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Adopting Agile and DevOps at Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK

| by Ben Linders Follow 8 Followers on Aug 17, 2017. Estimated reading time: 4 minutes |

Embedding agile and DevOps had a positive impact on the role of QA at Wyndham; focusing effort in the earlier lifecycle stages has led to smoother releases with fewer bugs and post-production issues. As a result of a culture change business colleagues and customers are more involved throughout the delivery cycle, making testing a shared responsibility which is less about detecting bugs and reacting to change, and more about prevention and pro-actively becoming part of the change.

Felicity Lord, quality assurance manager at Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, spoke about keeping QA relevant in an increasingly digital world at the Spring Online Testing Conference 2017.

InfoQ interviewed Lord after her talk about the challenges that QA at Wyndham faced and how they dealt with them, how agile and DevOps impacted the role of QA, what she did to change the culture for QA, and what she advises for organizations that want to establish digital leadership.

InfoQ: What were the challenges that QA faced at Wyndham?

Felicity Lord: When I joined Wyndham almost 18 months ago, the structure of the team was biased towards manual testing with automation used as a regression only activity. The build cycle was iterative but not agile and there was a separate UAT function that almost seemed to repeat the testing undertaken by the QA team rather than focussing on user experience.

On top of that, the organisation had an ambition to become a digital leader: to be recognised as the UK’s number 1 end to end digital holiday letting business within the next three years. Some of the specific challenges that my team faced as a result of this ambition were that we, as a company, wanted to offer our customers an increasingly personalised, increasingly relevant, consistent experience, using customer data to maximise our yield – and the QA team just wasn’t set up to satisfy this.

We had no mobile testing capability; our business is a global business but we were unable to test against different geographic locations. Increased customer usage of social media combined with a greater expectation on websites for increased customisation and personalisation meant we needed to change our testing capability, methods and skills in order to be able to move in step with the changing demands on my team.

InfoQ: How did you deal with those challenges?

Lord: I carried out a maturity assessment across a range of key test areas and I then weighted as red, amber or green areas for improvement. For those areas that were a higher concern – which for my team were metrics, test evaluation, Non Functional testing, Mobile and Device testing, and test data management – I worked out what the quick wins were that I could focus on first, and also some longer term goals which then formed a three year roadmap for my team.

In the first year, my focus was on getting the right people and tools in place, with moving from an offshore test model to an in-house QA function, new hires and some new vendors to assist us. This year, my focus is on getting the right approach to non-production environments in place and developing and investing in my team; training, learning new skills and processes, and increasing our automation knowledge in the team.

InfoQ: How did adopting agile and DevOps impact the role of QA?

Lord: We are still on a path towards embedding agile and DevOps within our organisation, but already I feel there is a positive impact on the role of QA. The challenge of increased change and pace of delivery has put additional pressure on my team but through working with our main business relationships in Sales, Operations or in Marketing for instance, and a 3 Amigos mindset, we have been able to focus more of our efforts in the earlier lifecycle stages which has meant smoother releases with fewer bugs and post-production issues in the long run.

By using QA as a force to help drive behavioural intervention and change, we are also helping to drive the DevOps culture change and a key part of our DevOps roadmap has been implementing automated deployments which removes a real blocker to becoming more agile.

InfoQ: What did you do to change the culture for QA?

Lord: The biggest culture change for me has come from removing UAT as a separate entity and involving our business colleagues and customers throughout our delivery cycle. I have been encouraging my team to think of testing as a shared responsibility; and talk about quality assurance as something greater and more wide reaching than a purely testing or quality control role. It is less about detecting bugs and reacting to change, and more about prevention and pro-actively becoming part of the change.

InfoQ: What advice do you have for organizations that want to establish digital leadership?

Lord: What I believe sets aside a leader from becoming a digital leader is understanding where your strengths lie within the digital leadership triangle of business acumen, technical capability, and strategic leadership and knowing where you need to grow your knowledge or when to lean on the skills of others.

As someone coming from a different industry background into Wyndham, I felt I needed to strengthen my knowledge of that business. I took time to understand the organisation’s direction in the context of the architectural landscape, but I also knew there was a great team of individuals around me that could guide me. I then set out a strategy for my team based on the knowledge I had gained and the skills available to me. By following this method, anyone can become a digital leader.

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