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The Great Indian Testing Dream!

Pradeep C
Pradeep C
CEO, Edista Testing Institute

Pradeep is currently the CEO of Edista Testing Institute and is based at Bangalore. As part of... more>>

Software Testing sure does present a great opportunity for growth for major Indian IT Service Providers. With 70 percent of the worldwide outsourced testing services coming to India, we could not ask for anything better. However, the question to ask ourselves is if the enterprises are making the right moves at the right speed, in the right direction to capitalize on the opportunity at hand, and maintain our leadership position.

For the past 6 years starting 2004, Indian IT Service Providers have realized a great business opportunity in Independent Testing Services. The opportunity has grown from a small business of US$ 10 Mn to a whopping US$ 9.1 Bn, demonstrating an average CAGR of 47% over the past years. With over 132,000 members employed purely in Independent Testing Services, the line of business is certainly recognized as an important growth segment and contributor in the Indian IT Industry, and certainly a recession proof business to invest in.

The growth of business has created a new set of challenges, and does question a few paradigms on how the business is really run. The question really is on how the new challenges are being addressed by our enterprises.

Product Quality is the main focus. Many customers have learnt and have started to demand their partners to improve product or deliverable quality. By shifting focus to reducing the cost of quality in their operations, customers have clearly given the status of Business Criticality to the Software Testing activities and projects.

Not just functionality. Traditionally, the testing was focused on Functionality of the system. However, increasingly, organizations are focusing on Performance, Reliability, Security, and Usability as important aspects to be demonstrated for the product. In addition, given the requirement to do Integrated Development; issues like compatibility, installation, internationalization have been seen as necessary to test by many organizations today.

Rise of the Cloud. Cloud computing takes the web to the next level of challenge in terms of performance, security, compliance, and alignment with the business. While Cloud enables much larger opportunity, it poses interesting challenges for testing in a virtualized, distributed environment with multiple configurations. Additionally, cloud can enable the reduction of automation costs for enterprises in a direct manner.

Gold is at the bottom of the pyramid, and so should the cost of finding it be. Organizations have realized that many customers still treat Testing as a cost, and unless we reduce the cost of operation it would not continue to grow at the same rate in India. Given this, there has been a constant thrust and effort to move the costs down the pyramid, by using junior resources for the job at hand.

The technical and business challenges are compounded and magnified, when coupled with the challenge of required, available and ready-to-employ talent.

Shortage of Talent. Interestingly, many organizations continue to face the shortage of ready-deployable talent. This rapid growth in demand for software testing services has had a corresponding impact on the supply side. In 2006 alone, there was a shortfall of 15,000 software testing professionals in India.

Some of the many reasons for the widening gap are lack of educational institutes providing structured and well-designed training programs; poor understanding and implementation of software testing practices; lack of a unified competency framework, lack of common body of knowledge [standards, methods, tools]; lack of common forums for exchange of best practices. If India can so effectively deliver and scale up testing services, which are based on manpower, it must be good at training in all forms. For testing, specialized integrated industry ready education is the need of the hour.

Given the shortage, and the growth of business demand, organizations have started partnering with educational institutions to produce talent to specification and , just-in-time with no additional costs being incurred by the enterprise.

Testing is a preferred career option. Many professionals have now begun to look upon software testing as a preferred career option. This is due to the imbalance of demand and supply of deployable resources. Another reason for this is a faster career progression, which is also a result of the same imbalance. For instance, a trainee can rapidly progress through the levels of test engineer, senior test engineer, team lead, test manager and then into other management roles within the organization.

Organizations on their part have also taken initiatives to ramp up their existing workforce in-line with client demands. Many organizations have comprehensive induction and orientation programs for new team members. Mentoring and training is imparted to them through international certifications, like CSTE offered by QAI Global Institute.

Structured Skill Enhancement Investment is a Must. Many Indian organizations are allocating significant amounts towards skill enhancement of their staff to achieve competitive advantage in this field. Organizations need to understand that learning should be a continuous process and organizations need to help employees, at all levels, to aid them in identifying their learning paths and support them to achieve it by providing enhancement avenues and encouraging them to acquire skills to get to their desired role. The benefit of this initiative is two-pronged – the employees will feel empowered and have more clarity on where they are headed and helps in reducing noise and issues relating to job stagnation, role enhancement, etc. To supplement the learning paths and to assess the skills acquired, companies need to instigate the need for certifications. Learning paths act as a step-by-step guide providing competency assessment at each step, skill acquisition for the next step and certification milestones at designated intervals.

The complexity of software systems and the demand of customers and users are increasing every day. With the current state of practice and lack of educated test teams, projects often are unable to perform adequate testing of software systems that control different aspects of our lives. In spite of all this, formal academic programs seldom provide even rudimentary coverage of software testing, let alone teaching it as a discipline.

Each company does what it believes will work, creating more of a confusion, rather than a solution. The current scenario mandates the industry stakeholders seriously consider collaborative ecosystem focusing on consolidating, creating, applying, and amplifying the need and practice of structured software testing. One of the most effective ways to establish a profession is education. That education must cover all areas of study that can serve the profession. Developing a Body of Knowledge (BOK) and a universally accepted competency framework is an essential first step to establishing software testing as a profession and educating our testers. That Body of knowledge needs to be mastered by everyone who performs software testing.

Education is the only way to establish testing as a discipline and to change the perception that it is an adhoc activity that requires minimal training.

Customers will want to ensure that software bugs dont eat up their dollar investments, and will demand better testing. This would make the total investments in Testing only grow, and this would mean that Testing is here to stay, and there is a great career for individuals with this skill sets.

As the great hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, once said - we should skate to where the puck will be, not where it has been for realizing the goal, if we do not prepare ourselves for the scenario of where the puck will be, the great Indian Testing Dream may be short-lived...!

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