A quality approach aimed at having structural impacts requires real company investments.
Investments are released by sponsors whose objectives are not quality as such.
You have to know how to convince them, their natural tendency being to focus on issues from their perspective: the company, the business, the customers, the teams, the partners.
Quality has often been associated with a support function at the end of the chain, limited to a reduction in risk, and considered without ROI.
To convince, you have to take the context in its entirety: the economic context, the company, its organization, its culture, its contacts and their priorities.
In this article, I share 10 questions to ask yourself in the goal to defend a quality approach.
First Things First
We get paid to solve problems the business is willing to finance.
Unfortunately, they are often overlooked in the execution.
Knowing how to identify, formalize and contextualize them will make the difference in the articulation of the arguments to be used.
“Do not put the cart before the horse” is also a suitable expression, which you have to know how to translate into your actions.
Let’s start with the global context.
In what macro context and major cycle is the company?
There are 4 major choices: creation, growth, maturity, decline.
The phase of your company is the key to align its argument.
Economies of scale will for example be more valued in a period of maturity or decline.
In a context of growth, the ability to quickly and efficiently deploy the business model will be valued.
Keep in mind that the cycles are dynamic transitions, we must understand if any change could happen during the trajectory.
The maturity of the ecosystem will also be decisive.
A strong competition will force the company to renew faster its product and services or by developing other entities.
Taking the example of FinTech.
Banks and insurance companies have initiated in-depth transformation and development of small structures to cope with the emergence of much more agile players.
They were not really challenged before, using their established barrier to entry and large financial capacity to buy emerging actors.
What are your business priorities?
The strategy defines the main priorities to be pursued, often by major themes, which should also be complemented by non-priorities.
These elements are often found in presentations driven by sponsors, containing elements such as BCG matrices, SWOT, customer personas.
Complementing your approach is feasible by asking additional questions in order to broaden your thinking prism:
- How do we want to achieve our business objectives?
- What are the key projects to be carried out?
- What are the major assumptions needed to achieve the goals?
- What do we mainly change compared to the existing situation?
- What are the main risks identified?
The next step is to align your approach with the business challenges.
How do the issues relate to the system, processes and organization?
It is necessary to identify which will be the levers in support of the strategy.
A systemic approach is needed to identify the key differentiating points.
Let us take an example: a priority is the unification of the customer database, with the objective of global knowledge, proposal of services between business units, and the increase of added value per customer.
Your approach should therefore demonstrate how it will accelerate, secure and deliver this priority.
You may have other complementary goals, support, and prerequisites, but in the end, you need to deliver the desired value.
Using business capabilities, often used by architecture, can make it easier for you to articulate the value of your approach.
A recurring example will be the need to accelerate software deliveries, while remaining stable, measurable and scalable.
These requirements translate into a need to automate the core software delivery processes, from its creation, deployment to supervision.
The validation of priority functional and safety requirements may also want to be audited in an automated manner.
But beyond the future, the present can be more impactful.
What are the impacts of non-quality for your customers today?
Current issues for your customers will rarely be questionable.
This article shares a few things about Your Quality Is What It is.
Despite the existence of customer issues, they are a very good source of information for your pitch.
Choose the most relevant examples in the identified context, the most factual and which will speak to your interlocutors.
Share the reality closest to the customer experience: a verbatim, a recording, a customer testimonial.
Leading examples can also convince directly: loss of a large historical account, customer portfolio lacking activation, lack of growth.
The objective is to support the facts by their recent appearance, and to appeal to logic and emotions to convince.
Any sponsor has in mind the dynamics between customers, the performance of the company, the margin generated and the returns they can obtain.
Complement with a competitive perspective is often powerful.
How do you perform compared to competitors?
Your competition is the reality of current and future challenges.
Referring to it ensures the similarity of the sector and the challenges faced by organizations, strengthening your argument.
Their market share, the latest customers won, their growth, the latest products or services, or even customer comments must be taken into account.
Here you have to sort out the show-off and the reality on the ground of these companies in order to maintain the legitimacy of the data presented.
Comparing the prices of your offers is often revealing and impactful for sponsors.
Why are customers paying more for a similar offer? Why has the value of the offers gone down instead of up?
The answer is often in a lack of quality internal offers.
In addition to the external analysis, the internal organization, the quality of the profiles and the ability to attract are key differentiating factors.
So let’s focus on the internal part of your business.
What impacts and what causes in your organization?
The core of your company’s reactor remains for the most part propelled by your internal organization.
The impacts, changes and areas of development must therefore be identified in this regard.
To bridge the gap with the customer’s vision, talking to the different users impacted by the digital product is often rich in lessons.
The call center is also often a mine of information.
Interview your team: product owner, developers, operations,… to obtain the experience and the point of view of the actors in your system.
This is where you will find the reality of production, and often the real organizational issues.
Based on this information, can you identify any major dysfunctions due to the problems encountered? (e.g. duplicate development, multiple rework, turn-over).
Analyzing the lord run or maintenance is also a powerful tool.
At the basis of LEAN and other productivity models, mastery of operations is a fundamental prerequisite for passing a stage of maturity.
Identify therefore if the quality approach will be able to free up precious time for your teams, to accelerate and increase in performance.
How could the lack of quality be a real break on the strategy?
Your approach must be necessary for the achievement of the strategy.
You will hardly convince a decision-maker solely by reducing the risk or by the notion of improvement.
It is therefore necessary to know how to articulate a gain and its causality.
Human beings are moreover much more appetizing for gain than loss.
Known as loss aversion, we tend to favor the perception of a gain over a loss, even if the gain is unfavorable.
An argument with three scenarios is therefore necessary:
- The existing, or if nothing is done, the envisaged reality must be unachievable accompanied by a daily life that has become infernal
- The target that you propose integrating the quality approach and what it brings actually and structurally
- Another target does not integrate little or not your approach, highlighting the major issues that are and will be encountered
This approach will make it possible to force a decision to be taken outside the existing one, and favor a winning scenario, rather as a reduction in risk.
To be impactful, your arguments will need to add significant value.
Can you identify any alarming trends or forecasts?
Showing a future impact will be useful having had a share of the existing one.
It is good practice to integrate analyzes of market trends, similar players and the projection of existing data.
The objective is not to predict the future, but to identify possible scenarios in view of the current context, we can speak of scenario-planning.
The arguments used must have an emotional component and impact the interests of the actors.
They must be strong enough, impact personal issues and have a time frame that strongly encourages action.
Take the example of ecology.
I remember reading an alarmist interview in the 2000s about the need for stronger inclusion, and that it would be too late in 20 years.
Ecological concern is stronger today, like corporate policies incorporating CSR.
But what happened to make the actors change their perspective?
Books and studies are needed to answer the question, however we can share one particular point.
For governments, the ecological problem began to gain priority when it turned out to be a future national security problem.
Indeed, the possibility to have massive population migrations, lacking in resources and means due to global warming, are not very attractive.
Think about how to put the quality in perspective of issues of your company, interlocutors and possible scenarios of evolution.
What costs for your technical debt?
After having depicted a heavy present, alarming scenarios except with your proposal, the job is done right?
Not necessarily, with chains on your feet it can be slow and painful, even fatal in the medium term.
It is the weight of the technical debt.
Being the hidden on the iceberg, it is present all the time, at different levels and impacts.
This is often what is hidden behind issues of delivery, speed, stability and attractiveness for the product.
You have to tie the technical debt to what speaks to your interlocutors: economic performance.
Without going into technical debt typologies, measuring the cost of paying your debt in euros is a prerequisite.
Which value is more palpable: 580 days or $290,000?
Don’t limit yourself to talking about the quality of the code and what debt reduction solutions you are considering.
The quantification and analysis of technical debt fulfills several objectives:
- Share the reality of the current technological situation to the various actors, this is rarely the case
- Demonstrate the weight of technical debt and how its treatment will help for the proposed approach
- Realize that a real and continuous investment will be necessary to guarantee its control.
Your plan must make it possible to meet the challenges of the company while reducing the technical debt.
Staying in the existing situation would normally increase the addition of technical debt, making the bill steeper over time.
Sincerely, avoid yet another misunderstood project “Technical Roadmap Evolution V10”.
Are your solutions 10 times more efficient?
Organizations are in a constant conflict between their fulfillment needs and the resources at their disposal.
It is a healthy mechanism for a system to regulate itself and maintain the most relevant activities and initiatives.
Only the most promising proposals should therefore be explored, but how to select them?
Governance is a founding element of the response, referring us to the need for inclusion and influence of the different actors.
One might also want to produce detailed comparison matrices between several options, although they will often be unsuccessful at first.
Rather argue an improvement of a factor of 10 compared to the existing one.
This practice makes it possible to focus on improving performance in a given context, the good sense of analysis between the initiatives being to be carried out secondly.
Let’s take an example on software delivery acceleration. Going from a delivery every 12 weeks to more than 10 times over the same time interval will be the goal.
Any solution that does not provide at least a level of performance must be reviewed or discarded.
Identifying the value of quality is a real immersion exercise
The questions shared reflect the need for preparation and immersion.
You could almost end up thinking that you have to be a researcher, a chameleon and a speaker all at the same time.
This is partly true for empathy and understanding other perspectives, key skills of emotional intelligence, without losing your individuality.
Without reaching the level of execution of Al Gore, his argumentation and influence on ecology is a good reference to image your approach.
Finding the value of quality requires being the most business-oriented person, using your other skills as a complement, such as with technical debt.
Do not hesitate to immerse yourself completely in the ecosystem by going into the field, in contact with customers, in the call center, this is where the reality is.
This cold reality will reveal the arguments necessary for a more than impactful quality approach.
This is where you will find the answer to the 10 questions to convince your management.