The increasing importance of quality assurance in a digitising world

By Rodney Weidemann

There can be little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated new digital transformation initiatives, as well as providing a boost to those already in progress. An increasing number of businesses have begun offering online services, as lockdowns, new regulations and virus concerns have kept many shoppers out of the traditional brick-and-mortar stores. This was highlighted particularly by the number of Black Friday sales conducted online, as opposed to in-store.

However, there is a lot more to digital transformation than merely opening retail up to online customers. There is a wide range of back-office effort to be made as well: the supply chain needs to be dealt with, while your online presence has to be available across different devices, form factors and environments – it can easily become a nightmare from a functionality, performance and security point of view.

This is why quality assurance (QA) is so vital today, explains Raffi Margaliot, senior vice-president and general manager, application delivery management at Micro Focus. QA, he says, is evolving from serving as an independent function within software delivery organisations to becoming an integral and inclusive part of the broader team and delivery life cycle, as organisations’ digital transformation efforts expand. QA is now being pushed to be even more connected to the needs of the business.

“At the same time, according to the World Quality Report (WQR) 2020/2021, the proportion of budget allocated to QA has continued to fall, from a peak of 35% in 2015 to just 22% in the past year,” adds Margaliot.

“That means that the combination of reduced IT budget and a shift of focus to digital is driving organisations to innovate and become more efficient, especially in sectors such as retail, e-commerce and healthcare.”

For example, many enterprises with supply chains have begun intensifying their digital transformation programmes and migrating to new architectures, he quotes the report as saying. This is in order to build fast, flexible and comprehensive supply chains that will help them deliver value effectively moving forward.

“Furthermore, with more teams working from home, collaboration tools have become ubiquitous. These tools are helping team members communicate with each other and offer more visibility into QA activities.

“On the other hand, enabling work-from-home environments has increased the number of data breaches and cyber attacks. This, in turn, is having a direct effect on security testing, as some 83% of CIOs and IT directors have noted an increase in security concerns over the last year. The result is that businesses are re-evaluating their approach to QA, increasing their adoption of cloud infrastructures and putting extra emphasis on security.”

In fact, continues Margaliot, the latest WQR indicates that security has risen in importance to become a separate theme in the report. This has been driven by a growing awareness of security across the team, the introduction of security testing earlier in the life cycle and increasing the security of the software itself.

Testing and automation remain some of the most critical factors to deliver software reliably and securely, but they also come with costs and complexities that challenge even the most sophisticated teams. This, he suggests, has also been a factor in the growing move to the cloud and the delivery of software as a service (SaaS).

“As automation continues to grow, and enterprises increase the amount of automation across their testing ecosystems, organisations are gaining increased value from automation – such as better control and transparency of test activities, re-use of test cases and better defect detection.

“Of course, increasing automation is not without hurdles,” states Margaliot. “Almost two-thirds of respondents in the latest WQR complained that applications change too much with each release, and automation can't keep up. This could be an issue with the individual organisation's level of DevOps maturity, with not having enough control of technology stacks and tools, and/or with the pace of application change. However, we’ve seen organisations overcome these hurdles by adopting automation tools that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiency and resilience.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the latest WQR is that a lack of alignment between business goals and quality ambitions is impeding the rate of agile and DevOps adoption.

“Remember that in the end, the needs of the business should drive development. Those needs require that teams connect their testing ecosystems to create a smart, business-driven test automation platform.

“With this achieved, testing and quality will become increasingly embedded within everything a business does, and means that its teams must also expand their capabilities and skillsets across automation, test data and test environment management, AI and – most crucially – security,” he concludes.