Jaspar Casey - 7 April 2021
Over the last year, 69% of boards have reported accelerated digital transformation due to COVID-19. The responsibility for handling these initiatives often ultimately falls at the feet of the Chief Information Officer, or CIO. To understand both the strategic and practical challenges, we spoke to Dan Krantz, CIO of Keysight Technologies. In addition to these challenges, he told us about the shift in priorities and emerging trends that he’s seen over the last year.
The below interview is an abridged version of the three-part video series of Eggplant CMO Candice Arnold’s conversation with Dan Krantz. For context, Keysight first became a customer of Eggplant in early 2020 and then acquired Eggplant in June 2020.
How has Keysight’s approach to digital transformation changed in the last year?
Our digital transformation is all about addressing external customer needs. What started last year as a somewhat chaotic approach to digital transformation has now become a rallying cry for us at Keysight. Our customers are the technology companies, the innovators that are changing the way how the world works, communicates, and moves. With this in mind, our digital transformation needs to cater to these customers in three ways:
We need to change what we offer to them in the first place. Instead of just offering proprietary, high-end hardware, we need a much richer mix of software that integrates with that hardware. This means we can iterate faster and bring new capabilities to our customers at a pace that they now need. For example, look at 5G wireless technology. That is still stabilizing in terms of protocols and standards. We’ve been working on 5G since 2013, and changes to 5G standards that used to happen quarterly are now happening almost daily.
The entire customer journey is being reimagined through digital transformation. Just as we have changed in terms of remote work and engaging digitally, our customers are changing the way they engage their suppliers. Whether it’s discovering our products online and learning about how to do business with Keysight, experiencing a frictionless online transaction, or engaging with post-sales support, the entire customer journey has been examined and streamlined to cater to the ways people want to do business. A major part of this has been rebuilding Keysight.com on Adobe Experience Cloud. Through this process, we found that the most significant dependency was on manual, platform-isolated testing.
To make these first two points successful, we’ve had to change our internal orientation to be digital-first. From product development to sales, fulfilment of orders to post-sales customer service, everything has had to be overhauled with a much more digital-first approach.
What trends do you see forward-thinking CIOs need to be prepared for?
I’m seeing three broad trends that characterize digital transformation in our industry:
First, everyone is trying to figure out how to compress their cycles. Maybe they were delivering value through adding new capabilities in yearly updates, and they need to move to quarterly cycles. Companies accustomed to monthly releases are now trying to move to weekly releases.
Second, as we’ve seen over the last year, we’ve got to be more flexible. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen, and we’ve got to prepare for the unexpected.Finally, we can see that the user experience is shaped by the ease of use coming from consumer technology from Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and Google. They’ve all raised the bar on what it means to use technology in our daily lives in a very intuitive way. It sets expectations for the user experience to be similarly intuitive in B2B contexts as well.
How can companies meet these challenges of speed, flexibility, and user experience?
The only way to go faster is with better automation. One great example is how we used Eggplant to help with a massive enterprise resource planning (ERP) upgrade project. An ERP system is the heartbeat of your internal infrastructure. Every time you touch it you risk months of issues afterwards as you ‘stabilize.’ By intelligently automating testing with Eggplant, we stabilized within weeks of go-live. Automating our test functions resulted in an 80% compression on the ERP stabilization period. We then applied this test automation framework to Salesforce to create end-to-end visibility for our quote-to-cash process. For the first time, we were able to do end-to-end testing of workflows that spanned ERP and CRM systems, which had the dual benefit of compressing release cycles while de-risking these initiatives.
Of course, technology alone won’t solve all speed issues. How you use it is what matters. Shifting to more agile methods is a major contributor to our ability to deliver software faster. However, if you are still human-first in all of your processes within agile, everything will still be slow. When you add automation to the mix, you can really see the benefits of formal agile adoption. Shorter, automated testing cycles are critical to enabling true agile workflows. You’ve got to build into your development pipeline automation of the builds and automation of the tests, focusing on testing what really matters. Because tech stacks are getting so complex, you really don’t have time to do regression testing across your entire stack. You need to test what matters, and you need automation to do that.
Flexibility often means complexity
In terms of flexibility, this involves shifting from monolithic architecture where you’ve got everything in one large, complex system to a disaggregated composable architecture with API-driven information flows. This means being able to make changes to the smaller components as needed to adapt to what’s going on in the marketplace.
The challenge of having this increased flexibility is complexity, and in turn, the much higher degree of possible errors. The cascading effects to your entire composable architecture can be catastrophic. The solution to the flexibility problem is having a more robust ability to test end-to-end across that composable architecture. Eggplant is key to this, as we need to understand potential knock-on effects of changes we make to any particular component.
The importance of responsiveness in user experience
Solving the challenges of creating great user experiences has historically been a real problem. With Eggplant, we discovered that we could measure digital user experiences with our architecture. Better testing of user experience is critical to delivering on the heightened expectations of modern B2B users.
Testing the user experience isn’t just about intuitive, elegant screen layouts. The key to a great user experience is responsiveness. Buttons, forms, and fields need to respond to the swipe of your fingers in an intuitive way. Being able to have your testing measure and verify that the response times of every one of those interactions is at an acceptable level is key to this automation objective. It’s not just about finding and resolving issues; it’s about assurance of the user experience in a smart and measured way.
To hear Dan's full interview with Candice, head to our Youtube page. We've also got an ebook that helps connect the dots between test automation and the business goals that Dan spoke about in the interview.
Finally, if you want to see for yourself how Eggplant can become an integral part of your digital transformation, you can try Eggplant for free.