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February 21, 2017updated 28 Mar 2017 4:10pm

The impact of digital transformation on QA and testing

The impact of digital transformation is being felt in every area of life and business. This is changing all areas of enterprise IT but none more so than the areas of quality assurance and testing.

By John Oates

The World Quality Report from CapGemini, Sogeti and Hewlett Packard Enterprise provides a detailed view of just how Quality Assurance (QA) is changing. Researchers spoke to 1,600 executives in 32 countries and analysed practises and processes in a range of different industry sectors from automotive manufacturing to financial services.

They found the process of digital transformation and shifts to agile and constant DevOps managment models are changing how QA and testing is carried out. They also noted that the demands placed on the test function in enterprises are widening and changing too.

There is still a role for what the researchers call ‘Core testing and QA’ which deals with traditional enterprise IT systems – like systems of record in financial services.

The other part of many enterprises’ bi-modal infrastructure relates to digital Business IT functions such as systems of interaction where the demands of testing are very different.

These two areas require their own tailored approaches and systems of testing. But businesses are also demanding very different outcomes and reporting from testing of the two sides of infrastructure.

Whereas traditional testing was focussed on making products with as few faults as possible for digital Business reporting there is a wider focus on customer experience and satisfaction.

Testing departments looking at these areas of business are also expected to provide intelligence for business development and growth, not just report on past performance.

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Researchers found businesses in all sectors struggling with the accelerated changes brought by DevOps and agile infrastructure which need different approaches to testing and QA.

Respondents are adopting different ‘fit-for-purpose’ testing strategies for the two main areas of bi-modal IT – core legacy, enterprise systems and agile development systems. While there are good existing standards and agreed models for checking enterprise systems many businesses are struggling to find equivalent structures and practises to help with agile testing.

Machine-based intelligence can allow testing and QA to fulfil the new business expectations of contributing to business development and growth as well as continuing to achieve the old requirements of ensuring end-user satisfaction.

Another major disruptive force for QA professionals is Internet of Things technology. Some 85 per cent of respondents said IoT was already playing a part in their enterprise’s operations.

But a disturbing 68 per cent of those questioned do not have adequate testing products in place for this part of their infrastructure with most relying on the device manufacturers for security validation.

 

New technology brings benefits as well as problems.

 

But despite the difficulties created by disruptive new technologies there are also opportunities.

One key recommendation to come from the research was the adoption of intelligent, machine-learning testing systems for all areas of enterprise IT.

This can help utilise the ever-growing pool of data which testing systems are collecting as well as allow predictive analytics to both improve future testing as well as provide deeper, wider business insights. Good systems will predict quality issues before they ever become a production problem.

Such systems will also bolster the second recommendation from those surveyed – that companies adopt QA strategies which reflect moves to agile and lean DevOps. These management practises aim to break down barriers between traditional business silos. So they need testing which is integrated, automated and does not create its own barrier to development.

The research also advised establishing a specific testing strategy to deal with Internet of Things technology. The test approach and depth will depend on how your organisation is using IoT devices. But as all organisations become more reliant on IoT so the need for specific, risk-based testing strategies will grow.

This will require engineering skills as well as a new test environment to test the device itself, its communication with other devices, storing and processing the data it produces and finally validating and testing the applications with which users will control the devices.

 

Industry specific challenges

 

The 1,600 respondents represented many different industry sectors which are all seeing their own specific challenges to how testing integrates with the rest of the business.

The automotive sector is seeing fast growth in IoT technology with smarter factories and accelerating moves to digital production which are bringing IT and production together. Beyond the factory the key trend is moves to autonomous vehicles bringing whole new challenges for testing.

These changes are why security is cited as important or very important by 67 per cent of those questioned. It explains why there has been a drop in dynamic application testing from 64 per cent in 2015 to 44 per cent of those surveyed this year and a jump in the use of penetration testing from 39 per cent of companies to 50 per cent.

Spending on QA and testing is in line with the all-sector average – 32 per cent of the total IT budget is spent on testing, compared to 35 per cent last year. However the new challenges faced by the sector lead respondents to believe that testing spending would rise to 40 per cent of total budgets by 2019.

For energy and utility companies the main focus for testing is protecting the corporate image or brand. Interestingly several big companies have created new, sub brands which are often still linked to legacy infrastructure, and still need protecting by QA departments.

The main challenge for test professionals in this sector is the move to mobile applications. Although most players in this market now offer mobile apps this continues to create challenges because consumer satisfaction with these apps remains stubbornly low.

Just under half of energy and utility firms surveyed are already testing user interfaces and mobile application usability. Some 17 per cent of total budgets in this sector is now spent on testing mobile solutions.

But 48 per cent of those questioned admitted lacking processes and methods for testing mobile and multi-channel products and 43 per cent said they were hampered by a lack of skills.

The World Quality Report found that financial services companies are increasingly partnering with financial technology providers to create new services and to make better use of data to improve customer services.

Key areas of development include products relating to Blockchain technologies, digital payments and smart, standardised contracts.

Financial services has unique challenges associated with very data rich applications, a diverse technology environment of differing devices, platforms and browsers and demands for an ever faster pace of development.

And testing in financial services must achieve all of this with best of breed of security. These pressures mean an unusually high proportion of companies, 57 per cent, are making use of managed application testing services to help maintain standards.

 

The World Quality Report 2016-2017 was carried out in April and May of 2016. Interviews were based on a subset of 44 questions depending on the respondent’s industry area and typically took half an hour. Organisations had over 1,000 employees and participants were chosen to ensure sufficient coverage of different regions and vertical markets. The full report is available from HPE here:

http://www8.hp.com/uk/en/software-solutions/capgemini-world-quality-report/

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