By working with a partner, TurnKey Solutions, and HP, Pomeroy improves their overall process for development and thereby achieves far better IT and business outcomes.
To learn more about how they're improving app testing proficiency, BriefingsDirect sat down with Mary Cathell, Quality Assurance Analyst at Pomeroy in Hebron, Kentucky, and Daniel Gannon, President and CEO at TurnKey Solutions in Denver. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Tell us about Pomeroy and then how improved development has boosted software benefits internally, as well as for your end-user customers across your managed-service provider (MSP) offerings.
Cathell: We're a premier provider of IT managed services. We do end user, network, data center, and everything in between. We’re hands on all over the place. We have a global footprint. Quality is absolutely imperative. We have big client companies like Nestle, Goodyear, and Bayer. These are companies that have a certain amount of respect in the business world. They depend upon quality in their products, and we need to deliver quality in our products to them.
Gardner: And you're the sole quality assurance analyst. So you have a big job.
Cathell: I do.
Gardner: What did you find when you got there, and what was the steady state before you started to make some improvements?
Cathell: This was November of 2012. They gave me an opportunity to bring something new that they were unfamiliar with and to teach, which I love to do. They purchased Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), everyone had their own piece of the process from our sales to logistics, and they were all using different applications to do this process.
After we went live, we got to steady state. Now it was like, "Let's not reinvent the wheel. Let's do this right. Let's begin scripting."
Testing is terrible. It's tedious. No one has the time to do it. No one has the patience to do it. So they either don’t do it or they throw buckshot at it. They do ad-hoc testing, or they just let errors come in and out, and they fix them on the back end, which is client facing.
Does Goodyear want to see a real-estate problem on an invoice? No, they don't, and we lose credibility. Goodyear is talking to their clients. They have friends. Their CEO is talking to another company's CEO. Now, you’ve got a word-of-mouth situation off of one mistake. You can't have that.
Gardner: What were some of the hurdles that you needed to overcome to become more automated, to take advantage of technology, to modernize the quality assurance processes? Then, we'll talk about how TurnKey works in that regard. But let's talk about what you had to overcome first?
Cathell: I had to show the value. Value is everything, because people ask, "Why do we need to do this? This is so much work. What value is that going to bring to me?"
Again, it lets your processes work with the business function as an oiled machine, because you're not separate anymore. You’re not siloed. You need to work together. It's cross-functional. It taught us our data.
Now there's an understanding that this works. We can function better now in just our regular business process, not even testing, but what we do for our customer. That’s value for our internal customers, which ends up being absolute value to our external customers.
Gardner: The solution you went for included HP Quality Center, but you wanted to take that a step further, and that's where TurnKey comes in
Cathell: I talked to several other companies. You need to. You need to do the due diligence. TurnKey did a wonderful thing. They provided something that no one else was doing.
We didn’t have the bandwidth, the talent internally, to script automation. It's very difficult and it's a very long process, but, they have an accelerator that you can just drag and drop from out-of-the-box Oracle and make changes, as you need to, for their customizations and your personalization.
They also had cFactory, so that when your system changes -- and it will, because your business grows, your process changes -- it tells you the differences. You just click on a form, and it brings back what's there, shows you the comparison on what's changed, and asks if you would like to keep those changes. You don’t have to update your entire test case suite. It does it for you. It takes out that tedious mess of trying to keep updated.
Gardner: Daniel, is this what a lot of your clients go through, and what is it that you're bringing to the table in addition to HP Quality Center that gets their attention and makes this more powerful?
Gannon: Yeah, her story resonates. It’s very, very common for people to have those same issues. If you look at the new style of IT, it's really about two things, the two Vs, volume and velocity. You have a lot more data -- big data -- and it comes at you much faster. The whole notion of agility in business is a real driver, and these are the things that HP is addressing.
If you think about a standard environment like Mary’s at Pomeroy, the typical way people would address that is with a lot of people, a lot of hands, and a lot of manual effort. We think that intelligent software can replace that and help you do things more intelligently, much more quickly, and most importantly, at much, much lower cost.
Gardner: Mary, you've been at this for going on a couple of years. When you do intelligent software well, when you pick your partners well, what sort of results do you get? What’s been the change there?
Cathell: There is a paradigm shift, because now, when they, specifically our sales department, see the tool run, they're wowed. They're working with me to champion the tool to other parts of the business. That's ultimately the biggest reward -- to see people get it and then champion it.
Gardner: Has this translated into your constituents, your users, coming back to you for more customization because they trust this so that they're more interested in working with software, rather than resisting it?
Difficult to automate
Cathell: We absolutely did have that change, again specifically with sales, which is the most difficult process to automate, because it can go in so many different ways. So they're on board. They're leading my fight that we need to do this. This is where this company needs to go. This is where technology is going.
Gardner: And when you bring this mentality of better software quality and giving them the means to do it that’s not too arduous, doesn't that then also extend back into your fuller application development processes? How far back are you going through development and change? Is there a DevOps opportunity here for you to bring this into operations and start to sew this together better?
Cathell: That could happen in the future. Our requirements phase is a lot better, because now they're seeing scenarios with expected results -- pass/fails. Now, when we build something new, they go back and look at what they've written for our test scenarios and say, "Oh, our requirements need to be unambiguous. We need to be more detailed."
I do that liaison work where I speak geek for the developer, and the English for the business. We marry them together, and that creates now new quality products.
Gardner: Daniel, Pomeroy uses this to a significant degree with Oracle EBS, but how about some of your other customers? What other applications, activities, and/or products has this been applied to? Do you have any metrics of success across some instances of what people get for this?
Gannon: We find that customers leverage the HP platform as the best-in-class platform for test automation across the broadest portfolio of applications in the industry, which is really powerful. What TurnKey Solutions brings to the table is specialization in conjunction with that platform. Our partnership reaches back well over a decade, where we have developed these solutions together.
We find that people use mission-critical applications, enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications like Oracle EBS, SAP, PeopleSoft and others that run the business. And our solutions address the unique problems of those applications. At the same time, we provide a common set of tools to provide test automation across the entire portfolio of applications within a company.
Many companies will have 600, 700, or thousands of applications that require the same level of due diligence and technology. That's what this kind of combination of technologies provides.
Gardner: Mary, now that you’ve done this now with some hindsight -- not just from your current job but in previous jobs -- do you have any words of wisdom for other organizations that know that they've got quality issues? They don't always necessarily know how to go about it, but probably think that they would rather have an intelligent, modern approach. Do you have any words of wisdom that you can give them as they get started.
Break it down
Cathell: Absolutely. Everybody wants to look at the big picture -- and you should look at the big picture -- but you need to break it down. Do that in agile form. Make those into iterations. Start small and build up. So if you want to go from the smallest process that you have and keep building upon it, you're going to see more results than trying to tackle this huge elephant in the room that's just unattainable.
Gardner: A lot of times with new initiatives, it’s important to establish a victory early to show some returns. How did you do that and how would you suggest others do that in order to keep the ball rolling?
Cathell: Get people excited. Get them onboard. Make sure that they're involved in the decision making and let them know what your plans are. Communication is absolute key, and then you have your champions.
Gardner: Daniel, we're here at HP Discover. This is where they open the kimono in many ways in their software and testing and application lifecycle management, businesses. As a long time HP partner, what are you hoping to see. What interests you? Any thoughts about the show in general?
Gannon: What's exciting is that HP addresses IT problems in general. There's no specificity necessarily. What companies really grapple with is how to put together a portfolio of solutions that addresses entire IT needs, rather than simple, specific, smoke stack kinds of solutions. That’s what’s really exciting. HP brings it all together, really delivers, and then values the customers. That’s what I think is really compelling.
Gardner: Okay, how about the emphasis on big data -- recognizing that applications are more now aligned with data and that analysis is becoming perhaps a requirement for more organizations in more instances? How do you see application customization and big data coming together?
Gannon: For me, big data is both problem and opportunity. The problem is it’s big data. How do you cull and create intelligence from this mass of data. That's where the magic lies. Those people who can tease actionable information from these massive data stores have the ability to act upon that.
There are a number of HP solutions that enable you to do just that. That will propel businesses forward to their next level, because you can use that information -- not just data, but information -- to make business decisions that enable customers going forward.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.
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