Design, planning, and governance – the three pillars of RPA success

Contributed by Cigniti Technologies.

A robot, by definition, is a machine that mimics and replicates human actions to automate certain activities. Robotic process automation or RPA is a robotic software that employs machine learning to study the exact steps taken by a manual resource to fulfill a task and then perform the same task at much faster pace and much better efficiency.

The manual steps act as the data on which the RPA software feeds and executes the desired action with precision. Its automation capabilities make it capable of performing about 50-60 tasks every day, equivalent to the work of up to five full-time employees. The speed and power of RPA help enterprises achieve scalability and flexibility in production, enabling them to deliver value to their customers at an accelerated pace. The eradication of need for human intervention eliminates the possibility of human errors, thus, offering high level of accuracy in process completion. By reducing the required manual labor and manhours, RPA yields a cost-effective, resource-efficient solution for tedious processes.

RPA is vital for repetitive business processes that are essential but eat valuable time of employees, leaving them exhausted and burnt out to focus on higher priority tasks. Ideal for standard, rule-based steps, RPA is primarily used by the modern enterprises to automate mundane processes such as data entry and validation, record maintenance, calculations and transactions, and more. While RPA brings about 25-50% reduction in overall costs, enterprises should formulate a fitting strategy to guarantee a successful deployment. This demands consideration of three key areas that define the viability of an RPA strategy.

Planning

It is not feasible to automate everything. Human cognition is irreplaceable, and since RPA is only suitable for standard, iterative processes, it is critical to first lay out a detailed plan of why to automate, what to automate, how to automate, and when to automate.

It is required that all the processes are segregated on the basis of how much time does each of them consume. Doing so provides complete visibility of the existing processes as well as time spent per process. Such end-to-end visibility comes handy in prioritizing all the processes as per the value add to the overall business goals. Once the tedious processes are identified and prioritized, they should be standardized in order to ensure proper automation using RPA, as it cannot work optimally on those processes that have additional variables beyond the pre-defined “if, then, else” rules.

Design

With a thorough plan and process visibility, it becomes easy to analyze and determine which set of RPA tools, platform, framework, and infrastructure best fit the identified processes. The RPA architecture should be designed while considering both the process goals and the organizational goals, such that they are in tandem with each other and help organization progress on the optimization scale.

Designing an RPA architecture needs a meticulous strategy that encompasses multiple components such as robotic components library, execution data, logs, and infrastructure, software bots, configuration settings, analytic data, tools and applications, configuration management, and compliance guidelines.

Governance

To make sure that the execution path stays on track of the determined plan and design, governance is crucial. Establishing a Robotic Process Automation Center of Excellence (RPA CoE) enables enterprises to integrate the RPA strategy with the defined processes in such a way that it not only helps achieve accuracy and efficiency, but also allows organizations to scale and succeed in their goals.

Test Automation with RPA

With the advancements in the field of AI, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP), RPA looks even more promising in software testing scenario as it dons the hat of “Cognitive”.

The current IT landscape is mandating adoption of Agile & DevOps methodologies. For enterprises striving to excel in terms of speed, efficiency, and quality, test automation is imperative. As a majority of testing processes are iterative, RPA fits the picture perfectly when formulating a test automation strategy.

This Is How Continuous Testing Supports Digital Transformation

Contributed by Cigniti Technologies.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

Most of the industry professionals are familiar with these lines. Those who are not, can still relate with them for they are still as timeless as they were at the time of their conception. Despite being written almost two decades ago, the Agile manifesto stands true for every innovation happened since, whether its DevOps or digital disruption.

The current IT ecosystem is replete with processes that limit manual labor through automation. Enterprises are actively trying to digitalize their labor-intensive manual tasks to enhance cost effectiveness and ROI. Digital transformation of an enterprise is tremendously promising in terms of improving speed and efficiency, optimizing workflows, and ultimately delivering a better overall user experience.

Forrester defines Digital Transformation as –

Digital transformation is not just about technology; it is about reimagining your company. It is the necessary but challenging journey of operating digital-first with the speed and nimbleness to change or introduce new products and experiences rapidly, exploit technology to create lean operations, and free people to do more complex tasks that create value.

The three main components of Digital Transformation – cloud, big data, and IoT – are facilitating the shift of core values of businesses and catalysing the Industry 4.0. Digital transformation mandates a customer-centric strategy supported by sophisticated technology solutions. Enterprises that incorporate digital solutions to solve the needs of their customers are winning, while those resisting the movement are perishing.

Any disruption that is not controlled, monitored or governed, can become a disaster. For the digital disruption to truly revolutionize business processes, there is a pressing need to establish measures that will ensure a seamless flow of work. Continuous testing can help organizations succeed in their digital transformation initiatives while staying aligned with the overall business processes.

In the pre-Agile and pre-DevOps era, huge organizational barriers were prevalent, creating thick silos between dev and ops teams. Projects used to go on for months, and sometimes years. The development teams used to spend the most time with the project, leaving very less window for testing and operations teams. The bugs and errors present in the code were found at the last minute and were then sent back to the developers for correction. This often jeopardized the entire schedule, resulting in delayed releases, pushed deadlines, costly budget overheads, and angry customers. The IT team was always on the firefighting mode, struggling to deploy a release without causing the existing systems to go bonkers.

With agile accelerating the SDLCs, DevOps breaking the siloed structure, and automation taking over the manual processes, continuous testing is the only thing that remains to complete the puzzle of digital transformation.

A continuous testing approach supports developers to organize, track and manage their CI/CD pipeline in time. It also enables businesses to achieve scalability by ensuring release of glitch-free products. Quality assurance shifts left with continuous testing, as suggested by the Agile manifesto. By shifting left, the errors and risks are identified early in an SDLC, thus leaving ample time to employ corrective measures. When the risks and vulnerabilities are mitigated in the pre-production stage, the post-production and deployment failure chances can be significantly reduced.

Digital transformation needs organizations to be customer-obsessed. Continuous testing allows them to release high-quality software at a rapid pace with almost negligible flaws. As client satisfaction levels are directly related to a product’s quality, continuous testing is absolutely indispensable for organizations to achieve success and scalability.

Cigniti Technologies is hosting a Webinar with Forrester on “Accelerate Digital Transformation with Agile and DevOps Continuous Testing”. Register for the webinar and join the discussion with our guest Diego Lo Giudice, VP and principal analyst from Forrester and Kalyana Rao Konda, President – NA East, Cigniti Technologies.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, for the 4th consecutive year, positions Cigniti Technologies in the Application Testing Services, Worldwide.

For the fourth consecutive year, Cigniti Technologies has been positioned as a “Niche Player” by Gartner Magic Quadrant (2018) for Application Testing Services, Worldwide. Gartner is aware of about 300 companies in this market. This Magic Quadrant assesses 20 of the leading application service providers based on specified inclusion criteria.

This report guides sourcing, procurement and vendor management leaders aiming to make better decisions to select testing service providers.

Cigniti Technologies has been positioned as a “Niche Player” in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Testing Services, Worldwide for the year 2018. Cigniti has been positioned in the Magic Quadrant for 4 years in a row. We believe this recognition emphasizes our ability to assist world class organizations in their quality engineering and digital assurance efforts. While we have invested into testing IP, providing good price points to clients and possess the pool of great talent, we establish great stories around BFSI, Travel, Retail, Airlines, Transportation, Hospitality, Hi-tech and E&U industries.

Download report: https://www.cigniti.com/analyst-commentary-by-gartner/

Everest Group, for the 4th consecutive year, positions Cigniti as the ‘Major Contender’ in Everest Group PEAK Matrix™, 2018.

Cigniti is positioned as “Major contender” in Everest Group PEAK Matrix™ Assessment 2018: Quality Assurance to Brand Assurance: AI Driving the Evolution. This report analyses the changing dynamics of the QA landscape and assesses service providers across several key dimensions.

“As Agile and DevOps models gather steam, the Quality Assurance (QA) function needs to evolve beyond testing and be integrated across the chain to support enterprises’ digital strategies. Cigniti is helping clients achieve their digital objectives by delivering QA services through its combination of people, platforms, and processes. Its flexibility to work with changing requirements is resonating well with clients and helping to deliver consistent quality in its services.” – Everest Group

Download report: https://www.cigniti.com/analyst-commentary-by-everest/#contact

Why is DevOps Transformation recommended for Business Transformation?

Digital Technologies such as IoT, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics are definitely changing the way customer experience (CX) is being delivered and sustained in the current scenario. Practically, Digital Transformation is disrupting every industry vertical with distinct and compelling applications, which are needed for a successful digital strategy. Can DevOps as a process help teams to manage the issues related to digital turbulence?

When it comes to application development and maintenance, DevOps is kind of indispensable. The underlying thought process of DevOps is to enable continuous development, testing, and integration of code within the web and mobile apps. Ultimately, the factors influencing this continuous process is the collaboration of cross-functional teams, organizational workflows, across a technology platform. The overall process further boosts the Application’s Intelligence and enables seamless performance.

Click here to read more.

How can QA deal with the challenges of Digital Transformation?

Can technology cease to surprise customers?

The services delivered by hovering drones, speaking robots, virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa, and smart home devices such as Amazon Echo and Google HOME are no more a surprise element for the end users. Customer expectations are increasing by the day, and it’s getting trickier to deal with these growing demands and ensuring a flawless experience. Quality Assurance (QA) and Software Testing have been enabling organizations to effectively adopt new and emerging digital technologies and ensuring desired customer experience. Hence, leading enterprises and top ranking CIOs are focussing specifically on QA to successfully implement digital transformation initiatives for their business requirements.

Impact of Digital Transformation on QA and Testing

With reference to customer-centric approaches to Digital Transformation, a new study has been conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of consulting firm Ernst and Young LLP (EY). In the report, Yang Shim, EY Americas advisory data and analytics leader for financial services, mentions, ‘An unrelenting focus on the customer allows companies to be innovative while satisfying customer needs and meeting financial criteria such as increasing revenues and profitability. The performance gap is huge between companies that take a more comprehensive and customer-centric approach to digital enterprise transformation and those that focus solely on cost reduction.’

Compelling customer experience is critical for businesses to sustain and compete in the current market scenario. All the possible performance gaps must be mended to ensure that the expected experience is delivered. This becomes an impending challenge for the QA folks, who end up facing a new issue or complication each day. Digital transformation has substantially impacted the way QA and testing are performed, and the expected results achieved.

QA is no more an activity that is conducted towards the end of the development cycle. With adoption of digital technologies, there is a growing need to conduct continuous testing and continuous integration. This implies that testing and development has to be a collaborative activity rather than testing being a sequel to the development process. Speed with quality is the need of the hour, which has influenced the way QA and testing are being conducted. Agile and DevOps practices are being adopted to ensure flexibility and accuracy for testing.

These practices can be implemented and results can be expected, but it is equally critical to set some ground rules to deal with the challenges that are thrown by the digital transformation initiatives.

How to not get blown by the Digital Transformation wave?

Digital transformation can be overwhelming for many organizations, as it impacts the functioning of almost every entity within the system. It can definitely help if certain fundamentals or protocols are established to deal with the uncertainties caused by digital initiatives. For instance, assume that a traditionally operating organization decides to go digital and adopt application-based mapping of various functions. It might create uncertainty and chaos. But if there are certain ground rules and processes set for the transition, it can definitely help in the process and ensure quality.

Create new roles for Testing

As the testing needs change, new roles are created to manage distinct functions and business operations. Roles such as Software Development Test Engineers (SDETs) are being created to address some fresh needs. These new roles are necessarily a bridge between development and testing, boosting collaboration between the two functions. Creation of these roles must be encouraged, as it will ensure business value and bring maturity to the quality assurance process.

As digital initiatives of an organization increase, the demand for these roles will only rise. Quality assurance will become much more integral to the organization’s functioning and existence.

Address the talent gap

Taking a cue from the last point, it can be accepted that digital transformation initiatives will need inventive ways for resolving issues and bugs. A tester with traditional ways might not be in a position to deal with such offbeat issues. Hence, organizations will have to train and retrain their resources to develop the IT skills and expertise to deal with the new technologies and support the transformation process. Nurturing new practices could be the best possible way to deal with random changes within an organization.

Quality Transformation for smooth Digital Transformation

If quality has to be ensured throughout the organization, it is important to implement quality transformation initiatives. This implies that there are set protocols and schedules to deal with regular quality hassles. It will ease out the excessive one-time efforts for teams to resolve issues and make it a seamless process to follow.

Leverage Test Automation platforms, bring velocity

If you need speed, you need automation. Organizations are leveraging Test Automation platforms to smartly address their testing requirements. It further helps them to achieve their DevOps and agile goals, and bring down their testing efforts. Digital transformation needs substantial amount of automation, hence, it is recommended to select a tool that fits your IT requirements.

Encourage Feedback mechanism

Digital technologies can work for you if there are open communication channels and the feedback loop is kept active. Swift inclusion of feedback is a key aspect in the digital evolution of any business. Approaches such as shift-left encourage teams to incorporate the feedback and even enable organizations to identify issues way ahead in the development cycle.

Over a period of time, organizations have realized that digital transformation cannot be successful without an overall business transformation. Every function of an organization must amicably deal with the changes caused. Business transformation is practically impossible without implementation and adherence to rules and protocols. That’s the way QA and testing can deal with the mushrooming challenges posed by digital technologies.

Can there be a permanent and definite solution? Guess not.

Google’s Home, Amazon’s Alexa; How proficiently is AI evolving?

Submitted by Cigniti Technologies

Virtual Assistants and Voice-First Devices are trending through the news stories. With millions of units being sold, they are definitely one of the most sought-after tech toys for your home. Incidentally, Amazon Alexa has crossed over 10 million unit sales and has added new devices such as Echo Show and Echo Dot to the list. At the same time, Google has added the Google Mini to team up with the original Google Home. Apple’s HomePod, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana are also some of the other names floating in the voice-first devices space.

These devices come in at relatively affordable prices, hence are getting trendier and popular amongst kids as well as adults. While everything holds true, it’s important to understand how this segment evolves and what could be some of the inherent challenges going ahead.

These devices work with applications that are being built by major tech brands across various industries such as media, retail, travel, entertainment, and banking, to name a few. Applications running these voice-first devices make all the difference by creating interactions that are smarter and appealing. For the record, Gartner has estimated that the worldwide spending on virtual personal assistants (VPA) enabled wireless speakers will be over $2 billion in the next three years. Hence, a lot will be left to the applications to deliver and make the experience flawless.

Always-ON, and Always-Listening

The voice-first smart devices are designed to stay conversational and are always on a listening and responding mode. This makes the business tricky, where there is a constant effort to make the experience better and error-free. Digital assurance and testing will positively have a significant part to deliver in building applications that not only perform as expected, but also stay functional during unforeseen circumstances. Performance and security are key for delivering the desired consumer experience with voice-driven assistants and devices.

There were reports where Amazon Alexa recorded a family’s conversation secretly and sent it to a random person on their contact list. Now, how embarrassing and dreadful this can be! Along with best voice and interactive experience, a lot of focus has to be laid on securing the interactions and sensitive information from hackers or probing bodies that are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities. Along with performance testing, security specialists have a significant role to play to check for gaps and ensure that the information stays within limits.

Automation can assure Quality

A high performing and secure interface can be delivered with rigorous testing. However, this is impossible without automating the testing efforts and using testing frameworks and test suites. It is highly business critical that any bugs or gaps in the application are found before the users find them. Automation of testing processes not only ensures that the bugs are eliminated way ahead in the testing cycle, but also supports real-time updates with effective quality assurance. This helps brands to deliver innovative solutions to the consumers with much needed confidence.

The questions that could occur to the users must be answered in advance. This will ensure holistic completion of the task. With voice-driven devices the underlying technology is speech-to-text that goes from voice stream to text, and accesses the required sources for the requested information. The response totally depends on the user’s ‘spoken’ inputs. Assuring quality needs a lot of work, with building an effective test strategy by understanding the architecture of the device and ultimately the deliverables.

The testing strategy can involve various types of testing, namely, unit testing, system testing, integration testing, performance testing, endurance testing, and security testing. It will largely depend on the requirement and the level at which the application is currently held up. For instance, the Automated Voice Testing (AVT) approach will use a speech recognition engine to manage and test the conversation, the way it would happen in the real world scenario. These tests are important for any kind of voice application that could run on any device.

AVT has been applied for testing Alexa, Google Home applications, as well as voice-driven websites and virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana, OK Google, and even for automated communications. Automated testing of these applications will help to confirm the performance and sustainability of these devices in the real world, where the pressure will be high. There could be multiple voices to recognize and multiple queries to answer.

Enhanced Customer Experience will drive growth

Virtual Assistants such as Siri, Alexa, are OK Google have been household names for a while now. Lately, even Voice-first devices have gone mainstream and are hitting the households like any other house appliance. This is bound to create an impact on the daily lives of the users, which can be a sensitive affair. Hence, testing the software and devices for flaws and gaps is even more critical.

Moreover, thanks to the constant interactions, there has to be relentless innovation in the service. Even the competition is expected to get intense with local players coming in. The only key to success is to crack the expected and the desired consumer experience. An aggregate of the total experience will translate into success and sustainability in the marketplace for Voice-first devices.

Why is DevOps Adoption a must for any Enterprise to Survive?

Written by Subhendu Pattnaik, Director, Marketing, Cigniti Technologies

Enterprises operating across sectors need to ensure that they maintain an effective balance between speed and quality. They must rush ahead and beat the competition to tap the right consumer segment. However, this has increased stakes and has made the market scenario much more complex and demanding. With faster time-to-market, even the software quality requirements have hit the roof. Practically, there is no room for error, knowing that it can tarnish brands and lower business value. Enterprises are encouraging development and testing teams to implement contemporary tools, frameworks, and methodologies to boost efficient deployment of software and applications.

Correspondingly, DevOps has evolved as a software and testing approach over the years, and has been a preferred practice due its intrinsic benefits and features. The idea of DevOps is to bring Development and IT Operations together and encourage more and more collaboration between various functions. Hence, it’s not merely a practice that confines itself to a project or application development process; it can be an absolute game changer for the entire organizational set-up. It is a key reason for DevOps emerging to be a chosen approach and gaining significance over the years.

What are the core features of DevOps?

As Gartner states in the context of DevOps and its growing popularity, “Interest in DevOps and agile development methods continues to be fuelled by business demands for IT to be delivered faster and with greater agility.”

DevOps has emerged from the idea of Agile development and addresses the intense need for frequent releases and a fast changing market scenario. While more collaboration is critical, the role of DevOps is to enable Continuous Development and Continuous Delivery. Consequently, this results in faster time-to-market, shorter lead time, and consistent delivery of releases, and ensures that the application is ready for a release anytime during the development cycle.

Automation and constant monitoring at every level in software development is a growing need and the DevOps movement strongly advocates the same. Factors such as continuous testing, continuous integration, and continuous deployment are intrinsic to the DevOps methodology. It enables shorter development cycles, accelerates deployment frequencies, and makes the software release process more and more dependable. DevOps ensures that the quality of the software release is consistently maintained and is intact, thereby supporting enterprises to meet their set business objectives regularly.

The overall DevOps process cohesively works towards facilitating teams with Continuous feedback and improvement even in production, enables automated release testing, Continuous Integration testing, and Continuous Planning. In the Build and Test phase during Agile sprints, DevOps effectively supports automated tests for front-end, middle tier and backend validations. In this way, quality check-gates are created and maintained at every stage of the software testing cycle.

Cigniti has helped clients achieve quality benefits by providing services that comprise automated and continuous quality monitoring, automated provisioning of virtualized test environments, standardized processes, templates, and guidelines & checklists for DevOps.

Reasons Enterprises cannot ignore the trends in DevOps

Diego Lo Giudice, Vice President, Principal Analyst serving Application Development & Delivery Professionals at Forrester states, “Testing lies at the heart of the Continuous Delivery pipeline. That’s why I use the term “DevTestOps.” You have to automate unit tests, functional tests, process tests, performance tests—and code gets kicked back if expectations are not met.”

2016 observed some considerable rate of DevOps adoption and QA transformation. Market challenges and the need for digital transformation substantially revolutionized the application development process. Consequently, organizations had to adopt new practices to bring profitability, sustainability, and innovation. DevOps supports businesses to adapt to such rapid changes and at the same time ensure performance. By adopting the same, businesses sustain and stay upbeat in the competitive market scenario.

DevOps methodology has been implemented across diverse industry domains: for building financial applications, ecommerce shopping sites, banking applications, for developing software to support a logistics firm, and much more. Performance is a common demand, and the practices of Continuous Testing and Development are much needed factors.

Moreover, it is important that organizations imbibe more and more agility and flexibility in their development process to ensure speed, quality, and innovation. It is unimaginable that DevOps can operate without the required flexibility.

DevOps roadmap puts forth some compelling aspects that organizations need to be harnessed to stay competitive in the challenging market scenario. It offers an exploratory roadmap where software development and testing can experiment in various patterns and keep on improvising the mechanisms. For instance, software applications are broken down into fragments for development and testing, followed by integration. This speeds up the overall development cycle and ensures faster time-to-market with required quality standards.

There is a simple formula that DevOps adopts: Fail-First, Fail-Fast, and Fail-often. This has been helping teams to experiment more to derive the required outcome. A gaming application cannot be built without failing frequently and testing consistently. In a way, Continuous Testing and Deployment powers the application development process and brings more agility.

In a Test-driven Development (TDD) scenario where there are shorter test cycles and failure is the solution for robust code development, DevOps is an essential approach to consider. Businesses are pushing for agile and software-based methods for infrastructure operations. DevOps and Open-source software are expected to support organizations to programme their infrastructure and even develop products concurrently. Eventually, this will give way to the concept of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) in the DevOps scenario, which can be an absolute enabler for quicker deployment of software.

The adoption rate of DevOps will increase, as it will reduce the turnaround time and the role of operations will subside in the near future. This will help enterprises to expand their digital experience and bring down the costs. On similar lines, there are discussions happening around testing, security, and quality metrics that will intensify in the DevOps scenario.

Perspective on DevOps that enterprises must consider

IDC believes that DevOps will be adopted (in either practice or discipline) by 80% of global 1,000 organizations by 2019.

Applications are getting more and more complex, which means there are added risks and security concerns to be considered and tackled. The vulnerability of the code in the virtual world will only increase. Enterprises will continue to adopt DevOps to bring more flexibility in the code development process and ensure quality. DevOps will support organizations to test the applications in a modular pattern and minimize the risks against any malicious cyber activity.

Automation and early testing will become a norm that cannot be ignored by enterprises. Enterprises will also have to adopt hybrid structure for development and testing, which also involves Cloud infrastructure, testing frameworks, tools, and IP-led platforms. DevOps will help enterprises to adopt these diverse trends and practices to deliver as per market expectations.

Cigniti’s CI testing experts boast of a rich experience in Continuous Integration testing and can configure and execute popular CI tools such as Agile GO, Cruise Control, Chef, Puppet, Microsoft TFS, Jenkins, Bamboo, Hudson and so on, helping the DevOps teams of its clients.

DevOps as a process is growing in complexity, and it has forced many organizations to employ tools that enable more control and transparency of the various metrics. However, there are definite chances that this will change with more consolidation and evolution of DevOps implementation tools.

All things considered, DevOps will only grow and mature as a methodology in the coming years. There will be an intended focus on monitoring its metrics and exploring factors that are intrinsic to the ideology. While the industry continues to redefine DevOps, it will be adopted and preferred for the business value it brings to the table.