Keeping "glitch happens" from happening to you

Scott Hansen
Scott Hansen

Scott Hansen
VP, executive director–digital creative, AbelsonTaylor

If you work in digital, you've undoubtedly received “the call”—the one that feels like a lightning bolt.

It usually goes something like this: “Our CMO can't view the site on her Blackberry.” Or, “That site you just built in .net was supposed to be coded in a completely different language.”

That's what we mean by “glitch happens.” And glitch usually happens because there's a breakdown in quality assurance.

This March we presented a panel at SXSW titled “Quality Assurance Best Practices in Today's Digital Agencies.” The topic clearly struck a nerve with the standing-room-only crowd.

QA is often confused with functional testing of the code at the end of a project. In reality, you can't test quality into a project. That means you have to approach quality assurance as an intrinsic part of the process, not an afterthought.

That's where the concept of “Shift Left” comes in.

Shift Left operationalizes the idea that QA starts at the beginning, and that quality assurance is present every step of the way. Because that's where defects happen… during every step of the project.

The panelists described three key stages of Shift Left:

1. Planning and Communication. Here it's critical that you identify all key stakeholders. Share the plan with everyone; that way you can address any barriers to success. After all, if you don't know where you're going, you won't get there.

2. Concept Creation. Don't reinvent the wheel. Not every project requires a novel operating system. However, it always makes sense to create a proof of concept. This allows clients to see what you're talking about. It also lets you work out any sticky tech issues.

3. Execution. When you get here, be sure not to overengineer the project. You don't have to start small. Just start reasonable. Finally, have a maintenance plan. Your project is digital, it's going to be around a long time.

Applying the principles of Shift Left to your QA processes won't eliminate every glitch. But you can produce better performing digital products, enhance your brands, and save money by making QA everyone's responsibility, right from the start.

For more information on Shift Left and quality assurance, visit