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After two years of rapidly embracing change to meet evolving consumer needs through the initial COVID-19 pandemic, software development organizations are re-evaluating their DevOps practices with longer term goals. Consumers are showing their support for delightful, digital-first experiences with their dollars (or pesos, or yen, or Euros), and successful DevOps adopters are increasingly the companies best able to retain customers with high satisfaction rates. 

Though most people have resumed social activities and in-person experiences, there remains a strong consumer preference for hybrid or digital-first experiences. For example, a customer may want to see a show or have dinner out, but they’ll most likely buy their tickets or make reservations online. That same customer may also prefer to do most of their shopping online, then pick up their order at the store. Companies need to be able to adapt to this new reality by introducing new functionalities to their applications or websites, and be sure that tickets, reservations, and receipts work any time, all the time. Otherwise, they risk permanently losing valuable customers to the competition. 

Connecting Development Practices to Customer Preferences 

Deloitte found that 78% of consumers value convenience even more than they did before 2020, making it one of the most important factors when making a purchase decision. Expanding online shopping and purchasing options, therefore, is paramount to attracting customers in 2023 and beyond. 

In the backdrop of this highly competitive, digital-first reality, it’s not surprising that the 2022 Testing in DevOps Report identified high-velocity software development teams as those with the highest customer satisfaction. According to 560 software testers, developers, product managers, and engineering leaders, quality engineering and continuous delivery were the key differentiators when building better user experiences with DevOps practices. 

Quality Engineering Increases Velocity While Reducing Bugs in Production 

Quality engineering is an evolution of quality management designed to enable critical transformations like DevOps adoption and CI/CD implementation. It’s a testing mindset and discipline that integrates testing early and often in development, creating an environment where developers, QA, and product owners use quality signals to improve the customer experience and development practices. When teams successfully transition to QE, they can better adapt to changing development tactics and consumer preferences with confidence. 

The Testing in DevOps Report found that teams who have adopted quality engineering practices are also the most likely to have accelerated deployment frequency. 

Bar graph showing deployment speed changes by test coverage rankings

Test coverage, a foundational measure of success for the vast majority of software testing teams, was a strong indicator of a development organization’s ability to move faster. There are several reasons for this correlation. For one, test coverage was also closely connected to better collaboration across different functions, especially when it came to investigating and fixing defects. Considering how often development cycles are slowed due to inefficient defect resolution processes, improving this single aspect of development can have a significant impact on deployment frequency.  

Quality engineering adoption also means that software development teams have higher and more accurate test coverage, which allows them to catch bugs earlier in the development cycle. 30% of Testing in DevOps respondents with high test coverage indicated finding bugs before code is merged with the main branch, ensuring that these errors won’t impact customers. In contrast, just 13% of teams with low test coverage are able to catch defects before code is merged. Even though high test coverage teams are deploying faster, they’re much less likely to have unhappy customers dealing with buggy user experiences. 

Continuous Delivery Enables Change Any Time, All the Time

Continuous delivery is a cornerstone of DevOps adoption and CI/CD. It aims to minimize the friction points that are inherent in the deployment or release processes. Typically, a team's implementation involves automating each of the steps for build deployments so that a safe code release can be done at any moment in time. As consumer definitions of convenience evolve, teams who successfully adopt continuous delivery are better positioned to quickly adapt. The Testing in DevOps Report highlights how greater organizational velocity improves customer satisfaction. 

Bar showing the impact of accelerating deployments on customer satisfaction

But as the report also found, this shift rarely happens in a vacuum. Though accelerating deployment frequency benefited most organizations, there was a downturn in customer satisfaction for teams that increased frequency by more than 100 percent. This indicates a need to ensure that faster deployments result in a better customer experience with quality engineering. 

Few organizations illustrate how to successfully adopt quality-centric continuous delivery practices than leading photography platform SmugMug. As the pandemic dramatically shifted how people save, share, and sell their photos, the SmugMug development team was able to deploy “any time, all the time” thanks to quality engineering. Their QA team scaled automated testing to 425 tests, which unlocked faster, more consistent test execution across local runs, cloud runs, and CI/CD headless pipelines. Test engineers implemented automated end-to-end testing, regression tests, and API tests as part of a comprehensive testing strategy that covers the entire user experience. Though the SmugMug user interface is highly dynamic and features hundreds of possible customer journeys, the team is more confidently managing every user experience and delivering updates continuously as customer needs change. 

Building Customer Loyalty With High-Quality Digital Experiences

SmugMug’s journey to continuous delivery showcases how real quality teams are expanding test coverage and the impact of quality engineering. As the leading platform for photographers worldwide, everyone on the development team is focused on delivering high-quality experiences to every user, even as consumer needs shift. Quality engineering and software testing frequently throughout development ensures that developers, product managers, and QA have a measurable barometer of the user experience. But SmugMug is far from alone, as seen in the 2022 Testing in DevOps Report. Development practices like continuous delivery are increasingly tied to customer satisfaction. Without quality engineering, development organizations risk moving faster without that vital connection to users and their impact on company success. 


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