What Are Success Stories?
Success stories have long been a staple of promoting internal success & external marketing programs. Also known as customer case studies, they highlight the benefits a customer has experienced in using a particular process or product.
The value of a success story is intuitive: hearing about the achievements of a peer will motivate someone to pursue the same success for themselves. According to MarketingProfs, success stories are effective in marketing because they are tailored towards a specific audience, they provide examples, they are believable, and they can demonstrate ROI.
The same principles can apply to success stories when they are used in the context of continuous testing. Teams can use success stories to promote innovation and communicate success to the internal testing organization, the broader organization, and possibly the entire testing community.
Success stories may vary from one testing organization to the next for two reasons. First of all, different organizations will understandably define success in different ways. Some will want to broadcast the good news every time a testing process is automated. Others will write success stories when they complete major functionality releases ahead of schedule, or under budget.
Second, there is no single correct way to write and share a success story. Some teams may choose to share successes informally by announcing them in team meetings. Others may publish them in company newsletters. Still others may establish testing centers of excellence in their companies so that documenting success stories can become a formal part of the software development lifecycle.
Teams that embrace continuous testing challenge the status quo every day. They find new ways to increase their agility, to accelerate releases while improving quality, and to leverage old tools in new ways. Their innovation results in cost savings, increased revenue for the company, and higher customer satisfaction. But unless they document their achievements and share them in the form of success stories, the rest of the organization and the broader testing community may not have the opportunity to learn from their innovation. It is essential for testing organizations to share detailed accounts of the processes they have followed as well as metrics on the successes they have achieved.
Top Benefits of Using Success Stories
By regularly documenting and sharing success stories, the typical testing organization can:
- Maximize the visibility of new approaches and tools. If a testing organization adopts new practices and tools that help drive innovation and increase speed but only one team uses them, the company is needlessly limiting the benefits of its new approach. Collaboration is a crucial part of software development for Agile teams, so these teams in particular should be willing to share their results freely. Success stories enable teams to share in detail the specific changes they have made and the tangible benefits that directly resulted. Increasing the visibility of new approaches and tools also allows teams to track progress over longer periods as innovation roadmaps are put into place.
- Build credibility with other teams. In nearly every aspect of life—whether they are choosing a college major, buying their first car, or facing a major health issue—people turn to experts to help them determine the best course of action. Those who are willing to innovate and challenge the status quo will be the experts of the testing industry of tomorrow. But before they can build the credibility that will gain them followers, these experts need to establish a long track record of proof. Success stories can help individuals or teams build the credibility they need. Creating and sharing these stories will give them more opportunities to effect change in the software development lifecycle as part of an innovation group.
- Show other teams a clear path to success. It is one thing to know that someone achieved something; it is another thing to know how they achieved it. For teams that want to follow the example of others, documentation is often difficult to come by. Success stories serve as an excellent platform for successful teams to provide guidance to other teams that might want to follow their example. In addition, success stories can provide exact metrics to show what expectations other teams should set for their long-term growth.
- Accelerate change management and buy-in. Success stories help teams create awareness of successes, fuel desire for change, make changes “real,” and drive excitement and buy-in for future adoption across the rest of the organization. They also:
- Help spotlight what is working well.
- Spur individuals and teams to continue to push new boundaries and embrace newer testing processes.
- Prompt people to share good practices that they might otherwise have thought were not worth sharing.
- Facilitate unlearning of unproductive, obsolete, and restrictive practices.
- Multiply successes across an organization. Once an organization implements innovative processes within one team, it should strive to achieve better results across all teams. Success at the development and testing level should equate to greater success throughout the overall organization in the form of newer functionality to delight customers, safer applications, elevated performance, and faster change management—but only if individual teams share their successes.
To put it another way, success breeds success. The willingness and ability of one team to show the way for others to implement key strategies can lead to a more productive testing organization. Increased efficiency across the organization can lead to faster speed to market, greater cost savings, and more revenue.
Best Practices for Implementing a Success Story Program
Organizations that want to start a success story program should remember to:
- Define the success program. Team leaders should discuss what success will look like, how it will be measured in terms of specific metrics, how often teams should report on their successes, and in what format they should tell their success stories. Keep in mind that one company may measure success in terms of speed to market while another might see cost savings as more important. In addition, successes at the Team level of testing can and should look different from those at the Program or Enterprise level. Every organization should define success—and its success program—based on company goals and initiatives.
- Motivate teams to document their successes. This is an essential step. Writing success stories cannot happen unless teams are measuring their progress and are sharing their results at every step of their transformation. Organizations should also remind teams that success stories should not just come at the end of a project—which could be a year or two in the future for a major application—but rather, should be shared as soon as they occur. That way, other teams can benefit as soon as possible. Just as importantly, organizations should remind teams of what’s in it for them when they document their successes. Successful teams earn the respect of peers across their organizations and beyond—and members of successful teams position themselves favorably for career advancement.
- Teach teams how to tell a compelling story. Organizations should remember that the most effective success story is just that—a story. It should be compelling and captivating. Most importantly, it should include important details, such as:
- What challenges did the team anticipate as they were coaching people through the change?
- What metrics did they focus on?
- What impact did the change make?
- Who was impacted by the success and how did their processes improve as a result?
- What was the feedback and how was it collected?
- What detailed process did the team follow to implement the change?
- What executive sponsorship participated?
- Go after the stories. Even after encouraging teams to document their successes, success program leaders should not sit back and wait for team leaders to come forward with their successes. After a successful release or process transformation, teams tend to shift their focus immediately to the next project. It is important to check in frequently with leaders to gather their success metrics so that they can be shared in internal newsletters or on community calls. Leaders should convey the importance of why success stories are being shared and what additional changes and results are expected to follow.
- Decide how to present stories. Depending on the nature of the success, the audience, and the resources available, success stories can be shared verbally in meetings, get sent throughout a department via email, get printed and handed out, be hung up on a Wall of Fame, or whatever format leadership believes will be most effective at highlighting the changes made and the benefits they enabled.
- Decide how often to present stories, and broadcast them consistently. Teams should determine an appropriate frequency for sharing stories, keeping in mind that a constant stream of trivial successes will do little to motivate people, whereas long gaps between stories can cause people to forget about the success program altogether.