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Why the C-level needs to start thinking about testing

It was at an executive roundtable two years ago that Sauce Labs CEO Aled Miles realized something critical: For his C-level peers, testing needed to mean something more than just “testing.” 

There, he was amongst leaders from global financial institutions, retail giants and other major companies—people who found it easy to explain what their companies did. After all, folks know banking; they know retailers. But in that moment, when it was his turn to introduce himself and Sauce Labs, Miles realized that most executives probably hadn’t the faintest idea about software testing. He knew this because before joining Sauce Labs just a few months prior, he, too, knew little about the everyday challenges of software testing. So, how could he explain to them what Sauce Labs does…and more importantly, why all of these executives, across so many different industries, should care?   

Did they already understand that consumer expectations have evolved to expect intuitive and seamless experiences across all devices and platforms? Yes. Did they know that the quality of an app impacts the overall success of the business? Yes. But, did they realize that testing is the critical component in releasing high-quality software with both speed and confidence? They probably hadn’t thought about it.

Why the digital experience is now your main product

Realizing what would resonate with his C-level audience, Miles landed on two truths. The first was that the world relies on code. Every major brand out there these days has some sort of digital presence, and increasingly, that digital presence is often the primary way that brands interact with consumers. The second is that because of that increasing reliance on code, your brand is also reliant on the quality of experience that software delivers. The C-level should care very much that as a brand makes its digital transformation, the quality of the experience for its customers remains high. 

When we think of using online or mobile apps, it’s easy to assume that it’s the features that drive the user experience — it’s why they choose one product or service over another, right? However, as more businesses expand their reliance on online growth, what keeps users around aren’t just the features, but how well, how quickly and how intuitively those features deliver value. Failing to meet expectations can cost a business dearly. A recent Sauce Labs survey found that nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers experience a critical software error or issue at least once a day. And almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers say they’ll only reload a page two to three times before giving up, while nearly 1 in 5 consumers (18%) say they won’t wait any length of time for an error to be fixed — they’ll just go somewhere else. 

These days, consumers expect more functionality from the online and mobile products and services they’ve come to rely on, and importantly, they expect them to just work. The good news is that as these consumer demands have evolved, testing has also evolved to empower developers with the tools they need to address growing consumer needs. 

A brief history of testing

Image Credits: Getty Images

In the early days, testing was a manual process, usually done at the very end of the software development cycle. Testers would take the requirements set by the product people, combine that with the functionality defined by the developers, and use that to create a series of test cases. At that time, it was a bottleneck in the development process. Because of this, testing was reduced to the binary question of “does it work or not?” as defined by the product team. In other words, as long as it functioned according to the back-of-box features, then it had been “tested.”

Eventually, with the rise of web development in the 2010s, testers needed to accommodate an ever-complicated matrix of operating systems, web browsers and hardware. It was impossible to do manually, but with web browser automation suites like Selenium, testers found a way to automate the testing process to cover the exponential growth of test cases. Testing could now happen faster and at higher volume. Still, despite these advances, testing remained relegated to the end of the development cycle, still considered a bottleneck. Meanwhile, the stakes grew higher: with the need for more frequent releases, companies now had to deal with big, high-risk moments every time they pushed new code into production — crossing their fingers that nothing would break. 

Modern testing’s strategic value 

Today automation and cloud services have turned software development into a continuous process by necessity of demand, requiring more frequent and constant product updates for better user experience. Now, developers need to launch new features and implement fixes without having to bundle them up into those incremental, high-risk releases. To keep up with the speed of today’s development, Sauce Labs empowers companies with a suite of continuous testing tools and industry leading error reporting that help identify issues across the SDLC. The visibility into insights throughout the DevOps toolchain enables companies to assess risk and implement the right tools to address and fix the issue at hand delivering higher quality products and services. 

With this shift to continuous testing, companies can now test throughout the development process. This has the benefit of not only catching issues earlier, but also allowing testing to move beyond the binary of pass/fail. Modern testing does more than just ensure that your app doesn’t crash, but that it’s responsive, and actually delights users in how it functions.

This is the digital confidence that Miles explained at that executive roundtable and at many events since, each time watching as his audience’s facial expressions change from unsure to impressed. For the C-level, testing isn’t just something that ensures that your digital products work. When used strategically, testing becomes a way to ensure that your digital products add to your brand experience, increase user engagement and drive real business results. If the world runs on code, what separates you from your competitors isn’t whether or not your code runs, it’s whether your code runs well. 

For more information on the impact testing can have on your business, check out Sauce Labs’ latest report Every Experience Matters.