Continuous testing is an essential part of DevOps. To get the maximum value from continuous testing, it is important to use recommended best practices, inclusive of people, processes and technologies. A gap assessment is a great way to efficiently evaluate an organization’s practices for DevOps and determine a strategy for improvement. Gap analysis provides valuable input for formulating a strategy and a roadmap to improve continuous testing.
My SlideShare, Gap Survey, Assessment and Analysis For Continuous Testing, explains how my continuous testing gap assessment tool greatly speeds up the gap survey, gap assessment and gap analysis process for continuous testing.
It is important to clarify a few definitions for this blog because I have found that different people and organizations use these terms differently. In this blog, and in my consulting work, I use the following definitions.
• Gap survey is a discovery tool used to collect information about the current state of practices for a topic such as continuous testing.
• Gap assessment is a process to determine differences (gaps) between current practices and recommended practices for a topic. Gap assessment is also used to refer to the entire collection of activities in this list.
• Gap assessment workshop is a meeting in which the gap assessment is validated prior to gap analysis.
• Gap analysis is the process of determining priorities for reducing gaps found during a gap assessment.
• Gap assessment tool is software that helps perform gap surveys, gap assessments and gap analysis.
I define and use a seven-step process for gap assessments.
The steps are as follows:
1. Pick a topic to analyze. The same processes and tools can be applied equally well to almost any topic, such as continuous testing.
2. Determine recommended practices for the topic. Something that is worth doing a gap assessment for, such as continuous testing, will normally be fairly complex with tens if not hundreds of practices. Categorize the practices into groups (I call the groups “pillars”) to make the list of practices more understandable and meaningful. To do this requires some research and discovery work. For example, I have a database of practices and pillars for DevOps, continuous testing, DevSecOps and SRE as well as some other topics.
3. Enter the practices from step two into a gap assessment tool. The tool can be a simple survey tool you create, a commercial survey tool or something custom-made.
4. Determine who needs to be included in the gap survey.
5. Collect data using the gap survey.
6. Perform a gap assessment.
7. Perform a gap analysis.
For the remainder of this blog, I will explain in detail the seven steps for continuous testing.
Step One: Pick a Topic to Analyze
In this blog, the topic is continuous testing.
Step Two: Determine Recommended Practices for Continuous Testing
For an example continuous testing assessment, I used the 15 practices categories described in this three-part series:
Continuous Testing Practices Part 1
Continuous Testing Practices Part 2
Continuous Testing Practices Part 3
The 15 practice category pillars are:
• Continuous testing tenets
• Test strategy and plans
• Test management
• Test automation
• Test tools
• Test infrastructure management
• Test scripts
• Test results
• Security tests
• Pre-flight testing
• Integration testing
• Pre-production testing
• Test in production
Step Three: Enter the Practices from Step Two Into a Gap Assessment Tool
A gap assessment tool, pre-loaded with sample continuous testing practices, can be found in a file called “Continuous Test Practices Assessment Tool v2. It can be downloaded for free from one of the resource pages found on my website Engineering DevOps.
You can edit the practices categories and add/delete practices from each category if you prefer to make changes.
Step Four: Determine Who to Include in the Gap Survey
For the gap analysis to be comprehensive, people in roles that are affected by continuous testing practices need to be surveyed, or at least represented, to ensure their perspectives are included. The following are example roles that typically are included.
• Business leaders – because they influence culture and budgets for continuous testing.
• Developers – because they need to design in accordance with continuous testing practices.
• Project owners – because they influence product work priorities.
• QA testers – because they need to test in accordance with continuous testing practices.
• Ops – because continuous testing practices affect operations.
• Security – because continuous testing affects security practices.
The survey can be conducted for an individual application, a group of applications, or all the applications in the enterprise. However, it is important that the gap assessment and gap analysis be performed on the organizational segment that is being targeted for improvement.
Step Five: Collect Data Using the Gap Survey
A gap survey should allow each surveyed person to enter an importance level score, a practice level score and comments for each practice. All this information is essential for the gap assessment and gap analysis. In the gap survey included within my gap assessment tool, survey respondents are asked to score the importance of each practice as one of 0=Not relevant, 1=not Important, 2=Nice to have, 3=Important, 4=Very important or 5=Critical. Practice level choices are 0=Not sure, 1=Rarely, if ever, 2= Sometimes, 3=Most of the time, 4=Always or 5=We are really good at this. Comments that are relevant to qualify or explain the scores entered for each practice should also be entered, especially if there is any doubt or ambiguity.
Step Six: Perform a Gap Assessment
The gap assessment process requires all the practices scores collected from the surveys to be collected and assembled to calculate an aggregate set of scores. Gap scores are calculated using a formula that weights each practice level score with the corresponding importance level score. A visual representation helps to identify practices areas and individual practices that have the highest, most important gaps.
No matter how professionally written the practices and score definitions are, it is not unusual for some people to misunderstand and to enter scores that they would not have otherwise. For this reason, it is important to ensure that the data collected is validated before conducting the gap analysis. The preferred approach is to conduct a gap assessment workshop with key representatives from each role that participated in the survey. During the workshop, the scores for each practice that have a high deviation between survey responses are discussed and, if necessary, adjusted.
Step Seven: Perform a Gap Analysis
The gap analysis process involves extracting the high gap practices and tagging and ranking each of them against solution categories determined by a consultant or topic expert. The results of the gap analysis indicate where solution strategies and implementation roadmaps need to be focused to reduce the most important gaps.
What This Means
Those who are serious about DevOps will do well to learn from others and be serious about using recommended continuous testing practices. This blog explained a gap assessment approach, which uses my 15 categories of continuous testing practices. My free Continuous Testing Gap Assessment Tool facilitates performing a gap analysis for continuous testing and outlines priorities to improve DevOps practices for an organization. For those that want to dig deeper on this topic, additional definitions and contextual information related to the way I do gap assessments are clarified in my book Engineering DevOps.