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You Bought the Plane, But Where’s the Pilot?


Imagine you have a goal: Transport your team from New York to Los Angeles in the most efficient way possible. It’s clear that flying would be fastest—and doing so on a private jet would be best, saving time checking into airports, waiting for scheduled flights, and avoiding all the other common hassles associated with air travel. After assessing your budget, it seems that purchasing a private jet for the company would make the most sense.

planeWhen the travel day arrives, you take your team to the tarmac and board the company’s shiny new jet. Climbing aboard the plane, everyone is clearly impressed. The jet features the latest in safety and navigation systems, amenities throughout the cabin, and powerful engines that guarantee record cross-country flight times. As your team buckles themselves into their seats, the departure time arrives—and passes. The shiny jet remains motionless on the runway. Time ticks by and still, no movement. Clearly, something is amiss.

Though there is nothing wrong with the plane, mechanically, the cockpit lacks a key feature that is preventing takeoff. Your shiny new jet—the pinnacle of modern aeronautics engineering—is missing a pilot. Without a trained, experienced operator in that key seat, all this advanced technology is useless in terms of accomplishing your goal.

At this point, the air in the cabin of your jet is getting hot and stale. Your team is getting restless. Knowing there is no pilot on the way—and aware of your inability to pilot an airplane—you assign the task to a team member. Your appointee steps nervously into the cockpit, flips a few switches, pulls back a lever and the jet jerks into motion. It bumps along the runway, gaining speed, and unsteadily lifts into the air. There’s a nervous gasp and then cheers as the plane takes flight. But, after leveling off, someone asks the dreaded question: How do we land this thing?

While it may seem obvious that a jet without a pilot is useless, many otherwise smart organizations are making just this mistake when it comes to testing. Companies are making considerable investments in the latest testing tool technology, only to leave these platforms motionless on the runway for want of a suitable operator. And selecting an inexperienced team member to fill the seat is rarely an adequate solution.

This is not a criticism of the technology—indeed it’s very much the opposite. In the testing and optimization industry, we have reached the point where a switch must be flipped: A focus on acquiring and implementing technology is no longer sufficient. Instead, we must begin making the larger and more difficult investment in processes, cultural infrastructure and, most importantly, people, to harness the expansive technological power that is available.

Resource Investment

By building this critical foundation—training people to effectively use testing tools, develop tests, manage campaigns, and design strategy—organizations will position themselves to truly take advantage of the technology investments they have already made.

How important is this transition? It’s the difference between begin stuck on a runway and soaring at 30,000 feet.