How to Talk about Performance Testing with your CEO

Do you ever feel like your performance testing initiatives aren’t getting the attention they deserve? Do they get brushed off as technical exercises? Do adequate resources remain elusive?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, there may be a perception problem at play. A business manager who thinks that performance testing is a “nice to have” probably doesn’t understand how vital the effort is to the overall business.

You have the power to change that. The trick to making the change is understanding how most managers see their world and then make compelling value propositions regarding that worldview.

The most common worldview of a manager is this: given the resources available, how do I meet the objectives at hand? This simple statement is surprisingly relevant across most situations. Think about it. The aim for a manager of a baseball team is to win a championship. The resources involved are the players, equipment, and coaching staff. It’s not that different from the what’s available to a CEO. The objectives might be different, but the resources are pretty much the same – players, equipment, and subordinate management.

Therefore, any value proposition, whether related to performance testing or winning a baseball game for that matter, must be shaped regarding objectives and resources.

Understand the Business Objectives of Performance Testing

To talk to a CEO or business manager about the value of any technical process, like performance testing, you need to understand the objectives. All businesses have one primary purpose: to make enough money to stay in business and hopefully turn a profit. Depending upon the industry, department, and hierarchy within the corporation, a manager’s objectives will vary. When it comes to the intersection of IT and business management, two goals always seem to prevail. The first is to increase customer satisfaction and retention through wait time reduction. The second, to control costs according to scale.

Increase Customer Satisfaction and Retention by Reducing Wait Time

“A business without customers, ain’t.” Whether it’s about external customers on the outside who use a business’s products/services or internal customers (employees, vendors, and contractors) within the company, needs must be satisfied. Customer satisfaction is good, dissatisfaction, well, not so much. It’s that simple.

One of the most prominent causes of customer dissatisfaction in the world of digital commerce is long wait times. Nothing sends a customer to pack up and leave faster than having to helplessly sit in front of a screen with a continuously “loading” icon as data refreshes. It’s not if, but when a long wait time results in shopping cart abandonment, decreased average order value, poor conversion rates and an overall decline in brand preference. The company’s reputation is at stake.

Long wait times are a killer, but they are preventable. Save for a complete Internet blackout or a catastrophic event causing a data center to go offline unpredictably; most wait time issues can be avoided provided they can be identified; hence the value of performance testing.

Performance testing against a variety of use case scenarios provides the data by which a company’s digital infrastructure wait time risks can be identified. Without consistent performance testing, a company is left to guesswork. Even if you always seem to have luck on your side, guesses ultimately lead to unexpected calamity.

Experienced managers understand risk/mitigation. They also appreciate the balance associated with customer satisfaction maintenance. Thus, the value proposition for performance testing in this regard is as follows:

  • The company can act proactively to identify/mitigate potential customer satisfaction risks by devoting X amount of technical, financial, and human resources to implementing performance testing regularly, or…
  • The company can plan to spend Y amount after the fact to make things right. The trick is to present the value proposition in a way that X amount (what it costs to implement performance testing regularly), is verifiably less than Y (the cost to fix performance issues in their wake).

Cost Control According Scale

Nothing new here. Capacity costs money. Always has, always will. Business managers grasp that a company needs to spend to conduct business. They tend to accept high costs when the benefits and dollar amounts that go with those benefits are anticipated. In turn, they tend not to like a surprise at the end of the month when an AWS invoice arrives with unanticipated charges based on increased usage spikes.

For many, if not most business managers, cost control is essential to their job. Continually being in a position where costs are increasingly uncontrollable is a sure signpost of a career quickly headed for its end. Business managers want to know the cost of doing business and want to be able to plan accordingly, whether it’s payroll, taxes or IT infrastructure costs. Enter performance testing’s mission as it provides the very solution for delivering definitive, anticipated results enabling cost control according to scale.

For example, it’s no secret that many e-commerce sites transact more in December than any other time of the year. Having servers go down because of usage overload during this most profitable time of the year is not just unacceptable, it’s crippling to the company’s lifeblood. This is why most companies, mainly, those who’ve had to learn the hard way, conduct capacity planning. What goes into their plan for this “rainy day”? Do they only set aside funds to increase capacity during peak usage, hoping for the best? Or, do they run performance tests based on a variety of usage scenarios to anticipate capacity requirements? And what about the results? Do they then take what the tests are telling them and budget according to a balance between optimism and pessimism?

In this case, performance testing’s ability to help anticipate capacity costs is real. But, it needs to be articulated to the business. Merely stating that “you will be able to project holiday season capacity costs more accurately via performance testing of realistic usage emulation” positions the value of performance testing according to the manager’s view. Of course, a far better statement than if that same manager were to say “we’ll need to run performance tests.”

Managers want data based on a reasonable assessment rather than guesses. It’s the logical way to do business. Remember, in a business manager’s world; it’s about managing resources concretely to achieve specific objectives.

Putting it All Together

Coordinating resources to achieve a predefined set of objectives is the fundamental responsibility of the business manager. It’s not easy, at times almost like herding cats or counting chickens in a hen house. Exceptional business managers seem to do this effortlessly. Those who excel typically have developed the ability to keep the focus on the essentials: resources and objectives.

Those who embrace performance testing and want to promote it as a necessary practice that is critical to the success of the business understand the need and benefit to value prop articulation. The manager wants to know how performance testing will help achieve predefined business objectives.

Presenting a compelling business proposition is a “win” for all parties involved. Talk to a manager regarding utilizing resources to achieve a business’s objectives, and you’ll rarely go wrong.

Learn More

Discover more load testing and performance testing content on the Neotys Resources pages, or download the latest version of NeoLoad and start testing today.

 

Bob Reselman 
Bob Reselman is a nationally-known software developer, system architect, test engineer, technical writer/journalist, and industry analyst. He has held positions as Principal Consultant with the transnational consulting firm, Capgemini and Platform Architect (Consumer) for the computer manufacturer, Gateway. Also, he was CTO for the international trade finance exchange, ITFex.
Bob’s authored four computer programming books and has penned dozens of test engineering/software development industry articles. He lives in Los Angeles and can be found on LinkedIn here, or on Twitter at @reselbob. Bob is always interested in talking about testing and software performance and happily responds to emails (tbob@xndev.com).

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