Integrate & Test Your Tech Stack

Author : Anna McCowan, Keysight

14 November 2023

Building an integrated technology stack or ‘tech stack’ plays a vital role in enabling businesses to grow. Too often business leaders invest in applications, connecting them to existing systems, and then simply hoping for the best. They soon find out that this is not an effective way to achieve their commercial goals.

A better approach starts with setting clear objectives, collaborating company-wide and picking the right tools for an organisation’s specific needs. For continued business growth, business leaders must also prioritise continuous integration testing of their tech stack to ensure usability and functionality in the longer term.  

What is a tech stack?
A tech stack is the collection of digital products and technologies that an organisation uses to accomplish tasks. It encompasses the software, web applications, databases and other systems that are core parts of how an organisation operates.?This includes tools used across different organisational departments - from marketing and sales through to human resources and finance.  

The right tech stack includes applications that easily integrate with each other to further streamline business practices and support growth.?Delivering value and increasing revenues are high on the list of objectives for every enterprise organisation. Achieving this is made easier by curating a tech stack with an optimum set of tools.? 

Building the right tech stack? 
Tech stack construction involves more than selecting the latest technologies, integrating them, then expecting your organisation, department, or team to improve the way they operate.?Before investing in a new software or application, the following should be considered:?? 

1. Evaluate outcomes before tools?- Implementing a set of tools before knowing what needs improving is a sure-fire way of creating a tech stack that will hinder rather than aid.?First, organisations need to ask themselves; “What are we trying to achieve? What is the desired outcome? What is preventing these outcomes from being achieved?” For instance, if customer experience is delivering below expectations, implementing a brand-new customer relationship management (CRM) system is not a comprehensive solution. First, management must look into why customer experience is not performing well.?Delays in order fulfilment, ineffective customer communication or slow system notifications can all cause an unpleasant customer experience. Customer order details might be entered incorrectly or could fail to reach the logistics centre altogether. Perhaps the software delivery team is spending too much time checking code defects manually, leaving no time to work on new features.?Understanding the root cause of performance issues is critical to solving them. Tools should merely be a facilitator. The immediate and primary purpose of building a tech stack is to align processes with business objectives to deliver as much value as possible.? 

2. Collaboration is key - Organisational silos must be broken down to improve decision-making when creating a fully functioning tech stack. Using a consultative approach across departments is necessary, regardless of the type of tech stack being built.?For instance, if a?CRM platform?is implemented in isolation to solve customer experience issues, but a distribution centre is unaware, then an order fulfilment workflow might completely break down.?Having a discussion early with relevant stakeholders can flag any bottlenecks and determine if additional technologies are required to plug any gaps.?With representatives from relevant teams and departments, identifying problems and setting clear objectives is easier. Once established, creating the appropriate workflows that streamline and automate processes will be simple. 

3. Consult the experts - Any application or system can work straight out of the box on its own, but few organisations require this level of simplicity. To cater to unique business needs and ensure any tech stack delivers value, varying degrees of customisation are necessary.?One main area is implementing business logic to create custom workflows. Custom workflows throughout any tech stack will typically follow a step-by-step process and include intricate rules. Features, such as mandatory fields, business rules, and ‘if/then’ statements, will be implemented to ensure each application and workflow functions correctly.?Although many application user interfaces (UIs) are fluid, the number of potential actions, paths and routes a user can take are many - there's no guarantee they will follow point A, to B, to C, and then to D in that order. It is critical to consult with software teams to ensure the business rules are correctly implemented and the various user paths adequately tested.?Another technical area to consider is how a platform or software works when integrating with different technologies.?The IT team should be included in these conversations. Software experts will best understand the advantages and disadvantages of using one programming language over another. Understanding what’s involved when integrating applications with different codebases is essential. Organisations don’t want to invest in a tech stack to ultimately find that no one can automate the workflows.?Consultation with the software development team is necessary because end-to-end testing will have to continuously take place. In addition to different codebases, updates, new features and maintenance work will regularly occur - requiring rigorous testing to maintain functionality across every platform.? 

Tech stack testing is imperative? 
Setting clear objectives, collaborating company-wide, finding the right tools and implementing those tools is just the beginning.?For a tech stack to function properly, continuous testing is essential, and this means taking advantage of automation wherever possible.?? 

Monitoring user experience? 
An unused tech stack defeats its entire purpose. To ensure usability, it is best to test from the user perspective. However, not all test automation tools have that capability. Most of these tools simply look at the code and verify the user experience from the backend, but for most modern applications, that’s not enough. Today’s applications have complex UIs that use features such as iFrames, drop-downs, and pop-up windows, to offer a better experience. These can be great for a user, but may be hard to test with tools that only verify the code.?

Testing from a user perspective means intently looking at what the user sees. For instance, a pop-up window may appear, obscuring a button that must be clicked to complete an action that is critical to a workflow. Specific object-based tools wouldn't identify this as an issue, because its remit is only to verify the code rather than validate the UI functionality.? 

Test user journeys with AI 
Essential to any tech stack are customisations - in particular, workflows. Business logic drives these custom workflows, increasing the number of user journeys that need testing.?Users don't necessarily move down a linear path in sequence. One step in the process might be accessible from different routes. Users may forget to enter necessary data, meaning they have to go back a step or refresh the page.? 

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