Anass El Bekali shares his perspective of a transverse IS quality at the customer’s service in this QE Unit interview.
With more than 20 years of experience in various sectors, complex organizations, and various missions, Anass shares his practices and concrete anecdotes.
It provides us with structuring points on continuous improvement, the cost of non-quality, and arguments to use with decision-makers.
This sharing leads us to reflect about a quality at the heart of IS, collaborative, iterative, sustainable, and at the service of customer satisfaction.
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About Anass El Bekali
With more than 22 years of experience in IT projects, including 17 years in test and requirements management, this Franco-Moroccan has supported several large accounts in the industrialization and qualification of their information systems.
Today, he is CEO of QSI Conseil, President of CMTL (Moroccan Committee for Software Testing) & Referent Test for the association 10000Codeurs in Africa. It has to its credit more than 150 ISTQB / IQBBA / IREB training sessions, 50 consulting missions, 30 TMMi audits, 7 Testing Service centers.
Antoine: Can you start by introducing yourself?
I am president and co-founder of QSI Conseil, specializing in software quality, testing, and requirements management. I am also President of CMTL, the Moroccan Software Testing Committee, representative of ISTQB in Morocco. We ensure that software quality is sensitized within companies, we certify training centers and train in the various syllabuses. In addition, I have one last Test referent activity with the association 10000Codeurs to raise awareness among young Africans about IT jobs.
Antoine: What are your priorities in the transversalization of quality?
I will respond differently through the activities that I carry out, which highlight the needs identified. I help companies optimize and industrialize their testing and software quality processes more generally.
The first component is providing support, performing audits, and giving advisory through a methodological approach for testing and project management. I help them structure their test reference system by articulating their requirements. I also work on organizational matters to set up centralized, distributed test teams with test centers. I support companies in defining career models and evolutions in the testing profession through development, training, and certification actions. I also structure the procedures around the management of environments, infrastructure, and tools. The panel is quite extensive, covering reference tools, functional tests, performance, etc.
The second part is that of training. We deliver certifying and formal training in our business such as ISTQB and its different levels such as Foundations, Agile Test, Test Manager. We also provide other certifications recognized worldwide in requirements management, such as IQBBA, IREB, or even TMMI (Test Maturity Model Integration). TMMI defines a 5-level maturity model for organizations, like the CMMI, dedicated to development. It is a framework referencing more than 100 good practices in the testing process.
More specifically, on training, we support professional retraining towards software quality professions. It is an activity that we have been launching for five years and which is spreading. These are training courses focused and oriented on a specific job, from business analysts, test analysts to automation engineers.
Finally, we also help companies set up test competence centers, whether on the customer’s site or remotely.
Antoine: If we start a SWOT, what strengths do you identify in software quality and its transversalization?
Before starting, I share SWOT as being a fundamental practice of continuous improvement, which I recommend to everyone, even applying to themselves.
Regarding our business, I would say that the strength of quality is in its prevention. Before correcting a bug, detecting a production incident, or an anomaly, prevention is more important. It is an essential aspect that is often forgotten or, in any case, not sufficiently considered: “It is better to prevent than to cure”. This implies putting in place preventive mechanisms at the heart of software development processes. Our intervention should not be limited to a technical aspect; we can systematize preventive means of reviews, retrospectives, training.
The second strength for me is to put innovation at the center of the process. Methodologies are helpful guides, but proper self-organization will be more valuable in each context. This is also a point found in the ISTQB standard: “The test depends on the context”. Innovation, self-organization, and team cohesion support the adaptation of the test strategy depending on the project context.
Methodologies are useful guides, but proper self-organization will be more valuable in each context.Anass El Bekali
I also identify the presence of a true leader, and not of a “boss”, as a force. Someone who will stimulate teams, their proactivity, and creativity will promote an ecosystem conducive to software quality as a whole. Teams need certain freedom of action to adapt their approach to the context.
I would end with a personal point where the importance of making people love the job is more than differentiating. The motivation generated allows people to be much more dynamic, self-reliant, and positive at work. It is a founding element of performance.
Antoine: On the contrary, what weaknesses or Achilles heels do you identify?
There are many to address, which I have identified through audits of more than 30 companies in various banking, insurance, or distribution sectors. I prefer to talk about improvement points rather than weak points as with the development plans we are carrying out.
Steering solely by deadlines is still too recurrent, with too much pressure on dates. Defects are not introduced by magic; they are often introduced by human error. One of the root causes of human error is the pressure of deadlines. Therefore, the effort is to rebalance the famous golden triangle of costs, planning, and quality while keeping control of the risk and the value provided.
The second weakness is often induced by managers who think that the “0 defect” exists. This thought pushes managers to neglect quality in an unsolvable equation as soon as the product has a minimum of complexity. The McDonald’s app is an excellent example if we go to extremes, with more than 10 million possible combinations! We will not cover each scenario with a test case. Instead, we teach teams to put QA at the heart of projects and manage risks by balancing value and effort following the RBT model (Risk-Based Testing).
I will share the case of a client who had bet on quality with a team of 5 people. Even if the model worked for some time, it was an illusion of short-term success. After three years, the process had to start from scratch to include QA from the start. Testing was not the job of developers, who lost motivation. The system has become more complex, leading to a loss of skills and overall vision, often driven by QA. It is a recurring illusion on managers or CIOs who think quality can be addressed only by developers.
Quality fundamentals are too often overlooked.Anass El Bekali
There are also easy and fundamental elements that are too often neglected. This is the case with configuration management, a foundation of information management and collaboration. I also have an anecdote I encountered during an audit a few years ago. I found a file that has been copied so many times that the file was finally named“Copy of Copy of Copy…”. The information was clearly not in control. The basics are too often taken for granted.
I would end with the concern for productivity about financial benefits. As with abusive management by deadlines, the quest for profits at all costs loses sight of the customer satisfaction objective. A decision-maker often has two goals in his views, time-to-market, and quality, but not at any cost.
Antoine: Let’s switch to horizontal in our SWOT and take an external perspective. What are the opportunities for you for a more impactful quality?
It is crucial to start with the positioning of a quality project in the company and its potential contribution of value. First of all, quality affects the entire organization, not limited to the product under development. Second, we are talking about the information system, where quality acts as a lever for ensuring compliance of the IS, using good practices and methodologies.
Silos are still very present despite Scrum or Safe models. Quality must facilitate collaboration and break down silos. Implicitly, this transversality can and should help us bring together the business and IT departments.
Quality should facilitate collaboration and break down silos.Anass El Bekali
Quality must also make it possible to control a less visible factor, that of non-quality. Its impact in terms of cost is exponential for organizations. Managing quality and non-quality parameters help improve performance by controlling costs and accelerating time-to-market.
The resource perspective is integral to increasing the value of quality. People who are trained, professionalize and develop will be able to feel fulfilled. This well-being contributes to their satisfaction, to better production, and to stay engaged with the company. Thus, we promote a virtuous circle.
In the basics, I identify the improvement of preventive detection, the reliability of systems, and customer satisfaction.
Antoine: For several years now, we have seen quality as a contributor to value creation, improvement of company performance, and customer satisfaction.
I regularly return to restaurants which I enjoyed!
Antoine: Conversely, what can prevent you from sleeping in the area of quality? What threats do you identify?
Many elements are contrary to the opportunities identified. V-cycles far from customer value, complex siloed organizations, neglection of quality, and non-quality. We often see vicious circles set in, materializing in concrete symptoms.
I have worked in organizations focusing on crisis management, where those of changes, incidents, and problems are not sufficient anymore. Crisis management must be well organized but must not become a significant part of the activities. Nevertheless, the impact on the organization’s performance was significant: customer satisfaction, productivity, initiative lateness, turnover, etc.
The lack of trust between business and IT ends up materializing beyond failed projects or increased development costs. This distrust is a real threat to me. Some business departments carry out projects without sharing or consulting the IT department, representing a substantial risk at medium and long-term on the IS.
I would end with a deterioration in customer satisfaction, materializing by increasing customer complaints, contacts, and economic performance decline. In this case, quality fails to contribute to the provision of value, ending up being discredited.
Antoine: We shared that guides are helpful if complemented by an analysis of the context and common sense. From your experience, what practices have you found effective, or on the contrary ineffective?
I can recommend starting with the basics without forgetting them. This is the case with configuration management, but not only: the use of a homogeneous methodology, models of deliverables, defined processes. What will then be effective is collaboration.
Many complex projects are carried out despite difficulties through good collaboration, a positive atmosphere, and kindness. Conversely, simple projects do not succeed in a context of conflict, bad faith, and lack of trust. Fostering collaboration is therefore vital, with workshops bringing together all the players. The review mechanisms or exploratory test techniques supporting these exchanges are more than recommended.
Start by and never forget the fundamentals.Anass El Bekali
The process of RCA (Root Cause Analysis) is very beneficial for me. When we experience a production incident, we will run after the restoration of the affected service. On the other hand, the faults are repeated if we do not take enough time to analyze them. Therefore, we have to systematize at least two instances per year of retrospectives with the right interlocutors to identify and treat root causes. The RCAs are structuring to improve the prevention of anomalies. They combine the collaborative approach while making sure to include business stakeholders in operations and support continuous improvement.
Antoine: On the contrary, have you encountered ineffective practices?
The belief that you can release a product or a project without a QA. Like the example I shared, it would be a bit like taking away quality control in a factory. Even if the quality is not limited to control, we cannot wholly replace profiles of QA and testers by betting everything on profiles already in place; it is illusory. QA is a profession in its own right, where the load can represent up to a third of the project budget.
I mentioned in the second practice the lack of implementation of innovation. The test depends on the context; it is necessary to innovate and adapt according to the context. Good practices and guides exist, but it is up to everyone to iterate to find suitable mechanisms. I have been in this field for 22 years, and for each company, I have been keen to set up a methodology. There is a base where we find the fundamentals necessary and specific to each organization.
Antoine: I imagine that convincing top management is a necessary step that you secure?
It is mandatory for me. Without directives or support from the top management, the exception becomes the rule, destroying the foundations and emerging good practices. Without this impetus, the pressure of deadlines will let operational staff revert to old habits and routines. Raising the awareness of sponsors promotes change management to maintain a dynamic of development.
Antoine: Convincing decision-maker is a challenge. How do you structure your argumentation?
“The Money”. The first element to convince top management is financial, even if satisfaction and value remain essentials. So I start by calculating the cost of non-quality compared to that of quality. The two options in perspective articulate the value provided by the quality option versus an existing one of non-quality. Financial facts are the first element of the argument.
Materializing the cost of non-quality articulates the added value of quality, a key to convince a decision-maker.Anass El Bekali
I then add to the saturation of resources. This is a factor to which a decision-maker is sensitive. The objective is to encourage new organizational methods to promote better performance, productivity, and reduced turnover. Top management needs to consolidate a team, maintain knowledge and guarantee a continuity of service.
The most important thing is to factualize and make these two elements visible to decision-makers. The cost of non-quality, often exponential, raises awareness and encourages action. The challenge is to remove the initial association of quality with a notion of cost only. The perspective of non-quality articulates the creation of value and gain, moving from a loss to an investment perspective.
Antoine: To end on a personal note, what references, content, or people have inspired you the most?
Since the bug of the 2000s, the QA profession has become more professional. Associations, groups, and standards have been created. I can recommend CMMI and TMMI with quality-oriented prisms. There are also more practical standards like ISTQB, where the syllabuses are accessible and represented in several countries, with more than 120 committees. IQBBA and IREB certifications for requirements are also helpful. Many other standards like COBIT or PMP for project management may be relevant. It is important to understand good practices and processes, continuously adapting to the context as a priority.
The second point is to carry out diagnostics or audits, formal or informal. The important thing is to do it at regular intervals, for example, every two years. The usefulness is to have a picture to reposition yourself in an evolved context, part of a continuous improvement process.
The cost of non-quality: https://www.pyx4.com/blog/4-types-de-couts-de-non-qualite/
The RCA model: https://asq.org / quality-resources / root-cause-analysis
TMMI Certifications: https://www.tmmi.org/
Business Analyst: https://www.iqbba.org/en/home.html
CertificationsRequirements Engineering Certifications: https: / /www.ireb.org/en