Customer-First Software Development Lifecycle
Customer-First Software Development Lifecycle
The customer acceptance cycle has moved to the forefront of software development. Here's why it's important to keep your client in the loop.
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We’re living in the age of rapid technological evolution and continuous innovation. Markets are changing, customer needs are changing, and as a result, the way we develop and deliver software is changing. That created a need in the consumer industry for a quick reaction to stimuli. In order for an organization to be successful, software needs to be released in a constant flow and updated on a regular basis so as to adapt to quickly changing business requirements. There is no longer a big bang unveiling a new product, but rather a continuous delivery and integration of it.
The most important benefit of such a framework is that it allows quick response to a need, both external and internal. Whether it's the release of a new themed online game right after a major win for the local football team or the introduction of a key performance indicator unveiling essential user insight, customers just don’t have enough time to wait for 3 to 6 months for a change to be introduced to the system.
As software evolves into this new era of fast-paced changes, the customer acceptance testing (CAT) phase evolves with it. Instead of being the last part of the development life-cycle, CAT is now shifting left of its usual position. That brings it closer to the conception, development, and implementation of the product. It is essential to get feedback and verification from the subject-matter expert as early as possible.
Implementing a collaborating software release module using the following practices will keep the technology vendor and operator aligned and help achieve the higher business goals:
- Focusing on acceptance criteria during the definition of business requirements. It is essential to have the CAT team involved early in the life cycle to review change requests and requirements. This helps the entire team to stay on track with what is actually needed, identify defects in the specifications and reduce any potential rework.
- Managing test data and environment properly. Given that we have defined all the acceptance criteria, the CAT team can identify the required test data. The result is better quality control, reduced dependency on the development teams and comprehensive test coverage.
- Delivering Alpha versions (also known as demonstrations). Interactive walkthroughs for the customer acceptance team can provide valuable feedback for the product. It can help detect changes that slipped through the cracks but also work as proof that the business need has been solved. Most importantly, it gives all stakeholders a chance to buy into the solution under development.
- Defining the boundaries and parameters that each tester works on. A system as a whole or a component individually can be verified by different views. From functionality to security and from business need to performance, testing needs to be performed by someone with the best knowledge of the topic, and that may not always be a professional tester.
- Defining the scope of each phase helps identify ownership and increase test coverage. Pairing customer acceptance testers with technical teams. Pairing a CAT tester with a business analyst, a functional tester or a developer increases the defect validity ratio and ensures that they logged accurately and with the necessary information. Additionally, it can also help transfer knowledge, build culture and break down barriers.
- Implementing transparent test case management, adequate requirements traceability and a robust bug tracking tool. This opens a communication channel and, paired with real-time status reporting and test artifacts, assures the CAT team of the quality of the deliverable. It also provides adequate information to adjust the customer acceptance plan and most importantly, it builds trust between the teams.
- Supplementing instead of duplicating. Last but not least, the acceptance test should complement the existing testing performed by the vendor.
Software is built for the customer; he should be granted the best seat in the house through the software development cycle. Achieving this level of maturity in your release pipeline will enable your customer to respond faster to the market and build a great partnership between vendor and business.
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