What impacts your testing efficiency?

Johannesburg, 03 Dec 2021
Read time 5min 50sec

Asked to rate the factors that are critical to achieving test efficiency, 65% of responding organisations told researchers on the 2021-2022 World Quality Report that having adequate staff with the right skills was considered vital. Other key factors were listed as follows:

  • Better communication and collaboration across the life cycle (59%);
  • Enhance test data generation and provisioning solutions for teams (56%);
  • Shift test left (test earlier in the process) (55%);
  • Shift test right (test less during development and focus more on quality monitoring) (53%);
  • Improve test design (53%);
  • Enhance test environment provisioning solutions for teams (48%); and
  • Increase the level of test automation (46%).

Jacques Vermeulen, Application Delivery Management Software: Pre-Sales at Micro Focus South Africa, refers to the need for skilled staff when he says: “It seems as though everybody is talking about education and training, but there are two aspects to this. Employees must be trained firstly on the tooling that you have in place. Then they require skills around DevOps, agile and improving test design. Education is key and businesses need to make the most of free training offered by vendors so that they can elevate their people to a level where they’re able to use the software properly. Not having the necessary skills for the tools you have in hand is the worst thing you can do.”

Jacques Vermeulen, Application Delivery Management Software: Pre-Sales, Micro Focus South Africa.
Jacques Vermeulen, Application Delivery Management Software: Pre-Sales, Micro Focus South Africa.

Vaughn Young, Client Account Executive at Micro Focus South Africa is in complete agreement. “According to the WQR, 61% of organisations don’t have the right quality assurance and test expertise. We did a recent project with MTN where we created super users, which sped up knowledge transfer between relevant users. They formed a buddy system to train their project managers and QA individuals on the relevant software.

“Skills development training has to be a key focus across South Africa; we’ve been speaking about this for the past two-and-a-half years and now offer free basic training within the application delivery management space.”

Moving onto the next point, Vermeulen says having better communication and collaboration across the life cycle is key. “The likes of FNB, Pick n Pay and MTN all have a single platform that enables them to better communicate, collaborate and have increased visibility across the life cycle. It’s very difficult to bring disparate systems together. Opting for a platform that gives you maximum cross-collaboration and visibility is the way forward.”

It goes without saying that companies need to enhance test data generation and provisioning solutions for teams. “So many customers are spending a lot of time on not doing that. There are automated solutions that can assist customers in generating test data and – importantly – set up environments, which ties into the second last factor listed above, which talks about enhancing the test environment. Yet while customers may have access to automated mechanisms that can assist them, oftentimes they don’t use it.

“MTN is a good example of a business that is using deployment automation to further enhance the whole life cycle, removing latency around test data creation and ultimately increasing their release velocity.”

Solutions with embedded AI and machine learning increase test coverage and free up resources to focus on other aspects of the business, which is bringing about a lot of efficiencies and return on investment within the organisation.

“Automation is here to stay, people won’t lose their jobs but they are going to have to adapt the manner in which they work. This brings us back to the WQR and the next two items on the list above, namely shift test left and shift test right. We’ve got so many customers talking about shifting left, starting earlier in the cycle, finding defects earlier, because that saves a huge amount of pain down the line and increases the cycle’s velocity,” says Vermeulen. “Imagine shaving off two weeks from a six-week release cycle, but with the same quality. That’s immense value, and while customers realise this, they don’t always have the means to get it done.”

“For the past eight years, companies have been talking around shift left, but nobody has really put adequate solutions in place, mainly because it’s an outsourced model to a lot of vendors with various SLAs,” adds Young. “However, if companies really want to follow a DevOps approach, the best practice is to shift left before something jumps into the QA environment. There are solutions available to help with shift left, shift right. Early next year we’re looking at model-based testing that will allow for codeless testing, so a business analyst can step into the testing process.”

When this happens, it will increase the level of test automation, which is the last factor on the list.

“People want to do more automation because it’s the best way to increase your velocity, decreasing your time, but not necessarily your staff, with the end goal being where Pick n Pay is, at 100% functional test automation. That means there’s no manual intervention or manual testing required,” explains Vermeulen. “They’ve gone from a six-week to a two-week cycle, increasing their value proposition to themselves, everyone in the organisation and the end customers. That’s why they’re doing well, because they're doing things right.”

In closing, Young talks about value stream management and how the type of deployment discussed above shouldn’t be implemented in a big bang approach. “The business first has to identify available skill sets, from a people perspective, as well as processes and what is the pain linkage within the environment. Only then can you tailor make a solution that starts in the idealisation phase all the way through to operations.

“Once you’ve embedded that solution, then you need to track efficiencies, monitor usage and ensure you achieve maximum efficiencies. You need to bridge old with new. The process usually takes between three and five years, if you don’t rip and replace. The WQR speaks to increasing maturity levels within the organisation and this is reflected by Pick n Pay, which has dedicated people who understand the technology and deploy it piece by piece. My best piece of advice is to do it step-by-step, have a plan and follow it.”

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