If you think back to your last corporate planning cycle - which probably seems like a long time ago - you almost certainly did not include the words, “coronavirus”, “pandemic” or “herd immunity” anywhere in your PowerPoint deck. Chances are you weren't working on strategies for dealing with your staff locked out of your facilities or supporting a hybrid workforce of people rotating in and out of the office. COVID-19 has changed everything for everyone in a very abrupt way and we need to act immediately to adjust the ways that we do business.
As we look back over the past 30 years in the payments industry, much of the change has been slow and methodical, gradually supporting new business models and techniques to address innovation, compliance, and competition. More recently, though, the fintech revolution has caused the pace of change to increase rapidly. Today, it is not uncommon for software to be released and deployed hundreds of times per day. However, for many organizations, and more specifically, the teams that conduct testing on payment platforms, this shift remains slow and gradual.
Assess Your Infrastructures
COVID-19 is an event that we have not seen before in our lifetime, affecting the entire global population, and having no definitive end date. The problems we are dealing with are unique, with history providing little guidance on the best path forward. A recent survey by Safety+Health indicated that two out of three workers, spanning all generations of workers, are not comfortable going back to work, while other surveys suggest that a growing number of workers are ready to get back to work immediately. This data presents a very basic problem - IT infrastructures, systems, processes, and team structures that are in place today are, in most cases, not tuned to meet the demands of a hybrid workforce.
Most people in the payments industry who focus on compliance, quality assurance, certification, and continuous improvement would agree that testing is a critical step in helping an organization protect its brand. If you lead a testing team, you have probably struggled in recent times to keep up with this important mission. You may have found a temporary workaround to perform a certain amount of high priority testing, but also had to put a significant amount of testing on hold until you can get people back into the office. And if your organization relies primarily on manual testing, then the problem gets substantially more complicated. The impact of not keeping up with your testing schedule is significant, ranging from being out of compliance, to exposing data and security vulnerabilities, to falling behind the competition. You may have lost critically needed revenue because you were unable to onboard or certify new clients.
The Way Forward
Of course, where there are problems, there are also opportunities. Predictions coming from viral experts indicate a second wave of COVID-19 may return later this year. This means that we are working with a very short runway to make important changes that will protect our businesses. In the testing arena, there are six fundamentals that will help come to terms with the new norm. Many of these concepts are not new, but the current environment has given them a new urgency. This is not a time to be shy about trying new things. Just get started down the right path and things will get sorted in the end. Here are a few thoughts on the way forward:
- Connect — You will most likely be managing a hybrid work environment where you will have team members working from home or rotating in and out of the office. Wherever they are, they need consistent, reliable access to testing resources. Deploying or accessing testing solutions in a secure private or public cloud will ensure testing resources are available anytime, anywhere. With easier access to your testing assets, you will see improvements in productivity.
- Engage — In this hybrid work environment, you’ll need to stay in constant contact with your teams. Whatever meeting cadence you were on - double it. Leverage video calls to bring everyone together in a virtual way. Assuming your IT infrastructure can support this, meeting more frequently is a small thing that could have a significant upside. Be an empathetic leader. Be patient as your teams adjust to the new work environment. Manage the life-work balance and understand that individuals on your team are dealing with a variety of unique situations.
- Empower — Encourage your teams to be owners of both the problems that impact them and the solutions to address them. Everyone has a unique perspective and their voices should be heard. Leadership styles and team dynamics may need to be adjusted because, in the current environment, no one person has all the answers. Work with your teams, unify them, and then move forward together.
- Collaborate — Teams that have traditionally worked together in the office have relied on built-in, water-cooler style collaboration. You need to consider new solutions that are inherently collaborative that will promote an effective, but natural, workflow. Consider general communications — sharing ideas, project work, and related data — while at the same time isolating and protecting information between groups and, depending on your setup, between organizations.
- Automate — Don’t be afraid of automation. Automation can fill many of the gaps that have been exposed during the current crises. Most organizations do not have enough people to keep up with all the current testing demands. Bring your teams and processes together with automation to create a powerful testing platform that is immune to outside forces that could potentially harm your business.
- Act — Preparedness and business continuity will be a key competitive advantage going forward. For many organizations, the current crisis has exposed weaknesses in their systems, processes and the way human resources are managed. To ensure your brand remains strong, any vulnerabilities that have been identified should be addressed as soon as possible. After the immediate danger has passed, history suggests that governments will begin rolling out regulations that will mandate changes to improve operational resiliency. Given the continued uncertainty that we face, it makes sense to get in front of these changes now. The products and services needed are already in the market and available for those ready to begin the journey.
Problems and opportunities go hand in hand. Modern society has clearly proven that we can overcome anything that is put in front of us and we have endless opportunities to improve employee safety, engagement, access, and productivity, as well as operational resiliency. It is easy to get discouraged when we look at events unfolding in the world today, but working together in the spirit of cooperation, we can lean into the future and solve these problems too.