More than automated software testing, intelligent testing goes beyond the isolated approach to software testing, it brings together the components to deliver a smarter outcome. Our Smart Enterprise editor discusses with Siva Ganesan, Vice President and Global Head, Assurance Services for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the value and what’s new in intelligent testing.
Smart Enterprise: TCS refers to its QA and testing arm as ’Assurance Services’. Could you tell us why the emphasis is on ’assurance’ rather than testing?
SG: I’m sure you’ve heard the famous parable about the person who believed he was laying a brick wall and the one who believed he was building a cathedral. For us, the word ’assurance’ denotes a mindset. Testing today is not just about ’testing’. It’s about ’assuring’ the business through comprehensive, smart and, may I add, intelligent testing. Quality assurance and testing represent value waiting to be unlocked, and not just defects waiting to be discovered!
Smart Enterprise: You have been highlighting the parallel between Formula 1 racing and assurance. Can you share more insights on this parallel?
SG: It is amazing how, in milliseconds, pit stoppers come out, change spare tires, check whether they work and say it is a go” and off goes the car and the driver, perhaps to even win the race!
Everybody wants things faster, cheaper and better, and just as in the case of Formula 1, everyone wants to reach the podium first. The sheer velocity at which these cars hurl themselves down the race track is perhaps akin to the speed at which most businesses need to hit the market to attain (or maintain) competitive advantage. And just as in Formula 1, a single defect at that speed could be disastrous for the system, the enterprise and indeed, the brand.
The high velocity, the need for agility, the need for supreme quality and the need to be as defect-free as possible - testing, assurance and Formula 1 are all dependent on world class, sophisticated engineering and instrumentation.
Smart Enterprise: Can you share some insights on the future outlook for Assurance Services?
SG: There are many exciting developments that are taking place in the assurance and testing space. In the context of test automation, the future lies in intelligent testing. A smart, intelligent quality assurance and production handshake, encompassing holistic operations and leveraging engineering - quite sophisticated and different from what is currently available. Creating a virtuous cycle between production, test and dev is the future – a huge, paradigm shift from the way traditional testing is currently done.
Smart Enterprise: You mentioned intelligent testing. What in your opinion is ‘intelligent’ about intelligent testing?
SG: Conventional ways of testing look largely at automation of test ‘execution’. Historically, a lot of effort and tooling has happened around automation of test cases. When we talk about intelligent testing, it is about automation being extended across the full lifecycle: across demand management, test case generation (straight from requirements); automated provisioning of test environment; test data creation and management; and then, automation of test execution.
An intelligent testing system is all about bringing an intelligence arising out of automation across the full life cycle as opposed to it being siloed in just execution. Now that’s a big change from what’s been happening in the past and how we see the future to be.
Smart Enterprise: How does intelligent testing differ from regular test automation?
SG: Intelligence comes about when you look at automation across the whole value chain. When we talk of intelligence coming about in the way we do testing, it is about the ability, in a very automated and engineered way, to have the environments provisioned correctly; to have the test data created; to have the test components and the harnesses to be instrumented in such a manner that there is a lot of agility baked into the testing processes.
The intelligence lies in the superior engineering which looks at automation from an assembly line perspective.
Smart Enterprise: How can intelligent testing deliver value to the business?
SG: The value comes from the assembly line approach to testing. If you look at parallels from other industries such as manufacturing, the automation process is all about how engineering and fabrication happen in an assembly line in an automated way. And if you draw a parallel to the world of testing, what we are trying to do is to ensure end-to-end automation from a test assembly perspective across requirements, the whole act of test case generation, test data generation and environment provisioning. The idea being: the more you automate, the less you have chances of error and therefore, more certainty, more value in terms of improved time to market, lower cost of quality and greater production stability.
Smart Enterprise: Interacting with many global organizations, what do you think are the drivers for intelligent testing?
SG: Over the last few decades, we have studied the market and have found common concerns that enterprises have shared with us. “How can we have the environment set up done without a wait time?”; “Can we look at ways to reduce the tremendous amount of time taken by my testers to create test data?”; “How can we automate our testing cycle?”; “How can I minimize risk by protecting my data from my service?”; “We need to ensure cost reduction with almost no rework”.
Intelligent testing was conceptualized to address these concerns in a holistic, end-to-end manner.
Smart Enterprise: How will intelligent testing become indispensable for organizations in the future?
SG: The whole market we live in today is about better, faster and cheaper. And everyone wants to get there first. Everyone wants to launch everything real-time at least once a week, if not five times a week. In this era where we live in such fast refresh cycles, it is inevitable that one has to regress and automate in a hurry. And for that, end-to-end automation, which is holistic and intelligent, is inevitable.
Smart Enterprise: What are some of the key considerations for enterprises in the context of test automation?
SG: Enterprises need to be able to question whether they are exploring the frontiers of assuring value to customers; whether they are assuring that all applications are error free; that everything is being done right the first time; that despite increasing IT complexity, they can always deliver faster and better to end customers at the lowest optimum cost.
They need to see whether their test automation systems are helping them assure error-free business applications and transactions; whether they are able to deliver change into production every time, five times a week, as opposed to waiting quarters on end to launch the basic functionality into production. And, most importantly, whether they are viewing testing as a lever to positively impact the balance sheet.
And, of course, despite the complications in today’s architecture comprising social, media, cloud, analytics and more, are enterprises able to ensure that the best is always delivered to their end customers?