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Author: Sunny Hiran |07/12/19

How a Test Engineering Approach Can Elevate the Traveler Experience

Testing as a key driver to realize ‘Quality at Speed’

We have all had positive experiences with airline travel but also have been unwitting victims to hellish journeys. We exactly know how they can wreak havoc on what could have been a great vacation or a productive business trip. Take for example, a recent trip I made whereby on the way home, my flight was cancelled. I was already at the airport, had received no flight cancellation notification and just happened to glance up at the airport monitors to glean this critical information. By then, the check-in counters were all flooded with long lines. I tried using the airline mobile app to secure another flight home, only to receive a message stating they couldn’t service me on the app due to technical issues and I needed to call the helpdesk. I did so, only to have the recorded message inform me that there was an average wait time between 48 and 60 minutes to answer my call! As if things weren’t bad enough, my app then refused to display my boarding pass due to another technical glitch. So much for the technology that was supposed to significantly improve my travel experience. As a result, I was forced into the old school way of things – standing in a long queue of irate customers experiencing similar technical quality-related issues. I finally got home well beyond any reasonable hour, feeling annoyed and exhausted.

According to a travel consumer survey by Mindtree, “Expectations vs. Reality: How to Better Serve the Connected Traveler”, 68% of respondents agree technology is the key to a better travel experience― especially those in the 18 to 44 age group. As the connected traveler becomes more and more tech-savvy, to deliver on the promised customer experience, travel brands have come to rely heavily on technology, across the entire “travel lifecycle”. Furthermore, considering Agile practices that envision a regular cadence of production-ready releases, travel brands that are true leaders have realized that to make this happen, they must focus their testing efforts on adopting test engineering and continuous testing best practices to enable continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI-CD).

However, US organizations report that approximately 22% of their software launches or upgrades are delayed due to defects. Thus, testing becomes a key driver in validating quality releases, all the while making sure that the existing functionality in production is not impacted negatively by new releases. Moreover, this testing must be carried out in a manner that is expedient and accurate all the while providing a quick turnaround on issues in order to close feedback loops and enable speed, given short release cycles. In the World Quality Report 2018, “ensuring end user satisfaction” came out as the top objective of any quality assurance(QA) and testing strategy with 42% of respondents endorsing it. This focus on customer experience also drives the primacy of objectives, such as time-to-market – 29% say reducing the overall application cycle time is an important objective for QA and testing. A large group of the respondents (41%) also believe that QA and testing should contribute to business growth and outcomes with 39% stating that testing needs to work towards protecting the corporate image and branding.

Challenges to a Comprehensive Test Transformation Strategy

Supporting the full complement of testing services that provide a seamless end user experience is easier said than done. This requires addressing some key challenges hindering the success of many testing teams today, including:

  • Limited testing budgets and an uphill struggle to continually transform QA and testing services
  • Removing dependency constraints on development and testing teams through integrated frameworks that address working in complex technology environments
  • Improving ways of working that necessitate supplementing and cross-skilling teams with technical tester skill sets to support and in turn invest heavily in value-add automation activities that are key enablers of faster time-to-market
  • With customer expectations rising at a breakneck pace and technology acting as the bridge to meet these demands, testing teams must validate end-to-end business processes and support a wide breadth of functionality across a dizzying array of devices that if not tested, can lead to service failure or unforeseen results. From a customer experience viewpoint, the effects can range from annoyance and frustration to a loss of loyalty, in extreme cases.
  • Supporting multiple testing toolsets and integrating the latest testing innovations driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning(ML) that present their own integration needs, skill requirements and associated purchase and licensing costs to support technologies such as cloud, API, and Web services

Embracing Testing Transformation

With the inroads that digital technologies are making in the travel ecosystem, businesses expect frequent new product launches that require fast and efficient delivery. How can travel brands address the need for rigorous testing that breaks through siloed ways of working and brings to bear the latest and greatest evolutions in the continuous testing space in a formal yet cost effective manner? Read on.

1. Initiating a Shift Left Transformation

The success of any transformation initiative depends upon establishing a formal test strategy that addresses both current and future test support requirements and priorities of the test organization. This view should be represented in the form of a transformation roadmap and must look forward, encapsulating the support needs of the organization over the next 3-5 years. This will lay the foundation for moving from an end-of-life-cycle quality control function to an embedded product engineering capability. It is equally important to baseline the current delivery capabilities so that the success of transformation activities can be measured through continuous improvement. This is further enabled by instituting key SLA and KPI metrics towards realizing outcome-based service delivery. Taking this approach will ultimately provide a vehicle for realizing key shift left goals and objectives. Towards supporting the context-relevant and personalized experience that the connected traveler demands; the next edition of this blog will look at how success is engendered by driving shift left goals against a formal roadmap that can address the intricacies of product or cross-functional testing requirements.

2. Technology as a Shift Left Enabler

The average traveler views their device as an extension of their own self and depends upon this technology as an effective means of staying connected to the travel brand to safely and effortlessly travel between destinations. With this expectation comes the need to support the mass proliferation of devices and the complex cross-system functionality that makes up the travel experience from booking, baggage, managing irregular operations to the in-flight experience and more. This certainly calls for a transition from the traditional approach of relegating testing towards the end of software development cycle in favour of a shift left strategy. A shift left testing approach is one whereby testing occurs earlier in the software development life cycle to address the high cost of typically fixing defects in later stages. This approach embraces the need for continuous testing.

In the third edition of this blog, we will look at how stabilizing existing service delivery and addressing underlying quality concerns, such as environment and test data management, can lay the foundation for scaling test services through an automation factory. This approach addresses device management and maximizes automated test coverage, all the while incorporating AI, ML and model-based testing for predictive and prescriptive analytics.

3. Continuous Testing - it’s all about Speed

Travel brands have been aware for some time that quality at speed is more than just a mantra and in fact is a key consideration to enable the connected traveler experience. As travel brands continue to expand their offerings, selling everything from seats to hotels and complete vacation packages, maintaining consistent quality and boosting efficiency allows travel companies to fully realize quality at speed. In order to maximize efficiency, incorporating service virtualization can help greatly to reduce development and testing times by simulating unavailable services and interfaces among other things and thus eliminate wait times. In the same vein, performance engineering addressing the need for responsive systems through strategies that can be realized in the continuous delivery space. In the final instalment of this blog series, we will look at these ‘time-to-market’ enablers. We will also analyse how team restructuring enables the delivery of shared services, breaks down siloes, in turn, increasing core competencies, knowledge sharing and ultimately leading to efficient service delivery.

Conclusion

According to the World Quality Report 2018, QA and testing accounted for over a quarter (26%) of the IT spend in 2018. Also, a 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “profit per passenger” at the seven largest U.S. airlines averaged $19.65 over the preceding 4 years (these were record-setting profitable years for airlines). When planning your overall testing approach, there are many considerations that have cost and quality impacts and taking a myopic view can have adverse consequences. Given the narrow margins realized by the airline industry (~$19.65/passenger) and the percentage share of the IT spend apportioned to QA and testing (26%), it is beneficial to address and improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of testing services by eliminating waste as much as possible. This is especially practical given how this approach can significantly impact time-to-market and when implemented efficiently, increase overall profitability.

Mindtree has helped leading travel brands implement these strategies and approaches to deliver outstanding cost savings, breaking through myopic views and reactive strategies ultimately allowing teams to reduce lead time, increase efficiency through eliminating waste and maximize throughput and resource utilization. In an industry where change is the name of the game, adopting this strategy delivers real change that impacts customer experience leading to loyalty.
To learn more about how we could amplify the test engineering efforts at your travel brand to make it the go to brand for travelers, write to us here.

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