We Asked IT: Your Digital Safety Guide

We Asked IT: Your Digital Safety Guide

‘Tis the season for Holiday Joy and reinvigorated email scam attempts. Here are a few tips from IT to avoid falling into a trap and inadvertently sending scammers personal information or even compromising Bidtellect itself. Almost all attacks are thwarted by simply applying a little dose of intuition and logic. If it doesn’t make sense, you should question it before providing any information.

Email Phishing

Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals send an email that appears to be from a legitimate company and ask you to provide sensitive information.

Always think twice before clicking the links in emails:

The people who are sending phishing emails have to be clever email marketers to get the user to engage. They often do this by preying on your emotions. You should be generally reluctant to download any attachments or click any links, no matter how innocuous they seem or who appears to have sent them. If you are going to download an attachment or click a link in an email, be sure you know who it is from and that the email was not spoofed. If our google email account puts an email in your spam folder but it looks like it is from someone legitimate, you should definitely be suspect of spoofing. There is usually a reason Google’s Spam Logic moved it to spam. If you are unsure, please reach out to IT for assistance. We can help you check the email headers to sniff out any spoofing. The scammer/phishers goal is to find ways to wreak havoc inside the company infrastructure, including propagating malware, turning the systems into botnets, stealing private company information and most often stealing corporate banking information for the purpose of taking money.

Consider the Source:

As a standard rule, we should never email anyone within Bidtellect, both to and from, a non @bidtellect.com email account. Our Google Email accounts have security measures in place to help avoid spam and spoofing but there are ways around everything. From an IT security point of view, private emails should never be used for any business communications unless explicitly directed to do so by the receiving executive. And even then it should be communicated in person or by another trusted and secure method prior to sending an email. 

Sometimes “spoofers” will send an email that looks to be from a legitimate address, but when you press reply, the email recipient is no longer the legitimate email address. Example: Email from charlotte@bidtellect.com arrives, you hit reply and then the TO field is scammer@abc.com. Google spam usually catches these as the names do not match. It seems like a silly scam, but it is easily overlooked. Usually the goal of spoofing is to gain access to banking information or trick an employee into sending payment to an illegitimate source.

 

 

So what can you do?

First, scrutinize the address it says it came from and the text of any URLs it contains to weed out theboss@apple.com from theboss@app1e.com. If the source is legit, but the text is out of character, ask yourself, “Would my boss really send me this email?” Again, if something feels weird about an email that someone you know sends, especially if it has a request in it, bear in mind there’s a distinct possibility they’ve been hacked. Reach out to them separately and ask if they sent you an email.

 

Types of Email Phishing

Phishing scams vary widely in terms of their complexity, the quality of the forgery, and the attacker’s objective. Several distinct types of phishing have emerged.

Deceptive Phishing:

These are the most common types of email scams. The sender will attempt to mimic or clone an official Company or Vendor that we do business with. An example would be an email from someone that is pretending to be a Paypal Employee asking for sensitive information and provides a link in the body of the email. The Link text may display as “paypal.com/123123” but when you highlight the link or click on it you are redirected to a fake website such as “friendpalpay.com/123456”. The fake site may even look just like a real web page and request you to fill out digital forms that send your information to not so good people.

 

Spear Phishing:

Phishing attacks directed at specific individuals, roles, or organizations are referred to as “spear phishing”. Since these attacks are so pointed, attackers may go to great lengths to gather specific personal or institutional information in the hope of making the attack more believable and increasing the likelihood of its success. The best defense against spear phishing is to carefully, securely discard information (i.e., using a cross-cut shredder) that could be used in such an attack. Further, be aware of data that may be relatively easily obtainable (e.g., your title at work, your favorite places, or where you bank), and think before acting on seemingly random requests via email or phone.

 

Executive Fraud:

These phishing attacks (usually spear phishing)  are directed specifically at executive officers or other high-profile targets within a business, government, or other organization. Scammers typically target the financial departments by either pretending to be an Executive asking the Finance Team to provide information or the reverse where they pretend to be the Finance Team asking the Executive for information.

 

General Web Security Reminders

Verify a Site’s Security:

It’s natural to be a little wary about supplying sensitive financial information online. As long as you are on a secure website, however, you shouldn’t run into any trouble. Before submitting any information, make sure the site’s URL begins with “https” and there should be a closed lock icon near the address bar. Check for the site’s security certificate as well. If you get a message stating a certain website may contain malicious files, do not open the website. Never download files from suspicious emails or websites. Even search engines may show certain links which may lead users to a phishing webpage which offers low cost products. If the user makes purchases at such a website, the credit card details will be accessed by cybercriminals.

Keep Your Browser Up to Date:

Security patches are released for popular browsers all the time. They are released in response to the security loopholes that phishers and other hackers inevitably discover and exploit. If you typically ignore messages about updating your browsers, stop. The minute an update is available, download and install it. Chrome and most browsers automatically download and install security patches unless you have disabled it.

 

Be Wary of Popups:

Pop-up windows often masquerade as legitimate components of a website. All too often, though, they are phishing attempts. Many popular browsers allow you to block pop-ups; you can allow them on a case-by-case basis. If one manages to slip through the cracks, don’t click on the “cancel” button; such buttons often lead to phishing sites. Instead, click the small “x” in the upper corner of the window.

Never Give Out Personal Information:

As a general rule, you should never share personal or financially sensitive information over the Internet. This rule spans all the way back to the days of America Online, when users had to be warned constantly due to the success of early phishing scams. When in doubt, go visit the main website of the company in question, get their number and give them a call. Most of the phishing emails will direct you to pages where entries for financial or personal information are required. An Internet user should never make confidential entries through the links provided in the emails. Never send an email with sensitive information to anyone. Make it a habit to check the address of the website. A secure website always starts with “https”.

Reputable organizations will never use email to request that you reply with your password, full Social Security number, or confidential personal or business information. Be suspicious of any email message that asks you to enter or verify personal or business information, through a website or by replying to the message itself. Never reply to or click the links in such a message. If you think the message may be legitimate, go directly to the company’s website (i.e., type the real URL into your browser) or contact the company to see if you really do need to take the action described in the email message.

 

Remember: the best security against fishy phishing or scam attempts is always

1. common sense and

2. your intuition.

When in doubt, just double check! 

Bidtellect Stats

Native auctions daily

distinctly targetable placements

30+ Partnerships

with leading supply and demand partners for the most expansive network in the ecosystem 

Pre-bid Viewability and Safety

 thanks to AdmantX and IAS so you can understand user behavior without jeopardizing privacy

Managed, Self-Serve, and Hybrid Options

for a service approach that works best for you

[b]+studio Creative Services

team for all image, copy, content, and creative needs

Post-Click Metrics

to understand how consumers engage with your content, factoring in number of sessions, pageviews, bounce rate, and time on site, giving you key insights about your campaigns, creative, content, and audiences so you can optimize accordingly.

Advanced Optimization

capabilities like Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO).

Ask the Experts: 2020 Predictions for the Digital Advertising Industry

Ask the Experts: 2020 Predictions for the Digital Advertising Industry

2020 is around the corner and if 2019 is any indication of what’s to come…there’s going to be a lot more changes. We asked experts at Bidtellect their predictions for the new year and what emerged was that as privacy moves to the forefront of conversation, so, too, will shifts in quality, ad types, and creative. Read on.

What are your predictions for the industry in 2020?

1. Privacy will play a major role in 2020 strategy with CCPA going into effect along with existing GDPR.

“The issue that will have the biggest impact on all digital marketing efforts in 2020, but particularly digital advertising campaigns, is privacy.  Specifically, the use of and reliance on personal consumer information in advertising, and how the use of that information will be regulated, protected, and limited.  Marketers must factor this into all their digital advertising plans in 2020​”

– Lon Otremba, CEO

“Platforms that rely heavily on audience targeting for performance will see a decline in results as the market continues to put restrictions on user data. Brands will be forced to rethink strategies and test new ones to make up for it.”

– Terah Bocchi, VP of Sales

“My 2020 prediction for AdTech, “Power to the People”, consumers will have more control over what personal information should be private, what is shared, with whom and how it can be used.”

– Kyle Suhan, Sr. Frontend Deveoper

“In the changing digital advertising ecosystem, focused on privacy and deeper regulation, contextual advertising will capture a greater portion of ad spend gaining ground against other methods of audience targeting.”

– Mike Conway, Chief Technology Officer

2. With Facebook under greater scrutiny for false accounts and shady ad placement, it’s time to start thinking beyond social, while DSPs will move to the forefront thanks to greater scale and optimization capabilities.

“Non-social native spending will decline and content distributions DSPs will benefit from that revenue!”

– Lisa Friedman, Director of Sales – East

“2020 – year of SPO. Clients will look to get a better understanding of DSPs supply paths to ensure they are not paying any unneeded tech tax.”

– Mike Feeley, VP Supply Partnerships

3. Ad types will continue to advance and evolve, from format to design.

“Each year, we see emerging trends with design. 2020 will be no exception to really explore surrealism and vivid, almost futuristic colors. Surrealism will be especially effective for retail clients to really showcase their products in a majestic way. The term “Zero Gravity” has been tossed around – images, text and copy will float on your page. We’ll begin to see a layered mix of portrait photography and bold digital design with simple minimalist shapes. [b]+studio is excited about these new trends and will begin testing out new imagery with a mixed use for our clients in 2020.”

– Missy Steiner, VP of Marketing

“I believe with consumers gaining more access to 5G, video ads will become more common and dynamic on mobile sites.”

– Tim Chidsey, Quality Engineer

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5 Steps to Engaging Creatives this Holiday Season

5 Steps to Engaging Creatives this Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, one thing on most retailers’ minds is how to get their products in front of gift-givers. How do they set themselves apart in such a competitive space?

What is that extra special something that will call gift seekers to engage with your content?

As more and more brands rely on content distribution to earn trust and loyalty, I wanted to provide some of the top creative Native best practices that are not only trending but are also driving results for brands.

Retail is Booming 

In case you missed it, the 2019 holiday season is supposed to be record-breaking. eMarketer predicts it to be the first-ever trillion-dollar holiday season! And the key to serving up a successful holiday strategy, according to experts and trends documented by eMarketer, is sponsored, branded, or native advertising, which offer the highest-value for advertisers and is easiest to monetize for retailers.

From Q1 to Q3, we saw a 443% jump in Bidtellect’s retail space in just one year. 443%. Consumers rely on brands more and more often to get informed, for inspiration, and for valuable content. This shift to Native proves that shoppers are more likely to click on a “Top 5 Gifts Your Dad Will Love” versus “Sock Sale.” Content sells.

This is why creatives are so important. They are the gateway to a retail product; they are the invitation to and a representation of the brand. From a heartwarming image to a compelling headline, our top creative practices for the holidays will ensure that customers will want to engage with you first!

Content distribution starts with the right creative. Simple as that.

Headlines

The first (and arguably best) way to catch a shopper’s eye? The headline.

Remember to provide value, solve a problem from holiday shopping stress, educate the consumer, and use listacles to imply a quick and informative read. If you have a special offer or a promo code, now is the time to inform your prospective shoppers.

Ask questions! Be punny! Invite readers without shouting at them. Anything too pushy or blatant will deter readers. Keep it short and sweet (no more than 60 characters) and in title case.

Bottom line: engage, educate and entertain.

Images

Actually, the image is probably the first and best visual cue – so don’t slack here! Images that feature people or animals are more relatable and draw more of an emotional response. And if you have been thinking about utilizing cinemagraphs, now is the time to test it out.

Think lifestyle, authentic, people in the moment and in the holiday spirit. Do not include text to images – otherwise you’re entering display territory!

Bottom line: be emotional, authentic.

Description

This is the copy under the headline – it gives a little extra information about what your product or content offers! Remember to include value-driven, relevant copy that is consistent with the message in your headline.

And (this should go without saying) the description should be longer than your headline. It’s a slight explanation if you will. Establish the connection, create a conflict, and your call-to-action (KPI) is the solution.

Bottom line: call-to-action, consistent with the headline

Video

Consumers are engaging with Native video – and not just autoplay. Bidtellect saw a 143% increase in completion rate of in-feed, click-to-play videos in one year, proving that consumers do engage. The most successful videos are those that convey a clear message immediately.

Long videos that require time (and sound) from the viewer will not work. Keep the videos short and sweet, with a clear message that’s conveyed with or without sound and use subtitles or text.

Bottom line: clear message without sound

Testing

Don’t forget to utilize optimization strategies! Test out different creatives combinations and personalization tactics based on your KPIs for maximum engagement. It is essential to use a platform that will optimize to your KPIs to find your sweet spot.

Bottom line: optimization is key

Missy Steiner is the Vice President of Marketing at Bidtellect.

She’s hoping for Phish tickets as a gift this year!!

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How to Make the Switch to Test Automation

How to Make the Switch to Test Automation

It’s happening!  Either you’ve finally convinced upper management that it’s time to use automation in testing, or they’ve come to you with a mandate to automate testing.  Hopefully, you’ve laid the groundwork that automation isn’t a panacea, manual testing isn’t going away, headcount isn’t going to go down, and feature throughput isn’t going to skyrocket.  If you haven’t, you need to set the expectations. Either way, it’s an exciting and scary time, especially if your experience with automation is little or none. So now what?

You can ask for help

If you’re thinking you can get automated testing up and running and useful on your own, you may be right. But you’re likely very wrong. Can you home-grow automation expertise? Yes. Do you have the time (years!)? Likely not. You need help, and that’s something that can be hard for some, especially if you’ve built a solid reputation as a testing professional. For the best return on investment and probability of success in a reasonable time frame, you will need to hire either a full-time automation professional, or the right consultant. Unless you’re an expert in automation, YOU AREN’T AN EXPERT! So put your ego aside and find the right help.

If I’m not an expert, how can I get the right help?

Excellent question! You may not be an automation expert, but you can figure out what your automation expert needs to bring to the table. Read blogs about automation, especially if they’re by automation engineers. You probably know people (either directly or indirectly) with whom you can have conversations about automation and what to look for, especially “red flags.” Get with your team and find out what you need (and don’t need) automation to do for you.

For my company and my team, we wanted:

  • Robust, low-maintenance tests that concentrated on the most critical parts of our systems.
  • Automated tests that would relieve testers of the tedious and time consuming tests.
  • An automation engineer that:
    • Shared our quality and testing philosophies.
    • Understood our automation goals.
    • Had done it at least once before.
    • Had done it more than once and in different ways, OR
    • Had done it once and wanted to approach it differently this time.
    • Had a proven track record mentoring testers in automation.
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Are you asking the right questions?

To find the right candidate, you need to ask the right questions. Or do you? How do you get candidates to REVEAL what you want to know without directly asking? I like to use “Describe”, “Explain” or “Tell” requests rather than asking questions outright:

  • Explain the primary reason for automated tests.
  • Describe the benefits and pitfalls of automation.
  • Tell us about an automation achievement that stands out in your mind.
  • Explain what you would do differently if you had to do that project now.
  • Explain how you determine which tools to use.
  • Describe your plan for developing automated tests.
  • Explain the automation pyramid (if they haven’t yet mentioned it).
  • Explain how you would introduce manual testers to automation.
  • Describe your mentoring approach and how you will get testers excited about automation.

Miracles require a lot of work and preparation

So you’ve done your research, talked to your peers, defined your needs with your team, posted the position, interviewed the candidates and you found and hired the perfect candidate.

Congratulations! You’re home free!

Not exactly.

Hate to break it to you, but automated tests don’t just happen. And even if you manage to find someone that’s familiar with your vertical, she/he won’t be familiar with your specific products and code. You need to onboard them, just like any other tester, AND onboard them just like any other developer. Then you need to work with them to develop a strategy, decide what work needs to be done first, investigate tools and approaches, do a Proof of Concept, and then, after that, the work really begins!

At this point it’s worth mentioning again that YOU AREN’T THE EXPERT! They are. So you still need to keep your ego out of it.  You need to be realistic…and then some…with timelines and milestones. You’re not getting a fully developed testing framework and 100% code coverage in phase 1. Or even by phase 5. Or even if you purchase an existing automation solution (because no matter how “universal” the “kit”, you’re still gonna need to customize it for your “ride”).  You need to organize things based on your company’s and your team’s needs. Start with useful tests that eliminate pain points. Evaluate the “Return on Investment (ROI)” for your proposed automation efforts and determine which will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Always encourage and weigh the possibilities of solving tactical problems with strategic solutions, especially if the added effort is marginal.

Protect your investment

Whether you hire a permanent automation engineer, or a consultant, you MUST give them the time to get the work done.  The automation engineer is NOT a sprint test resource at this stage, and, in my opinion, shouldn’t ever be considered as such.  The job is to create, maintain and update the framework for automated tests, not test sprint features. The framework will never get to be a solid and useful tool if your automation engineer is constantly pulled away to test sprint work.  Do that, and you’ll not only not have a testing framework, but you’ll lose the automation engineer to a company that lets them do what they do best: build automation frameworks. And you may lose some of your best testing experience if your manual testers, once excited about getting the drudge testing out of the way so they can do some really good exploratory stuff, are a year in, with no solid framework, still doing the mind-numbing testing, and with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t ignore your testers!

Your testers are your expertise in testing your systems. Leverage that experience and use it to propel the automation forward. They complement the automation, because they know which tests should be automated (and which shouldn’t). The automation engineer mentors them in how to use the framework to create automated tests. If they don’t have what they need in the framework, they inform the automation engineer and she/he develops what they need. As their experience grows, they can get deeper into framework to learn how its structured, and how to expand upon it.

Evaluate

Remember that ROIs can change with business changes and, subsequently, what gives the biggest bang for your buck will change. Do not be surprised if your first few forays aren’t as successful as you want or need them to be. Be the hitchhiker of the galaxy and DON’T
PANIC!  Your initial test framework architecture didn’t work? Learn, pivot and change (also easier to do with a small, tactical goal than a sprawling effort). You WILL SUCCEED if you persevere. You’ll look back and see that progress has been made, the framework is sorting out and stabilizing, your team is contributing tests for automation, and your ROI is now focused on more strategic goals than tactical ones.

Bidtellect Stats

Native auctions daily

distinctly targetable placements

30+ Partnerships

with leading supply and demand partners for the most expansive network in the ecosystem 

Pre-bid Viewability and Safety

 thanks to AdmantX and IAS so you can understand user behavior without jeopardizing privacy

Managed, Self-Serve, and Hybrid Options

for a service approach that works best for you

[b]+studio Creative Services

team for all image, copy, content, and creative needs

Post-Click Metrics

to understand how consumers engage with your content, factoring in number of sessions, pageviews, bounce rate, and time on site, giving you key insights about your campaigns, creative, content, and audiences so you can optimize accordingly.

Advanced Optimization

capabilities like Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO).

How to Streamline Testing

How to Streamline Testing

How do you maintain the quality of your software while making your testing efforts more efficient? 

Back in my first post, I lamented the way that testing and code quality seemed to be little more than lip service in my prior employment experience and how I strove to change that perspective at my current company. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to attempt these changes and I feel that there have been many successes. Yet even with that opportunity, one thing doesn’t change: there is SO MUCH that needs to be done. So how do you maintain the quality of your software while making your testing efforts more efficient? Spoiler alert: there is no silver bullet. However, here are some things that help us streamline testing.

Planning

 

Having a plan for testing is essential to help streamline the process. It can be as informal as a checklist or as detailed as a complete list of tests, but defining the direction and scope of testing ahead of time is a huge time saver. Beware of putting too much effort into planning. The amount of planning should match the impact of the work. There is nothing more important than time, and spending thirty minutes filling out test planning paperwork for a ten-second test kills productivity, enthusiasm, and momentum.

Pull Requests and Code Review

Testers should be looking at the changes made to code, attempting to understand those changes, and asking questions when they don’t. This will help confirm if the test plan is accurate or needs revision prior to testing. It will establish a dialogue with developers that can reveal updated or missed requirements that can lead to unnecessary delays in testing. As testers and developers build their relationships, testers improve their code understanding, which in turn improves their understanding of what and how to test.

Regression Testing First

As with planning, not every test effort will require regression testing. But when regression testing is part of the testing plan, do it first. That way, if you find that something that previously worked is broken, it’s as early in the process as you can make it. Too often, a majority of the testing time is spent testing the changes first, and then regression testing is done. This approach usually means that regression testing is short-changed. If regressions are found late in the cycle, there may not be enough time to correct them before release, leaving product owners no choice but to “accept” them to get their new feature released according to their timelines.

Multiple Testing Environments

This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how frequently companies only have one, or even just part of one, test environment. Here’s a good return-on-investment (ROI) exercise to support more than one testing environment: If important (and potentially revenue-generating) features are delayed because they are stuck in the testing queue, do the investigating and find out how much the “delay” is “costing” the company to help make your point. Having the ability to test in parallel reduces queue time and time spent in test set up and context shifting. Even a partial second environment can have a significant impact on streamlining testing.

“Tetris-ing”

Yes, this is a reference to the 80s block stacking game, but the analogy is valid. This tactic is most beneficial when you have more than one test environment, but it could still apply if you have just one. Not every feature will require a complete environment for testing. This is especially true for systems that have both front-end and back-end components. Identifying those features that do not require an end-to-end test environment and deploying them simultaneously means that two (or sometimes more) features can get tested at the same time. And as above, parallelism streamlines testing.

“NOT” Testing

(Unconventional Testing)

Production Testing – Don’t shake your head like that. Read a bit first. This may not be possible for some companies, but for others, it should be seriously considered. Testing takes time and time is money. All testing has a cost that should provide a “Return on Investment”. If the risk is very low, it can be more cost-effective to roll out a change to a single production machine, a small group of production machines, or the whole system and then monitor the effects than to configure a testing environment and run tests. An example would be an ETL query that has been modified to include or exclude a type or status in the result set. New integrations and Proof of Concept (POC) work also fall into this category since the work is essentially “on spec,” with the expectation that it will provide benefits in the long run.

Over-The-Shoulder Testing – Or you could call it “Developer-Tester Peer Testing”. Test environments don’t always have the resources that production environments do, especially for data heavy jobs. When this is the case, we often do a one-on-one code demonstration, where the developer walks through the existing and updated process(es) with the tester and must provide before and after data, either to show that it hasn’t changed, or that it has changed according to the new requirements. This type of testing should be planned, and the tester should posit various use cases, scenarios or possible issues (missing data, bad data, no connection, no directory, etc.) and the developer should be able to show or demonstrate the code that addresses them. This type of testing is where developer-tester relationships are built.

Developer Testing – And before you start yelling: no, I am not advocating or in any way suggesting that developers can replace testers.  But testers should realize that good developers do test, and great developers test a lot. They write unit tests, they generate files and do differentials on the outputs, and they validate data inputs and outputs.  And if a tester doesn’t know that those tests were performed, they will test them again. This is a duplication of effort. We advocate developers documenting their unit tests and any testing they’ve done, so instead of repeating those tests, testers “validate” them.  Or they can “reject” them (after a discussion) if they feel the testing doesn’t cover what was planned. They then perform any additional planned tests (like regression tests). The objective is to reduce the duplication of testing effort.

Automation

Or more accurately, testing with tools.  All testers use tools to test. Some use more complicated tools than others.  Look for opportunities to remove manual and repetitive test operations, whether it is generating test data, validating test data, or full-blown automation suites.  If you are making your first foray into automation test suites, resist the urge to begin with your user interface, especially if it’s is evolving. You’ll end up spending more time maintaining tests than using them.  Instead, look to validate your APIs and other backend systems. The initial investment is more, but the longevity and robustness of your tests will provide a much better ROI.

Central Library

In our business, we have many customers making requests and receiving responses from us.  Most use a standard format, but quite a few need custom requests, custom responses, or both.  We maintain sample requests and expected responses in a central area. Developers, testers and even account managers use these samples to either baseline existing code before making changes, verify that code changes haven’t negatively affected expected responses or for troubleshooting.  Having a central repository saves time and reduces duplication of data. Your business may also have common data or processes shared by many groups and could benefit from a central repository.

Test Management System

This is an extension of the central repository idea that is specific to testing.  We use a test management system to house all of our tests, whether automated or manual, in one location.  Tests can be curated and grouped by descriptions and keywords to map to coverage areas. This means that regression testing can be limited to only the areas affected by the changes under test rather than running a complete regression every time.  One copy means only one place that tests need to update when features change and only one place to look when searching for test documentation with new team members.

The examples above all have one or more common threads: return on investment (ROI – or as I like to ask, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”),  reduce or eliminate duplication of effort, and pragmatism. It also offers employees ways to embrace many of the concepts mentioned in my previous post on the Quality Mindset, including heightening awareness, extending and encouraging trust and ownership, and accepting risk.  Each company’s needs and circumstances are different, so feel free to change up what you’ve read here or to use it as a springboard to come up with your own method of streamlining your testing.

To Have A Quality Mindset, You Need A Quality Environment

To Have A Quality Mindset, You Need A Quality Environment

In Part 2 of the Quality Series, why a Quality Mindset requires a Quality Environment…And how to build it.

Karl Hentschel

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.”

– John Ruskin (1819-1900)

“Quality is not a consequence of following some set of behaviors. Rather, it is a prerequisite and a mindset you must have BEFORE you decide what you are setting out to do.”

– Edwin Catmull (1945- )

In my previous post, I explained how Bidtellect envisioned changing “Quality Assurance” from a step in the software development process into a shared Quality Mindset. But a Quality Mindset requires a Quality Environment in which to work.  The quotes above led me to many books, two of which, Good to Great by James C. Collins and Creativity, Inc. by Edwin E. Catmul, were instrumental in helping define a quality working environment.

The concepts below are intended for everyone in a company, but are especially intended for company leaders.  Note that I didn’t say “manager” or “coordinator” or “director” (although it really helps if leaders with those titles buy-in to the quality work environment concept).  Company leaders are the people in your organization to whom others look because they get the work done.

1. Develop and Support Competence

 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but in order for people to have a Quality Mindset, they need to know what they’re doing.  That means, they either bring experience to the company, the company provides experience to the person, or a combination of the two.  Don’t ask a plumber to build a brick wall or a mason to wire the lights, unless you plan on training them properly.

2. Model Discipline

But not the kind you’re probably thinking of right now.  I’m talking about internal discipline, not external discipline.  Not a manager, a director or vice president enforcing rules, but rather individuals doing the work to the best of their ability.  (Notice I said “work”, not “job”. This is important for later.) Discipline is (and should be) a modeled behavior and takes the form of disciplined thought and disciplined action.

3. Extend and Build Trust

Disciplined people, engaging in disciplined thought and taking disciplined actions don’t need to be managed.  They will do what needs to be done without needing to be told, if you trust them to do it.

4. Extend and Encourage Ownership

Ownership and trust or kind of “chicken-and-egg” because each fosters and reinforces the other.  I have a standing rule for my Quality team: You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.  Responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean you will do the work, but it is expected that if you take ownership, you are responsible for ensuring it gets done.  This ownership isn’t limited by your “job” but rather the work that needs to be done.

5. Heighten Understanding

A leader is responsible for heightening people’s awareness of what they do not know.  Do not confuse this with competence (although for junior people, it may by applicable).  This is more about making people aware of what occurs outside of their competencies. Get people thinking about “the company” as a whole, rather than just the testers or the developers or the technology team, etc.

6. Show (Frequent) Appreciation

Appreciation is often regarded as a leadership responsibility and it most certainly is.  But that doesn’t mean leaders are the only ones who should recognize individual or group accomplishments or appreciation for hard work, diligence or tenacity.  They should model appreciation and encourage it amongst team members.

7. Clear Obstacles

Bureaucracy is a reaction to incompetence and lack of discipline.  It is a leader’s responsibility to get the right people, facilitate the right chemistry, and develop and support them.  Once they engage in discipline and take ownership, the controls can be loosened and the bureaucracy decreased or removed.

8. Accept Risk

… and with it the mess it creates.  If you trust your people and allow them ownership, there will be times when they will get it wrong.  You should NOT be looking for ways to keep people from making mistakes. A true leader will enable people to resolve problems WITHOUT BLAME.  This reinforces the trust and ownership (above) and KEEPS FEAR AT BAY. People who are afraid they will get blamed, afraid they will become unemployed or afraid of ignominy DO NOT trust or take ownership…nor do they create their BEST work in the end.

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