Ask five people in the IT space what digital transformation means to them, and I’d bet the (server) farm that you’d get five different answers. It’s the latest buzzword that’s surging through boardrooms around the world as companies and their executives try to figure out what it means to them.
And if you think technology has been evolving at a brisk pace in the past few years, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Mobile websites and mobile apps are giving way to the Internet of Things, APIs and chatbots. (Quick aside: Wikipedia says a chatbot is also known as a chatterbot, talkbot, , Bot, chatterbox and artificial conversational entity. Good luck trying to get angel funding for an “artificial conversational entity” startup.)
So regardless of what digital transformation (DT) means to you and your company, it’s past time to get started. But just because you may be behind the DT adoption curve, it’s not time to panic – or take shortcuts when it comes to development and testing.
Mobile app development itself is relatively mature. If you look at mobile app development in human terms, it has gone to college, gotten a degree, moved out of its parents’ house and secured a career-track job.
Testing, however, is still living at home, probably in the garage, where it subsists on beer and chips. While there are some grownups in the testing space, we see many companies still asking employees to test mobile apps on whatever phones they have at hand. We’ve seen the spare phone drawer that some companies keep for app testing.
Not only are these scattershot approaches time-consuming and cumbersome, failing to follow a formal testing process can lower the overall quality and usability of your apps. Think about how many devices are out there. Even if you simply consider the leading OS types – Apple and Android – at least seven different iPhone models have been released in the past three-plus years. And among major producers of Android phones, that number is several multiples higher.
Depending on the market for your app, you still may need to consider Blackberry and Microsoft functionality. There are some distinct device preferences among certain demographic groups that can help companies hone in on what devices to test. Examining your app traffic using Google Analytics or other analytics tools can help companies see what devices its customers are using.
And now, of course, any device, tool or appliance can function as part of the Internet of Things (IoT), which throws new development and testing wrinkles into the digital transformation mix.
Juggling myriad development tasks across platforms, device types and functionalities can easily overwhelm in-house resources and lead to taking development and testing shortcuts that actually slow down both development time and usability.
The phrase we use at Pyramid Consulting to help clients understand is, “Rethink, don’t shrink.” We’ve all gotten frustrated trying to look at a complicated website on our smartphone and have come to realize that websites for mobile devices have to be optimized for that platform.
You can’t take development for one platform and dump it onto another and expect it to work. It must be architected differently to respect the platform and your business objectives. This applies to not only how it looks but to how it performs. Mobile and IoT development are moving more functionality into the middle, the middle tier, that is. More code is being developed and implemented in services and application program interfaces (APIs).
If you try to test applications that implement a more middle-centric approach in the same way you used to test web applications, you will not be successful – or efficient. You need to develop new tricks and new tools. In addition, the back-office connections that allow users to have smooth, satisfying experience are of critical importance but a step that many companies overlook.
The success of your digital transformation will be judged by your customers and your employees – anyone who interacts with your technology. Let these four takeaways guide that transformation:
1. Build for the platform
2. Build for back-office functionality
3. Rethink, don’t shrink.
4. Re-evaluate your testing strategy