As the term suggests this simply refers to product management practices applied specifically to the development of digital services and is a great way to approach and drive digital transformation. It cascades top-level executive strategy down through a framework for managing delivery, encompassing aspects like roadmap planning and the required roles and responsibilities to ensure the right tasks are assigned to the right people.
As Brian describes most importantly it encourages people to stop thinking in terms of projects and instead think in terms of products. This is the biggest challenge organizations will face in their digital transformation journey, shifting from a traditional waterfall project approach for implementing technology, to one of Agile DevOps.
As well as technology DevOps also encompasses organisational and team practices, referring to the fusion of previous distinct departmental functions of software development and IT operations, a distinction that often leads to the kinds of challenges that silos usually create. It sets out to break down the artificial boundaries that develop profusely in large, hierarchical organizations, and instead self-organise around a 'delivery pipeline' of the work required to deploy code faster and with fewer errors.
Agile DevOps teams instead focus on the end-to-end process required to deliver new software and organize around these, implementing ‘Business Capability Teams’ - Multi-discipline teams that work together across the entire lifecycle. Brian describes this core dynamic:
“Project managers are tasked with finishing a particular job and then moving on to something else. By contrast, product managers are responsible for the indefinite, long-term care of the product.”
The Role of Testing
For enterprise organisations, it is their scale of complexity that presents the biggest challenge in this transition, with development cycles spanning multiple large departments and functions.
An example of how to manage this transition is the UK’s public sector digital team GDS. For a number of years, they have championed this shift as the key dynamic required to deliver modern, user-centric digital services.
To explain the important role of testing in this new way of working we can refer to some of their excellent resources provided by the DWP team, which explains the detail of the scope required to be truly user-centric.
Most notably it defines testing to feature both software and user testing, including the critical dimension of Accessibility.
In short, the development of digital services that delights users requires both code that works, obviously, and also that addresses the wide spectrum of different access modes and methods they will employ to use the service.
Their guide provides a comprehensive review of both, covering software testing such as the role of automated testing, where they highlight it is not the be-all and end-all, it is essential to also incorporate manual testing to catch what automated tests do not, and also covering Accessibility, with specialisms such as Assistive Testing.
Key standards include the WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which cover a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these.
Hence the role of testing is essential to successful Digital Product Management. Enterprise-scale teams addressing a large and very varied range of users with many different access needs presents a significant complexity to manage.
A shift to DevOps will greatly increase the frequency of software releases and thus the likelihood of more bugs and errors, and the ultimate success factor will be working code that meets this wide spectrum of needs, so robust and expert testing integrated into the pipeline process is paramount.
2i can assist organisations to master this complexity and embed the required quality controls into the DevOps workflow. Our QAT Practice leverages over 15 years of major QAT (QA and Test) implementations across the Public, Commercial and BFSI sectors, offering a centralised service function that provides quality assurance and testing practices, standardised processes, and key shared services to your agile teams. It enables the industrialisation of standard QAT practices and procedures to increase the efficiency of your development value streams.
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