About Sky Italia
Launched in 2003, Sky Italia provides internet, terrestrial and satellite pay TV services, with original television programming, together with ultra-fast broadband home connection. It is part of Sky Group, Europe’s leading media and entertainment company with more than 23 million customers across 6 countries, and it is owned by Comcast.
Ensuring Quality by Unifying Development Teams and Tools
The global media industry continues to change rapidly as new technologies and new operating models emerge. Competition from other national broadband providers and from global streaming media services means that Sky Italia must constantly evolve and improve its offerings in order to retain existing customers and attract new ones. In line with other leading bundlers of pay TV, Sky Italia is also creating its own compelling content – under the Sky Originals banner – giving customers more reason to sign up or renew their contracts.
To support this ongoing evolution and improvement in services and content, and to enable the business to deliver on its long-term plans for operational innovation, Sky Italia recognized that it needed to transform its internal information technology capabilities. In particular, the company needed to improve the quality management and governance around its development projects.
There were clear opportunities for improvement both in organizational terms and in terms of tooling, as Simona Magale, Head of Information Technology Quality Assurance at Sky Italia, explains: “Previously, teams in our software development center worked independently, each using its own practices and tools. In addition, there was no independent team responsible for quality assurance or for certifying that finished software conformed to the original expectations and specifications from the business.”
Scoping out a New Approach
For many areas in the management of software quality and testing, Sky Italia had no standardized tools. The company was using Micro Focus test automation tools only for a very limited scope; standardization and the full adoption of test automation would provide an opportunity to review how these tools could fit into a larger and more robust scope.
The first step in the transformation at Sky Italia was the establishment of a fully independent Quality Assurance (QA) department to take responsibility for enhancing and guaranteeing quality right from the outset of any business initiative. The independent nature of the QA department was designed to ensure segregation of duties and full transparency in reporting on software quality.
Simona Magale comments, “There were three key areas we wanted to cover in QA. First: processes and methodologies, including the introduction of new control processes to monitor and validate IT implementation from strategy to execution. Second: new technologies to manage and certify software quality. And third: service execution, with enhanced test coordination and execution, more extensive automation, and the management of performance in production.”
For its future standardized technology platform for software QA, Simona Magale’s team rationalized its goals into five pillars: methodologies, quality governance, change management – which turned out to be the most challenging element – continuous improvement, and finally execution and monitoring. With these pillars in place, the company engaged with multiple external vendors in an RFP process to determine the best solution for its needs.
Transforming with Micro Focus
Based on its previous experience of Micro Focus technologies, and on the scoring from its RFP process, Sky Italia selected Micro Focus ALM Octane as its strategic solution for managing, optimizing, and monitoring software quality from end to end. The company integrated ALM Octane with its new Jenkins platform for continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). Sky Italia added Grafana for test governance, reporting and dashboarding, and is considering the addition of AppQuality and Applause for crowd testing of applications.
Sky Italia also deployed several other Micro Focus toolsets, including: UFT Mobile for testing mobile apps on both physical and emulated devices; LoadRunner Enterprise for performance and load testing; Service Virtualization for the realistic simulation of production environments. The company also deployed Release Control for future use in linking planning and analysis with automated change execution and validation; and Deployment Automation for future use in rapid and compliant continuous delivery. A Vertica database is used to store metrics from Jenkins and feed them into Grafana analytics and dashboarding tools. With the Micro Focus portfolio offering all of the required tools, Sky Italia was able to achieve end-to-end coverage of the full value stream management chain from a single source, reducing complexity and integration effort.
“This was a significant transformation project, and it required a lot of internal effort and commitment – but the results certainly justified this investment!” says Simona Magale. “We got great support and education from the Micro Focus professional services teams, and we took the approach of top-down sponsorship from the business, including the CEO, CIO, and CTO. We set up several workshops to inform and educate employees from both the business and the IT organizations, including quality management training for 600 people, and requirements management training for 180 people. Getting people to change their working practices is the biggest challenge, and the process of evangelization is ongoing. But because we deployed the solution with a real focus on our business requirements, we are confident that the transformation will continue to go from strength to strength.”
The Micro Focus solution is designed to provide business agility, full automation, and end-to-end visibility in software quality. ALM Octane helps Sky Italia to aggregate agile development teams so that they can continue to work independently and flexibly towards the same goal in a coordinated way. It supports a continuous approach to software delivery from beginning to end and covers quality management for all types of development including web and mobile apps, APIs, and web services.
Working together, the Micro Focus tools support software QA throughout the end-to-end software lifecycle, from business requirements, through the definition of user scenarios, to the development and approval first of high-level design documentation and then of low-level design documentation, to the management of bug fixing, to the execution and monitoring of user acceptance testing (UAT).
A critical success factor in managing any application lifecycle is ensuring that stakeholders have full visibility of everything in the pipeline. At Sky Italia, the Micro Focus tools work with other tools to provide clear dashboards of actionable data about the productivity, velocity, security, and quality of application development. With immediate visibility into all aspects of the quality management process, stakeholders are empowered to make better decisions at higher speed.
Rapid Return on Investment
The ALM Octane environment at Sky Italia is helping the company to improve the alignment between business and IT stakeholders throughout the application lifecycle, which in turn shortens the demand-to-value chain. In a nutshell, the company can now turn emerging requirements into secure, high-quality applications faster and more efficiently. The environment supports hybrid development modes, eliminating barriers between waterfall and agile development teams, enabling managers to deploy their applications in a repeatable and automated way. Both business and IT stakeholders can access all the information they need in a single, global view of development and operations.
With full visibility of every stage in the application lifecycle, and full traceability of defects from pre-production releases back to code, decisions are now based on accurate, actionable data. Simona Magale says, “The new application lifecycle management environment provides fantastic dashboards and monitoring capabilities that are proving to be extremely useful. We have implemented a large number of dashboards, and we find it very valuable to be able to see what is happening across all stages of the lifecycle.”
She adds, “The Micro Focus solution helps us provide full traceability for releases, packages, business requirements, manual testing, automated testing, and performance testing, so we can work backwards from defects to rapidly fix the problem at the source, multiplying the value of the solution.”
Future Plans: Clear Skies Ahead
The new IT tools and processes are already widely used at Sky Italia, and the standardization of approaches across teams maximizes the value of the company’s latest investments in application lifecycle management. Simona Magale says, “Change management has been the most important and challenging element for us. We’re successfully building a mindset of ongoing process improvement because we can now see exactly where the bottlenecks are and how to resolve them. Contributing to this is better visibility in governance over the performance of external suppliers.”
Now that Sky Italia has a standardized global approach to application lifecycle management based on Micro Focus solutions, the company is building on this foundation to further develop the efficiency and speed of its practices. “We have seen great results already, and there is still more work to do,” says Simona Magale. “We plan to introduce closer monitoring and control over the release and deploy processes, and to bring in more detailed information so that we can automate integrated releases. We also plan to introduce automatic provisioning of data for test environments.”
She concludes: “Ultimately, we are targeting a strategy of extreme shift-left for all development – aiming at low code application development. Micro Focus gives us all of the tools we need to achieve end-to-end coverage of the full value stream management chain. We are delighted with what we have already achieved with Micro Focus, and we look forward to further enhancing the efficiency, speed, visibility, and quality of our end-to-end application lifecycle management.”