Customer loyalty demands always-on assurance

Siva Ganesan, Vice President and Global Head at TCS Assurance Services Unit, blogs about changing customer loyalty patterns and what it means for enterprises.

The digital world we live in is a new paradigm – a global ecosystem that stands connected unto itself like history has never known before. The internet of things – gadgets, smart devices, smart phones, and applications dominate our lives – following us and even tracking our actions as we use them. Humans, corporations, and machines are jostling for each other’s attention and bandwidth. And there is a fine mesh of collaborative content that digitally disrupts its way into our homes and workplaces. These digital disruptions have changed the business and competitive landscape in two ways. First, computing has morphed into a utility. And second, consumer loyalty and stickiness have become fickle. Let’s understand how.

Today, device convergence is a dominant technology wave – a wave that’s growing stronger by the day. Ten years ago, we had mobile phones that doubled up as calculators and alarm clocks. Today, mobile devices are also used as cameras, navigation aids, internet browsers, personal computers, music devices, and even televisions! Similarly, the television is now doubling up as a computer, allowing you to browse the internet, and record, store, and playback programs. With thousands of mobile applications available for download, utility possibilities are endless. The era of utility computing and converged gadgets has arrived.

How to guarantee customer loyalty

As I discussed in an earlier article, given these possibilities, product capability has become a commodity. And retaining customers requires continuous differentiation and innovation. With a plethora of choices, customers are more likely to explore and switch brands. Always connected gadgets and social media create a better-informed customer. Customers now discuss, compare, review, uncover deals, and opt for the best offer and features. Good customer service can no longer guarantee customer loyalty.

Users and hence the enterprise want everything new, right here, right now. It is a release treadmill – it keeps trundling – there is no switch on, switch off. Every risk must be fixed now, waiting is not an option. As a result, agile, nimble, and continuous releases are essential now. Matching up to this release continuity, systems too need to continuously deliver superior consumer experience to sustain brand reputation and consumer loyalty. This also implies the need for round-the-clock availability of systems, with such availability being compliant with all norms. Effectively, connectedness demands continuous correctness.

Continuous testing and assurance

Welcome to the world of always-on continuous testing and assurance. Testing has moved from being a post-facto compliance need to a pre-emptive success factor. While the classic definition of detecting bugs for developers remains, there’s a gentle, yet distinct swing to the theme of testers co-working on all aspects of the software lifecycle. New age testers look beyond simple testing and defect detection, straddling the full spectrum of assurance – designing assurance architecture for zero risk systems, driving assembly line assurance with right quantum of instrumentation and level of automation, participating in requirements gathering exercises from the outset, and of course, performing testing too! In short, the new age assurance professional practices always-on assurance and not just post-facto testing.

In the frenzy of transactional volumes and diverse processes, always-on assurance enables businesses to cater to stability, reliability, performance and security. It is a tall order, and calls for a systematic approach to everything one deploys in production. It calls for a shift in mindset (shift left).

The convergence of computing devices has resulted in plenty of failure points, which, when triggered, could mean catastrophic consequences for business. Until now we’ve been accustomed to web and desktop application testing. But now, we need to deal with applications that are mobile, social, geo-aware and GPS enabled. Then there are the emulators and simulators, the actual devices, and even the communication infrastructure that we need to test. Besides usability and human factors, we need to assure form factors such as battery drain on GPS usage. It is no longer isolated testing of software modules or business functions. It’s about assuring an entire system comprising always-connected users, devices and infrastructure. This always-on connectivity demands always-on assurance.

The bottom-line: assurance has come a long way from the traditional bug-fixing microcosm notion. It has matured into a new age, always-on, continuous ecosystem that shapes the digital world we live in.

An earlier version of this blog was published at #ThinkAssurance, the quality assurance (QA) and testing blog of Tata Consultancy Services. Edited for web by Cecilia Rehn.