Digital transformation can be an intimidating concept, as it often feels like a profound, all-encompassing task for senior leaders who don’t understand the intricacies it takes to implement.
Despite this fact, digital transformation is fundamental to remain competitive in the current landscape. Throwing around the term “digital transformation” is the 1,000-foot view of the journey, but if you drill down and focus on one piece at a time, it can become much more manageable and deliver greater value.
Let’s look at one of the biggest driving forces behind digital transformation: automation — specifically, automating test environment management.
The introduction of automation in any industry always brings fear of lost jobs and a lack of control. However, automation has consistently proven to be a crucial turning point for the industry — a pivot toward bigger and better things.
In IT today, we look to automate everything possible to free up talented people, to create and think big and to solve our toughest problems. However, it seems like in any area of IT, there are always pockets of manual management left behind, and these always seem to be the most laborious tasks.
Take, for example, test environment management. Software has become a key part of business success, and the speed at which development cycles progress is unprecedented. This has resulted in DevOps methodologies seeping into the DNA of most enterprises.
A key part of making sure all of this speed actually produces business benefits involves testing the software. With more updates and more software comes more test environments.
In a recent survey (registration required) from my company, it was found that enterprises with 5,000 or more employees have an average of almost 200 test environments, with some claiming to have upward of 600.
Thinking about these numbers, anyone would assume that this integral part of the development cycle is primed for automation. But the fact is that many organizations — big and small — are still fumbling around with spreadsheets and working through tens of thousands of request emails to ensure requirements are met and scheduling conflicts are avoided. In a world where we are always trying to streamline and squeeze every ounce of value out of processes, how does this add up?
Well, the short answer is that it doesn’t.
When trying to combine people, processes and technology to optimize value flow through the software delivery pipeline, spreadsheets and ad-hoc tools end up draining value instead of adding to it.
To put this all into context, we recently worked with Telefónica UK Limited (more commonly known for its brand O2) on a project to supports its IT delivery road map and digital transformation efforts. The organization has 6,700 employees across three main offices and 450 stores in the UK. It has always prided itself on continually innovating new mobile products and has championed customer experience.
However, Telefónica UK’s test environment management practices did not completely align with its forward-thinking vision. And as part of its constant drive to improve efficiency, this legacy manual area of IT became a focus area.
At the time, Telefónica UK’s IT test environment management group faced over 30,000 emails per year relating to nonproduction environments, and processes were manual and uncoordinated. It took several days to track and rectify unplanned test environment outages, and there were frequent conflicts — or double-bookings — due to lack of visibility and collaboration across teams.
This lack of coordination led to fragmentation across teams, impact on project delivery timelines and duplication of time spent collaborating with diverse information sources. For a company with 33 million customers and network connections, the value lost was tangibly felt with IT testers waiting for test environment issues to be investigated before carrying on with testing.
Not rushing into anything, Telefónica UK undertook a two-month external review and evaluation of IT test environment tools. The key features that sold the team on the right tool included 100% visibility of test environment planning, unified scheduling, integration with other key tools in the environment and, of course, automation of the manual processes.
Telefónica UK felt almost immediate relief from updating its test environment management. Many of the IT testing problems the company had experienced in the past simply disappeared as key stakeholders could now be alerted automatically to any issues or changes in IT environment status. Spreadsheets were replaced with automated, standardized, dynamic views of IT test environments. In fact, in the first year of implementation, Telefónica UK experienced a 50% reduction in unplanned downtime, which undoubtedly led to a substantial increase in business value.
Losing business value due to lagging behind in the race for digital transformation remains a key issue for numerous organizations. But the good news is that the path to making these changes and implementing automation can effectively make them stand out from their competitors in the industry and avoid a loss in value. With automation and by integrating solutions into their product offerings and value stream, organizations are able to reap the rewards that Telefónica UK has already seen.
The current business environment is dramatically changing, but that doesn’t mean you have to get left behind.