Dr. Bishop, if anybody listening to this is just started to scratch the surface of some of the value that you can provide in your research, in the content that you’re sharing, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you or learn more about what you and your team are up to these days, Or maybe find some of the additional content that you’ve got available for folks online?
David: Well, you can Google the word Metagility and you’ll find lots of publications. You’ll find a book, a good way to start . You can also go to Agile Worx.com, and you can find out more about what we’re doing in Agile Worx and with Metagility there. We also have some training courses coming up. Click on workshops and find out when those are scheduled and fortunately most of those are planned for the fall. So there’s no disruption there as far as, you know, the current COVID 19 crisis and all that. We’re hoping that, you know, by fall that we’ll be able to meet together and have a one-on-one in-person workshops. So there’s several of those that are scheduled for the fall. So signing up for one of those is a great way to become certified in Metagility as well. And of course, if you want to reach out to me. My email address is David@agileworx.com and I’ll be happy to answer any questions or set up a meeting and discuss anything you’d like to talk about further.
Logan: Absolutely, Dr. Bishop. Thank you so much for making it easy for folks to follow up with you sharing that contact information. And best of luck with those events coming up hopefully in the fall. Pradeep, thank you so much for joining us again. You know, speaking of partnership, I love hearing the back and forth between the two of you, very experienced leaders in the space. Pradeep, if anyone listening to this would like to reach out, connect with you or others on the Cigniti team, maybe they’re new to listening to this podcast, what would be the best ways for them to take next steps there?
Pradeep: Oh, sure. They can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s pretty active 24×7. We will be able to respond within a day. We have LinkedIn Cigniti Technologies Inc as well where we have published over 300 blogs, 150 white papers and several webinars and podcast actually. And these are the most useful information if an organization is going through an agile transformation with respect to quality And at any point in time, if anybody has anyone needs our help or resources to find out what we are doing, please feel free to reach out to our website www.cigniti.com or email@example.com and we’ll be happy to share.
Logan: Absolutely, Pradeep, again, your passion for serving folks in this sector is just always evident here. Thank you so much for being one of our featured guests on the show today.
David: Pleasure. Thank you so much.
Logan: Dr. Bishop, thank you again, wishing you all the best. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, some of your research, and your expertise with listeners. We really appreciate it.
David: Thank you for having me.
Quality assurance is vital to the success of an organization’s digital transformation. Lack of control can quickly derail a company’s technological presence, costing thousands. At Cigniti, our resolution is to build a better world with better quality software. Renowned for the global quality thought leadership in the industry, we draw expertise from over a decade of test engineering experience across verticals. To learn how we do it, visit cigniti.com.
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