The Best Way to Tackle Quality for Mobile Business Apps

Automated functional testing of responsive web apps brings huge efficiency gains – and makes quality possible

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If you look at business software by technology segment - analytics, mobility, cloud, databases - mobility stands out for many as fresh, important and increasingly mission critical. Mobile-enabled business applications can have huge economic benefits for companies, so it’s not surprising they are becoming enthusiastically embraced.

Companies like SAP and Oracle have similarly embraced tablets and touchscreens in their enterprise applications. This has the effect of increasing mobility adoption, as users turn to their iPads and smartphones to leverage things like SAP business objects and other analytics solutions.

The explosion in mobile enterprise apps. It’s only the beginning. Responsive web apps are now being delivered for core business functions like HR, inventory management, field services and more. For enterprise software providers, there’s the opportunity to look at the big picture - to simplify and make easier almost every business function and actually restructure software for mobility rather than just offering the same thing over a 5” to 10” screen.

But there are challenges. Many organizations don’t yet have a clear strategy around mobility, only ad hoc usage. That is the biggest obstacle. How do companies promote corporate-wide adoption in a uniform way? The answer is maybe they can’t.

The explosion in device diversity. What’s in your pocket and which version of the operating system does it run? Security and device diversity present huge challenges when it comes to supporting enterprise apps. If an operating company incorporates a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) concept, for instance, how can it deal with the multitude of platforms that must be managed and secured?

The explosion in workload to ensure quality. Related to these is the challenge of functional testing to ensure quality. How do you guarantee that every app works every day? On mobile platforms, testing becomes an “n-squared” problem. Here’s what that means:

In the non-mobile world, a business would typically test their end-to-end processes (and the applications they rely on) every time there is a technology change, like a new software release or upgrade. Why? To make sure everything still works, and so there is no disruption for business users when software changes.

In the mobile world, this task becomes very complex, very fast. Say you have 10 different mobile devices – iPhones, Droids, smartphones, tablets, scanners – of various form factors. Each of these has a few different versions of operating systems.

So you’ve gone from one set of functional tests for your business to maybe 20 times that in the new mobile world. With the shift to a “work anytime, anywhere, on any device” business environment, your approach to quality assurance needs to evolve to match this n-squared complexity.

Contain the explosion. So how do you tackle all this? How can you ensure quality of mobility-based business processes? In this new reality, it becomes next-to-impossible to rely on old-school manual testing or even legacy, script-based testing software. They just won’t work for mobile apps.

Automation saves the day here, because automated business process validation (ABPV) can test any number of critical end-to-end business processes on any number of mobile platforms quickly and far more completely than legacy approaches. Plus, it’s end-to-end because your mobile business apps are integrated with any number of back-end enterprise systems. Mobility cannot be treated—and tested—in absence of other business processes or things inevitably get missed. When that happens, business processes can fail, and business users and customers can be impacted.

This has turned automation from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” solution for functional testing and business process quality with mobile apps. Without automation, how can you test all those variations across multiple processes and multiple devices? Certainly, not by having users sit around a table pushing buttons on smartphones and tablets (although that is often done today!). And crowdsourcing doesn’t work at all well for complex business applications as it might for consumer ones.

Automation dramatically reduces the time and effort of functional testing, and in the case of mobility makes complete business process validation practical enough to actually be possible.

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