QA essentials for deploying new IT systems

By Nick Finlayson*
Tuesday, 10 August, 2010

Thorough quality assurance is crucial to effectively deploying new IT systems. Nick Finlayson, Capgemini Australia’s Head of Testing Services, discusses how to choose the right outsourced testing partner for your organisation.

Despite the downturn, some 88% of IT directors expect to see more investment in software testing and quality assurance from their business leaders in the coming year.

This willingness to invest marks growing business awareness that good software testing is a professional and strategic skill, and not merely an afterthought slotted in at the end of the IT project life cycle.

As the green shoots of recovery emerge and IT spend shifts towards new application development designed to provide competitive advantage, Australian businesses must decide if they will be best served by committing to a fully scalable outsourcing operation or by managing the range of testing operations in-house.

Many organisations believe software testing can be conveniently carried out by a vendor responsible for development. On the surface, this makes good sense: the development vendor knows the product and the client, and should therefore be able to do both jobs equally well. And simplified vendor management has its apparent advantages.

However, outsourcing development and testing to a single vendor can be problematic. There is an implied conflict of interest between developing and testing the same system: can you really rely on one company to fully and exhaustively test its ‘own’ software, particularly if the supplier believes that it has expended all the hours allocated to build requirements?

Escalating application complexity is also compounding the need for more specialist expertise in the software quality assurance function. Nearly nine in 10 IT directors and managers say that application complexity within their organisation is increasing - with obvious implications for the testing team.

A more diverse skill set is required, including application-specific technical expertise to better guide the development team. Testers also need to have a deeper business domain knowledge and improved expertise in the automation of all stages of the application life cycle. One quarter of organisations is already using automation for test cases, and one fifth is using it for defect management.

When deciding which model will best suit your organisation’s needs, consider if you want the full testing process delivered and managed or to adopt an on-demand approach by buying the resources, time and skills to meet ad hoc and less predictable testing requirements.

Offshore testing providers offer a low-cost base but local knowledge is usually required to supplement the skill set. Similarly, while regional testing specialist providers may have the local knowledge and presence, many lack deep sector-specific knowledge - especially for sensitive clients in the financial services and public sectors. Some larger IT systems integrators offer testing services as just one part of a large portfolio without specialist expertise.

A selective outsourcing model is an attractive solution; meeting the need for technical expertise and in-depth local knowledge while also providing the scale to execute a cost-effective testing program across borders. Coupling professional testers in multiple service delivery locations with industry best practice standards like the Test Management Approach (TMap) and Test Process Improvement (TPI) goes a long way to delivering ‘more for less, faster and better’.

European and North American organisations are leading the charge with this approach, with 41% and 28% of their enterprises respectively saying they’ll increase their investment in outsourced software testing in the coming years.

Whichever way you lean, choose a services provider that understands two things: firstly, that the value of a major systems deployment does not stop on the go-live date but starts there, when employees, clients and partners begin using the technology to measurably improve their performance; and, secondly, a services provider which emphasises the early stages of application life cycle management such as requirements definition and visualisation.

These two organisational shifts will help your business achieve a shorter and higher quality application life cycle with reduced overall project costs.

Along with providing value-added services such as sector-specific industrialised solutions, we’ll be investing heavily in these areas. At Capgemini we believe they’re key to creating the specialist software testing resource of the future.

* Nick Finlayson is the Head of Capgemini Australia’s Testing Services practice, leading a team of 130 professional testers here, supported by 6870 experts globally across the Capgemini Group. Nick’s team specialises in working with financial services, energy and utility, telecommunications and public sector organisations.

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