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Testing. Now It Really Matters.

Testing is becoming more strategically important, according to a top industry analyst. Here’s why.

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Mechanical pencils. Frozen dinner. Software testing. For most people, all three would elicit about the same amount of enthusiasm. Until recently, that is. According to Gartner, today things are different. Testing’s got a spark.

In Q4 2015, Gartner issued two new Magic Quadrants – one on Test Automation Software and one on Application Testing Services. Sign up with Gartner for a subscription and read the full reports. It’s the second one that makes some fascinating observations on the role of testing.

So why is testing moving from the basement to the penthouse?

Reason #1: Technology runs the business. Or the business runs on technology. Or something. Today business buyers are more frequently involved in decision making around testing since testing is becoming a more strategically important area. Why? Because technology is firmly embedded into business processes and so quality becomes a higher focus. In other words, software is critically linked to business success. When applications have defects that expose organizations in the marketplace, the downside can be significant.

Reason #2: It’s about business outcomes and making sure the business process works. Since there is more influence from business buyers, there’s more of a “business outcome focus” today. Business outcome testing is more about ensuring that a particular business process works, rather than ensuring that a particular software application works. The trend is toward a much more holistic approach to testing where the value of testing comes from looking at process outcomes and metrics related to them.

Reason #3: To keep up with innovation, testing has to be agile. To be agile, it has to be automated. Gartner also notes an industry trend away from looking at application development and testing as two separate processes. Rather, there’s a shift to integrate testing into the application development process from the start. That helps ensure well-defined testing outcomes are aligned with business priorities from the get-go.

The correlation between Agile/ DevOps and the need for increased automation is a strong one. While manual testing still matters, unless automation is used it’s not possible to fully work in an agile manner. These development methodologies need highly automated, continuous testing. At the same time, companies are looking for increased levels of automation and the ability to automate testing of business processes end-to-end.

Reason #4: Automation has won, and now it’s time to “automate the automation.” Service providers today are working to “industrialize” the field with standardized processes and tools, as well as investing in the ability to leverage automation (which includes machine learning and AI) to “automate the automation." Cognitive systems will emerge that can start to "learn" how development and testing are done, which could transform how testing is performed in the future.

Put your talent there. Let me add a final observation of my own. When testing was deemed nice-to-have and vastly under-appreciated, it probably didn’t naturally draw your company’s top 10% performers -- and your management team probably didn’t put them there. Today, there’s no other place in the company where your best talent can (1) gain understanding and exposure to every major business process in the enterprise, (2) perform a critical business function with C-level support, and (3) touch every major commercial, web, cloud, big data and mobile platform in the business. To me, that’s a proving ground for future CIO talent.

As Gartner observes, the field is more strategically important than ever, vital to business, and shifting to breakthrough technology in AI and cognitive learning. Who wouldn’t want to be here?

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