Software testing growing fast, survey finds

Software testing may not be the sexiest area of IT, but it is one on which an increasing number of companies are focusing in an effort to get it right -- right from the start.

According to a survey conducted at the Software Testing Australia/New Zealand conference, held in August in Wellington, if an organization isn't already using software testing solutions, it will be very soon.

Thirty percent of the 54 delegates who responded to the survey, conducted by software tools provider Compuware, report they are using testing systems now; 28% say they are implementing now and a further 33% say they plan to implement.

That means 91% of organizations have either implemented, are implementing or plan to implement software testing solutions.

The report says this shows that the market for software testing solutions is maturing.

"As development projects are getting larger and more complex organizations understand that they can't continue to test software in an ad hoc way. Quality is becoming more important," it says.

"In previous years the focus was on functionality -- as long as it worked it was okay. The emphasis is now more on performance, scalability, response time, usability and meeting the business requirements."

Quality is fundamental to delivering business value, the report argues.

But implementation of solutions is just part of the journey -- automation of testing is the destination.

The survey respondents, who were typically test managers, analysts and engineers from medium- to large-sized New Zealand organizations, report software testing is not automated at all in 44% of the organizations surveyed. Thirty seven percent claim they have automated up to 25% of their testing activities, while only 9% report they are automated for half of their testing routines.

"Despite the rapid deployment of software testing solutions, the proportion of software testing that has been automated is still very low," the report notes. "On average, 22% of testing was automated.

"It seems many organizations do not have the capacity to invest the effort in automated solutions, despite the fact that many respondents see the value in this. But because it is business as usual -- testing software to tight deadlines -- it is generally difficult to invest time and effort in the next step."

Another barrier identified to testing is communications failures between business analysts and testers. Forty two percent of the respondents report they find designing test cases difficult because of the requirements documentation they use.

"Whenever business analysts gather business requirements and communicate them to testers via a document, testers have to interpret the requirements," the report says. "This raises questions about how good the business analyst is at communicating the requirements and, ultimately, how good the document is."

The difficulty in designing test cases indicates a lack of standardization among many organizations in gathering business requirements for testing purposes, it concludes.

Unsurprisingly, 78% of organizations use testing to improve software quality, but 56% say it is used to speed time to market, meaning testing is part of a competitive equation for a significant number of organizations.

Craig Dewhurst, general manager of Qual IT Solutions, a software testing consultancy, says the real insight of the survey is that quality, time to market and cost are closely related.

"Applying best practice processes in a repeatable way is essential, but so is ensuring that testing is considered from the moment the project is conceived," he says. "The best results are achieved when business stakeholders, business analysts, developers, project managers and QA all actively ask: 'how are we going to test this function to prove it works properly -- and doesn't break -- and what really needs to be tested?'"

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