A Discussion on DevOps and Assurance: An Interview with Prasad Mk

[interview]
Summary:

Prasad Mk of TCS talks about the driving factors that have impelled companies to implement agile and DevOps. He also delves into some quality assurance best practices, the future of assurance landscape, and effective methods to stay at the forefront of an ever-evolving digital world.

In this interview, Prasad (practice manager for TCS assurance services unit in North America) talks about the driving factors that have impelled companies to implement agile and DevOps, as well as the short and long-term strategies associated with DevOps. He also delves into some quality assurance best practices, the future of assurance landscape, and effective methods to stay at the forefront of an ever-evolving digital world. 

Cameron: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role in TCS?

Prasad: I'm Prasad Mk, currently working with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in the capacity of solutioning and consulting assurance services for telecom, media and high tech customers. I have represented TCS in industry forums like STAREAST, STARWEST, Informatica World and also actively participated in a number of TCS Assurance Webinars. My prior experience has been with global organizations across various industry verticals to transform QA & testing approaches.

Cameron: Okay. Now, let's jump into some questions on agile and DevOps assurance. The first question I have for you is: based on your discussions with customers and the market outlook, what are the driving forces for organizations to adopt agile and to adopt DevOps?

Prasad: Great. I think it's an excellent start with a very good, timely question on what we see in the market. Today, all of us are being impacted by the Digital Five Forces viz. mobility, big data, social media, cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics in some way or the other. These Digital Five Forces are creating a massive opportunity for global organizations to re-imagine the way in which they render business processes and service to their end customers. To achieve this end goal, IT organizations are looking forward to adopt faster and predictable delivery models such as DevOps and agile to stay tuned with this fast-growing digital industry.

Cameron: What role does quality assurance play in DevOps?

Prasad: Organizations today need a guardian who can assure their business objectives be it customer experience, time-to-market or any other. Assurance teams play this role of an active guardian across the value chain, bridging the gaps between development and operations teams and enabling IT teams to deliver business needs. In the DevOps world, assurance looks beyond defect detection and affirming conformance to requirements.

Cameron: That was a very quality answer. As far as art and science go, are they evenly represented in DevOps and what role does assurance play in the blending of these two unique facets of software development?

Prasad: In terms of Digital Reimagination™ and DevOps, definitely the focus is towards perfection. However in reality to achieve such perfection, you need a mix of both art and science. Assurance teams bring in that mix very seamlessly and elegantly to the play.

To give you a few examples, in a typical QA & testing world, release automation is out of the scope and lies somewhere between development and operations teams. But in DevOps, we are seeing assurance teams elevating to play release automation in conjunction with continuous integration thereby leading to continuous delivery. This is a classic example of Assurance teams bringing in innovative tools and processes to engineer quality outcomes.

Another example is the emergence of skill sets in Assurance organizations. The existence of hierarchical organizations which progressed from test director or test manager to test engineers is a thing of the past. In the DevOps world, Assurance organizations constitute roles like dev test ops integrator, service virtualization engineer, which is a classic example of creativity.

To summarize, assurance organizations really bind dev and ops together and drive it to perfection.

Cameron: What do you think are the short-term and long-term assurance strategies that an organization should consider when they are adopting DevOps?

Prasad: From a practitioner’s point of view, the first step is to define the outcome to be achieved through DevOps model. These outcomes should be measurable and tied to business needs.

Once the goal is set, organization can work accordingly and define the foundation in the short term. Foundation for DevOps is a mix of bringing in right skilled resources, creating matrixed organization between DevOps assurance with an appropriate tooling strategy.

In the mid to long term view, organizations should have a sound automation strategy with a focus on automating the entire value chain of assurance and drive continuous delivery. This is where the engineering approach to assurance kicks in.

Last but not the least, change management strategy plays a critical role in driving the adoption of DevOps. It is not limited to short term or long term strategy but is continuous.

These are some of the best practices organizations should adopt in their transformation journey towards DevOps.

Cameron: Are there certain aspects of DevOps assurance that many companies tend to overlook or don’t really leverage properly in order to achieve optimal success?

Prasad: It is imperative for organizations to bring in niche technical skills and specialized assurance roles in order to achieve optimal success. There are many successful organizations which have re-imagined assurance by applying big and innovative thinking.

Cameron: Okay. Can you repeat that a little bit? Assurance in DevOps is the way to get to the next level?

Prasad: Exactly. Assurance plays a very critical role in making organizations successful in DevOps. In fact, I would say it binds both Dev and Ops together to achieve the customer objectives

Cameron: Now, unless, you're just completely unplugged from the world and society as a whole, everyone is pretty familiar with the fact that the digital industry is moving really fast. With that being said, do you have any tips for staying at the forefront of assurance when organizations rely on the digital industry such as cloud, and big data, and mobile, and so forth.

Prasad: I think all the organizations have now realized that digital is the way to go and they are embarking on several initiatives. Couple of tips and best practices that I would like to share. First of all know your customer and their business objectives. It is becoming more and more important for assurance organizations to appreciate and understand the entire value chain or business and correlate the right tools and technologies to it. More importantly, I would like to also emphasize that the newer approaches towards testing like crowdsourcing or looking at a conduit between the production analysis and the test strategy are the key focal areas in ensuring you stay relevant in the digital industry.

Cameron: Can you share some real life examples or instances where your customer has leveraged the assurance lever successfully in the DevOps and agile era?

Prasad: TCS has successfully partnered with many customers to transform their DevOps assurance model. Let me give you two examples. The first one is with an information services company where the customer moved entirely from print to digital. In the advent of this transformation, the assurance group took a lead role because they knew the business, they knew the value chain, so they were able to architect a robust assurance strategy, which was flawless and covered end-to-end on all the nodes, i.e. social media, mobility, or web channels, etc. We saw a great shift in translating the business requirements to IT requirements through various levers brought in by the assurance team.

The second example is a telecommunications company, where the organization was adopting agile and iterative development as well as continuous integration. They chose to adopt the DevOps route as their immediate goal was to establish continuous delivery. Here too, the assurance team brought in the right tool sets to perform configuration management, release automation along with including code quality analysis and build verification to move from continuous integration to continuous delivery.

Cameron: All right. Fantastic. Now interestingly, I’ve noticed something that, TCS, refers to its QA and testing arm as assurance services. What is the rationale or thought process behind this?

Prasad: The reason why we call our offerings, tools and methodology as assurance and not QA and testing is purely because assurance means a lot more than traditional testing. Assurance constitutes employing right skilled teams to unearth fault and not waiting for them to manifest. It is a guardian responsible for assuring right delivery of a product with pristine quality thereby positively influencing superior first-time-right behavior.

To sum it up, assurance is about thinking big and unlocking the business value whereas the traditional processes are about detecting defects late in the lifecycle. We firmly believe and we are passionate about what we do in assurance.

Cameron: Now, you’ve worked with global organizations to set up agile testing practices and testing centers of excellence (CoE), but you’ve also been a proponent of the shift left and early defect detection approaches. Are you still fond of these two methods?

Prasad: I would view it in such a way that the Test CoEs, the assurance CoEs should morph themselves and reimagine themselves to adopt new techniques, new processes which can enable shift left, and institutionalize in the organization. Possessing a CoE doesn’t mean it’s a monolithic organization. It needs to be agile and scalable in this new DevOps model.

Cameron: Okay. Now, lastly before we conclude, could you share your perspective on the future of assurance and where do you see it headed in the next couple of years?

Prasad: The future of assurance is determined by the movement of the market and the market is heading in the direction of customer intimacy, ultimate customer experience, and getting all this right first time in real time. This has resulted in assurance organization rethinking and transforming their services into an intelligent assurance approach by adopting end-to-end test automation. And this we feel will become the new norm for the future.

Cameron: All right. Fantastic. That actually wraps up our interview with Prasad Mk of Tata Consultancy Services. He gave us some quality answers and some quality information on quality assurance and DevOps. Thank you so much, Prasad.

Prasad: Thank you, Cameron. Thanks for your time.

 

Prasad is a career and passionate Assurance (QA & Testing) professional. He is currently a Practice manager in Assurance Services Unit for Tata Consultancy Services(TCS). In his current role, Prasad works closely with organizations in Telecom, Media and HiTech industry verticals to carve assurance strategies addressing their near and long term objectives. He has worked with global organizations to setup Testing Center of Excellences (CoE), Test Automation CoE, Agile Testing practices and championed continuous improvements through Shift Left and Early Defect Detection approaches. He is passionate about transforming QA & Testing organization to a holistic Quality Guardian across SDLC and thereby assuring right Customer Experience. He has managed large Test Organization and published White Papers on SOA Testing, Agile Testing, Digital Product Assurance. He has been a speaker in several industry forums like STAREAST, PSQT and TCS Webinars.

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