Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Emerging Business Drivers and Orthogonal Validations

Rapid Adoption of IT systems across sectors and Domain: Globally as more and more systems are being digitized, the need for testers have increased drastically. The availability of the resource pool who has the necessary domain knowledge is also shrinking which has lead to a resource pool crunch. That said, it would be paramount to ramp-up Business Analysts and Product Primes to acquire the pre-existing knowledge within the domain and innovate upon that knowledge. Bringing testers up to speed then becomes the responsibilities of the Analysts and Product primes. The secondary problem of non-availability of Skilled (automation scripts) testers to perform the necessary functions gives raise to a requirement of machine based frameworks to fill in the gaps of non-availability of the resource pool. This gives rise to the lateral industry of automated code generation for developers speeding solution development as well as automated test case generation aiding the Quality Assurance folks. Business Analysts are demanding tools which enables them to create test scenarios without having to write code.

Impedance mis-match during knowledge transfer: When the knowledge transfer of the Domain has to flow from the Analyst to the developers and testers, the impedance mis-match in translating the knowledge in terms of articulating the nuances of the innovation and the capability of a tester (as per say) to understand and assimilate that knowledge into the respective Testcases is mind numbingly high. This high mismatch in what was expected to be built and tested and what landed up getting built and tested will lead to heartburns during acceptance scenarios. Demand for extreme traceability of Testcases and test steps to the requirements has increased rapidly.

Complexity of the Product: The choice of the technologies and frameworks and platforms used in manufacturing and building the solution also adds up to the complexity of the test cycles. ERP implementation, PDLC of a Enterprise Product, SaaS based Solution Delivery, Cloud Compute enabled solutions, Data Center Management, Legacy Integration etc, are not only rich in semantics from a Domain perspective but are also complex to assimilate to understand the breadth and depth of testing strategies required to validate and provide assurance of quality. Demand for pre-built adapters and catalogs which can readily integrate and work as expected during last mile integration is on the rise.

Heterogeneity of the Systems: Added to the complexity of the product, the IT eco-system in which these product operates today are made up of different systems from vendors such as IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, Sun, HP etc... (including home grown solution) that contains various platforms patched up together through ESB and SOA integration. Even the choice of Operating systems and hardware platforms have become varied that performing a configuration and version compatibility test for any given platform has started to look daunting. Virtualization and Automation is becoming the norm of the day.

Shrinking GTM and Focus on short gain cycles: Typically the Product development lifecycles and Go to market cycles are shrinking in the light of ever changing business dynamics. Every one wants to put the product out in the market as soon as possible capturing the customer share as soon to gain control on the changing business dynamics. Agility, it seems is paying dividends for such short GTMs and providing a quick ROI. SaaS based and On-line solutions are moving towards perpetual beta platforms which can rapidly adopt to the customers needs. This also holds true for ERP implementation cycles which are shrinking by the day. What used to take 5 years are now being reduced to 1 year implementation cycles with rapid customizations. Demand for baseline Testcases covering top few probable customizations of a large product base is increasing. Pre-built Test Content 'cartridges' are the need of the day.

Shrinking IT Budgets: Discretionary spend has been monitored more closely and also the overall IT budget is shrinking by the day. CFOs are breathing down the CTOs neck for efficiency and productivity for every dollar spent. This has lead to cost cutting in terms of support staff (people) and reduction in spend of applications and products (license). CFOs are moving away from making any large capital commitments at the outset impacting high CAPEX vendors. Converting the fixed costs to variable cost is the Financial Officers edict across LOBs. Demand for subscription based usage is on the rise.

Global Recession Driving Margin Pressures: Global recession being the new reality, the pressure on margins (not to mention survival) is high. Corporates are looking for operational efficiencies to increase the margins to retain the operating profits while the top line sinks. Increasingly corporates are betting on digitizing and automating all processes that can be automated which shall convert to cost savings by downsizing the cost centers. Demand for outsourcing the validation and assurance and SLA management is on the rise.

Demand for Highly Reliable Products and Service: The general tolerance for a good quality product has come down. Consumers are demanding 'excellent' quality products. In effect, what was excellent yesterday is just good enough today. Reliability and Relevance are the two parameters that are driving the world markets. If a product or a solution is not meeting the standards of 'excellence' then there is no place in the market for the solution. Corporates are trying to leverage machines (computers, robots, software) as much as possible to automate the core solutions. Automation unlike manual processes provides a high degree of reliability when employed through out the production cycle. Demand for metrics based reports with high degree of SLA while enabling automation is on the rise.

Regulatory Compliance: With the increase in the number of regulations in any given sector (HIPAA, SOX, GLBA etc...) the burden of certifying the product, platform, application or service has increased dramatically. This has led to the amortization of working capital from core production cycles (bread and butter cycles) to compliance activities. Given the same capital budget (which seemingly is shrinking as we speak), the number of activities in production has increased to cater to the compliance demands. Corporates again are seeking automated compliance testing tools to ensure certification which increases the operational efficiencies. The compliance requirements has made the corporates to refactor the dynamics of a verification and validation LOB from a cost center to a value center. Demand for compliance catalogs for verification is on the rise.

Increased Threats and Security Compliance: The threat levels have been ever increasing and the types and nature of threats have become innovative. Security Compliance has become a core activity of any validation cycles for products and solutions. Penetration testing, Functional Security, Security Standards Compliance etc... adds to the release and build test cycles as a natural PDLC flow increasing the number of core activities to be performed by QA. Corporates and QA departments are seeking automation platforms in these and other areas to release enough bandwidth of the existing people so that what has to be (and can be) performed as manual verification has enough people available to perform. Growing need for security verifications as part of the automation solutions is been on the rise.

What does these emerging drivers means for Verification and Validation process ?
Simply put, testing is not a gating function anymore. Testing has become an inherent QoS (Quality of Service) through out the life cycle of production or service delivery. Testing has become a change agent addressing risk early on in the lifecycle and continually assuring reliability, relevance, Security and compliance apart from providing functional acceptance and assurance for the product or service. Testing as per say has become a value creator and quality differentiator for the end product to provide the required edge to compete in the market place of excellence. Testing has become an "Orthogonal" platform, process and activity to cater to the demands of the new markets.

AutoCzar a test automation platform seems to be reinventing itself to cater to these emerging trends.

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