The state of QA & testing in North America
The US, like the rest of the world is seeing a continued increase in digital transformation using digital advances in analytics, mobility, social, and smart embedded devices and at the same time streamlining the ERP processes. Another trend is the increase in the adoption of Agile and DevOps methodologies especially for digital transformation. These trends have had an impact on quality assurance (QA) and test function and the organization. According to the World Quality Report survey, the QA and Test function saw a consistent increase of budget, as reported by 90% of US and 69% of Canadian respondents over the last four years. The main factors driving the rise are ‘the increased complexity of IT applications’, ‘the shift to Agile and DevOps causing more test iteration cycles’ and ‘the greater stress being put on quality’. At a fundamental level, this is due to the increased importance of QA and Testing in a digital age to improve or prevent damage to the brand.
One of the biggest trends in North America is the continued adoption of Agile across different industry sectors. This increasing adoption of Agile and DevOps methodology has an important impact on the organization of testing activities. These approaches put an increasing focus on speed and time-to-market and lead to the creation of smaller, integrated teams that can handle a variety of tasks. This is giving rise to hybrid QA organizations, where the digital side of operations is moving towards de-centralization, while operations based on legacy systems are centralized with a Testing Center of Excellence (TCOE). Another important factor in the structure of the Test organization is the level of process maturity within the organization. More mature organizations are transforming towards hybrid test organization wherein the project teams are within the program and the TCoE is providing support on test platforms, governance etc. Organizations that have had low level of maturity in the test functions are forming centralized TCoE organization to bring the rigor for improving product quality.
Irrespective of the Test organization, one key trend is the want to increase the level of automation within the test function. In order to address the challenges around increasing level of robust automation, organizations are trying to increase Interface or API automation and Unit / component level automation. Although the demand for smart test automation is there, the level of automation reported by the survey participants is in the mid-teens. The key challenges in achieving higher level of automation revolve around the lack of skills, challenges in managing test data and availability of test environment. Test data management has always been a challenge but has become more complex due to DevOps and Agile models as well as the move to the cloud. In addition, the General Data Protection Regulation and its associated requirements for data privacy have brought this area into greater focus. There is also a lot of interest around test environment management right now as organizations search for ways to automate environment provisioning and deployment to speed up the entire testing cycle.
The shortage of time to test reported by our respondents is an important factor that has led to the recent rise of predictive analytics in testing. This rise of techniques and tools for risk based testing and defect prediction modeling are another upcoming trend.
Apart from the above trends, there are also some key challenges being faced by the QA and Testing function in North America. One of these, as already mentioned, is a lack of the right kind of skills among QA and Testing professionals. This is a direct result of the increasing adoption of DevOps, Agile and rapidly changing technologies and the convergence of social, mobile and cloud (SMAC) solutions. Due to these trends, there is a need to re-tool or re-skill the existing pool of testers and this continues to be a major challenge in North America.
Compared to Agile, the adoption of DevOps is a more recent trend and the most common DevOps approaches among North American organizations include the virtualization of environments, use of cloud-based test environments and the use of continuous monitoring and predictive analytics.
In summary, it is a market that has been quick to adopt some of the latest QA and Testing trends and is slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to the maturity of its testing practices. Yet, there remain some important challenges that will likely be resolved over the next few years.
By Sandip Parekh, VP, Testing for Apps, North America at Capgemini