Quality Assurance

How to Mitigate Against a Cloud Implementation Storm

Overview

Migrating to a new cloud service not only requires evaluating and finding the right cloud partner that meets your requirements, but also ensuring that your infrastructure and processes are ready to integrate with the new service.

A hasty or ill-prepared launch into a new cloud service could negatively impact your existing processes never mind absorb a lot of time, effort and cost to remediate if things don’t go well first time.

As with all IT implementations a cloud migration needs to meet the business goals and the best way to measure whether the business goals have been satisfied is to have a clear quality assurance delivery programme.

At ChallengeCurve we have compiled the 5 key areas for which a cloud migration programme team should consider to ensure a smooth transition to a cloud service:

5 Key Areas

Cloud Requirements

  • Is the cloud business case clearly defined and scoped?
  • Are the business benefits and ROI viable and achievable? How have they been validated?
  • Are the business requirements defined and complete? Are they succinct, unambiguous, traceable and verifiable?

 

Cloud Engagement Options

  • Have you investigated and compared the different cloud models?
  • Have you investigated vendors and their service maturity: reporting, capacity, change management, incident management, financial management, service level management?
  • Have you scoped and targeted your existing or new systems to be considered for cloud migration? Have you considered business criticality and the sensitivity of data to migrate?

Cloud Acceptance Criteria

  • Have you reviewed your current operation procedures and identified the points of integration with the cloud services?
  • Have you reviewed your existing SLA targets?
  • Have you defined a new enterprise wide SLA framework for the cloud services to work within?
  • Have you define the business acceptance criteria for the new or amended business processes supported by the target cloud services? How will the vendor demonstrate meeting these criteria?
  • Does your operational team have the right skills to maintain and operate the interfaces with the cloud service?

Cloud Contracts

  • Availability. What is the cloud uptime? What is in the cloud SLA?
  • SLA Penalty. What is the consequence for downtime?
  • Performance. What performance load can be supported?
  • Data Security. How secure is your data?
  • Cloud service usage. How are you charged for the cloud service?
  • Cloud termination. How do you get your data back out and how long will it take?
  • Service amendments. Can the vendor change their service post signed contract?

Cloud Acceptance Test

  • Have you identified the implementation stages to the cloud migration?
  • What data migration checks can be applied to each migration stage?
  • Have you defined a set of cloud service termination and exit tests? How will you extract your business data and processes from the cloud vendor on termination?
  • Have you create a migration test plan, prioritising test scenarios by business criticality and risk?

 

Summary – Critical Success Criteria

  • Senior management are committed to the delivery of the cloud service. They are involved throughout the implementation
  • Enterprise service levels and service operation manuals are updated incorporating the new cloud service. These are reissued to the appropriate help desk and service support teams with training
  • Business process guides are updated to clearly define responsibilities and handoffs between the organisation and the cloud service provider
  • Business and IT regression test suites are continually maintained with each change or cloud service update
  • Cloud exit tests are performed as part of the enterprise business continuity plan to ensure the company is mitigated against potential risks

What Should Board Executives Know About Their IT Operation?

As featured on LinkedIn

In the last few weeks there have been several major IT related incidents that have put the boards of major companies in the spotlight. These organisations have made the front-page news for all of the wrong reasons as these incidents have damaged the reputation of their companies, wiped billions off their share price and when the dust settles may take more than one CEO’s scalp.

 

Clearly, this is a wake-up call to other executives out there who may be wondering whether something similar could happen to their organisation. Of course it could!

 

Those executives who may find comfort in the art of delegation and feel insulated by a few layers of management between them and their technical colleagues may find it a bit of a shock when they are the ones being asked for their company’s policy on data security. I’d recommend any of them to talk to Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk and ask how she felt when she didn’t know whether her customers’ data was encrypted or not when interviewed by the media.

 

So what should the members of the board actually know about their company IT operations? After all, the profits of most companies are made greater through the use of technology – be it increased sales distribution channels (web, mobile, call centre) and increase efficiencies via process automation. It’s only fair that executives have more than a passing knowledge of how their engine room operates.

 

At ChallengeCurve we have compiled the 5 key areas for which all board members should have clear understanding and know who in their organisation has responsibility for each item. These areas have a focus on quality assurance and governance and are taken from our CurveQA framework.

 

Data
•Where is your sensitive client, business and employee data stored?
•Which organisations (internal or external) have responsibilities to control and process this data?
•Are you adhering to European Data Protection Directive rules to protect personal data?
•Do you have a defined statement and justification on what personal data is being captured and how it is to be processed?
•Do you have personal data processing contracts in place with all external and affiliated member companies, defining data owner, controller and data processing responsibilities?
•Who is responsible in your organisation for managing personal and sensitive data and setting and controlling policies?

 

Security
•Is sensitive data encrypted at point of rest (stored in a database), in transit (data that is being transferred) and in use (data being processed)?
•What level of security testing including independent penetration testing is being performed? How frequently is it checked?
•Do you have an employee data security policy in place detailing appropriate rules for maintaining employee and customer data as well as policies for social media use?
•Do you have a standard security training process for all new employees and is there a frequent refresh for all employees?
•Do you have a centrally defined policy for monitoring and managing all data breaches with clear guidelines and procedures for preventative/minimise data breaches, controlling a breach and escalation?
•Do you have a clear process for communicating with our customers, partners and regulatory bodies in the event of a breach?

 

Regulations
•What external regulations must be adhered to: HIPAA, PCI DSS, ISO27001, etc.?
•What is the cycle of these regulation audits?
•What where the major findings from the last audit that need to be addressed? Are they being address?

 

Business Continuity
•Do you have an up to date business risk assessment? How frequently is it reviewed?
•Do you have an up to date business continuity plan? How quickly can this be activated and be operational?
•When did you last perform a full disaster recovery test? How frequently is this performed?
•What critical SLAs must be maintained in a disaster?

 

Governance
•Do you have a central change control board?
•Do you have full traceability and audit of all changes to critical IT systems & hardware?
•Is there an incident management and issue/risk escalation process in place? Is it being followed?
•Are there governance processes in place that are verifying business changes from business case definition, business requirements definition through to build and implementation?

 

The welfare and the growth of your company should be paramount. These are not areas where you can abdicate all understanding and responsibility onto others. If your organisation does have a major impact you may wish that you had paid a bit more attention.

Trying to Shift Left but Sliding Right?

Overview

 

Delivering high-quality code into production faster, cheaper and more efficiently has always been a primary objective of the software delivery process. Recent initiatives such as Shift Left, where the focus of testing effort is moved upstream closer to business design, has gained widespread popularity and adoption. However, for some organisations there has actually been a reverse trend where the User Acceptance Testing phase has increased in scope and size. How can this be? What are the circumstances behind this trend?

 

In this whitepaper we discuss the real situation in which many organisations find themselves and some techniques on how they can start to Shift Left.

 

Please contact info@challengecurve.com if you would like a copy.

 

CEOs take note: “Is there a Code Cheat in your products?”

As featured on LinkedIn.

 

The recent Volkswagen’s emissions scandal when a “Code Cheat” was placed in the software of diesel cars has resulted in the departure of former CEO Martin Winterkorn, a 30% fall in VW’s share price and a criminal investigation. But it has also created an important precedent:

 

CEOs are ultimately accountable for the source code of their products.

 

The boards of major corporates are handsomely paid; they enjoy the perks and trappings of high office and are trusted by employees, shareholders and customers alike to create sustainable returns by providing products and services that meet consumer needs.

 

Corporate boards deal with strategic issues, shareholder meetings and 3 year plans so the world of bits and bytes in computer code is a long way from the boardroom. Computer code is “deep techie stuff” and has no place on the agenda of corporate board meetings – until now.

 

Martin Winterkorn denies any knowledge of wrongdoing on his part but ignorance is no excuse as he has found out to his cost. The incident at Volkswagen may have left other CEOs worrying if something similar could happen to them. If not, then they should be.

 

What could Martin Winterkorn have done differently to have quickly determined who was responsible for the “Code Cheat” within the fleet of diesel cars rolling off the production line? What would he now give to have had complete traceability of the source code – who specified the designs, who wrote the code, who tested it, who implemented it? If the proper processes were in place then this information should have been available to him within minutes so that he could have quickly found those responsible and taken the appropriate action. It is because he didn’t have this information that he had to assume the responsibility for this scandal and resign.

 

Perhaps if the lines of computer code were given the same scrutiny as the figures on the company ledger then this episode may not have happened? Every financial transaction that organisations conduct can be traced and tracked. Independent auditors scrutinise the books before signing off on company accounts so perhaps we need the same independent diligence for scrutinising a company’s software code?

 

Organisations often feel that investing in independent Quality Assurance and Testing is a costly overhead or a commodity service for which the lowest tender wins the contract. Given the VW incident many companies may now take a greater interest in the hygiene of their computer code – after all, a 30% fall in the share price and a class action lawsuit due to some errant computer code is going to make the agenda in most boardrooms.

 

Are you heading for a Cloud thunderstorm?

Having a QA and testing framework while selecting and implementing a cloud service can help you avoid a lightning strike.

The traditional role of a CIO, the company’s steward of all things technical, is shifting as the business part of the organisation becomes more tech savvy and more demanding. Business is taking control by engaging directly with vendors who are offering on-demand services and promising more value at less cost and more quickly than the internal IT department. As a consequence business is effectively bypassing their IT colleagues in a growing trend known as ‘Shadow IT’. Why engage the internal IT department to define a solution on your behalf when there are ready made Cloud based solutions that can satisfy your needs?

Our second whitepaper, co-sponsored with the Cloud Industry Forum, is now available. Please contact info@challengecurve.com if you would like a copy.

The Changing Currency of Business Value

Overview

“Delivering value to the business” is not just the mantra of every IT Department – it is their raison d’etre. Yet often the Business may feel that their internal IT Department is too slow, often late or too expensive in delivering new systems and maintaining existing ones. Recent survey statistics on the amount of projects that end in failure confirm this [1]

 

Project-Stats-01

 

Clearly, the Business feels that it is not getting value for money. There is a growing trend, known as Shadow IT, where the Business deliberately bypasses their internal IT department to engage directly with service suppliers in an effort to gain benefits more quickly. The provisioning of Cloud-based and “Software as a Service” models makes it very tempting for the Business to procure new applications. Yet often the IT department will end up having to manage the new service in terms of maintaining user access controls, backups of data, etc. It is too early for the demise of the IT department but there has been a loss of confidence and trust in the IT department’s ability to deliver business value.

 

What can the Business and IT do to address this perception? How can IT not only deliver more value to the business but also be seen to deliver more value?

 

This whitepaper examines why the quality of an end product or service often falls short of expectation and how the definition of business value changes currency at each delivery stage. This “value currency exchange” leaves the delivery open for loss of value to occur. The paper concludes with recommendations on how organisations can maximise the efficiency of their value currency exchange.

 

[1] Raconteur. http://raconteur.net/business/how-to-spot-the-signs-of-a-failing-project

 

Please email info@ChallengeCurve.com for a copy of the white paper.

Time for a new QA framework?

Too often Quality Assurance has been seen as a drag to organisations – at best it’s a box ticking process that is a burden to complete and in the worse case scenario it stifles innovation and gets in the way of the real work. Time for QA to change?

We think so. We set up ChallengeCurve to enable organisations to embrace change and to be innovative by providing them with the right QA harness to confidently experiment and to try out new ideas.