Todd Pierce Contributor
Todd Pierce is the former chief digital officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and former executive vice president of operations and mobility for Salesforce.com.
Software isn’t “eating the world.” It’s feeding the world, healing the world, educating the world and bringing the world’s top minds together to solve our most challenging problems. At least that’s what I’ve witnessed while leading digital transformation initiatives across organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Genentech and Rock Health.
I am passionate about scaling innovation to create a world that is healthier and more equitable. With the converging forces of nearly global mobile connectivity, unbelievable advances in development productivity and the rise of organizations committed to bringing philanthropy into the digital age, the planets are aligned in a way that software can truly make the world a better place.
How? Well, by 2025, 95 percent of the planet will be connected on a mobile platform. I’m fascinated by this because it enables unprecedented access to the world’s poorest people. It unlocks amazing opportunities to solve problems, even in places with limited infrastructure and access to information.
For example, I recently worked on a project in Bihar, India, which probably won’t have sufficient medical infrastructure within my lifetime. Millions of babies are born there each year… but they have fewer than 50 OB-GYNs. There’s no way that we can train enough medical professionals to meet the demand and then transport them out to Bihar. However, with mobile health initiatives, we can remotely serve the women and families there — reducing the number of mothers who die in childbirth and improving the health of the babies being born.
Unfortunately, even the most promising IT projects don’t always yield the desired outcome. Every CIO I know has seen large-scale, board-visible projects suffer from massive delays — or flat out cancellation — due to late-cycle discovery of fundamental issues that they simply couldn’t “patch later.”
Across industries, this puts the organization at risk of falling behind more innovative and agile competitors. It inevitably places that CIO’s reputation and employment at risk. And in many industries, it can truly change lives. It’s not uncommon for a delayed rollout to impact economic opportunities in a community. And in my industry — opening access to lifesaving healthcare and services — it really can be a matter of life or death.
Many people are surprised when I suggest that something as banal as software testing can have a tremendous impact on our ability to scale and accelerate innovation. But it’s true: developer productivity has already advanced by several orders of magnitude since 2000, but testing has hardly evolved at all. Most organizations are still focused on manual testing and script-based testing… even though they’re not delivering the desired results in terms of speed and risk. This is the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.
The planets are aligned in a way that software can truly make the world a better place.
If we really want to maximize the impact of innovation, we need to make testing faster, better and cheaper. As long as I’ve been in the profession, the joke has always been “faster, better, cheaper — pick two.” However, if we open our minds to reinventing testing, we’ll discover that these trade-offs are no longer necessary. In fact, once you start making software testing better and faster, it organically becomes cheaper.
To make software testing better, it’s important to have advanced automation, which I like to call “precision testing.” Precision medicine uses a deep genetic understanding of a person’s specific condition to select the optimal treatment. Likewise, precision testing truly understands the application being tested and uses this understanding to test it in the optimal way.
To make software testing faster, we need to democratize and dramatically simplify testing. As we continue to ramp up the pace of innovation, it will be impossible to keep up unless we adopt test automation approaches such as no-code/low-code testing and autonomous testing.
To make software testing cheaper, we need to reduce the amount of effort and rework that it involves. Approximately 40 percent of an organization’s application development budget is spent on testing. As we make software testing faster, cheaper will be a natural side effect.
This is all within our reach today; we just have to commit to making the change. Everything is finally aligned for us to achieve the true potential of technological innovation. Will we rise to the challenge, or let the opportunity pass us by?
Let me leave you with this final thought. If you build a mile of road, you can go a mile. This is like manual testing and script-based testing. You can only go so far with it… plus it soon erodes and requires constant attention that delivers no incremental value. But if you move to precision testing, scriptless testing and more efficient testing — if you’re really ready to make testing the catalyst for digital transformation and help realize the true potential of technological innovation — you’re building a runway. And after that small investment, you can go anywhere.Featured Image: maciek905/Getty Images