In this interview, Prasad Mk of TCS discusses the changing nature of the testing tools landscape, what an organization needs to do in order to be successful in this new world, and whether your company should buy or build the tool you need.
Josiah Renaudin: Today I'm joined by Prasad Mk, practice director, North America, of Assurance Services Unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Our discussion today will be focused on the role of an effective tooling strategy in the success of your testing project. Prasad will share with us the essentials of a good tooling strategy and its correlation to project outcomes.
Prasad, thank you very much for joining us. To begin with, can you share some insight on the changing nature of the testing tools landscape? What shifts have you observed in the past few years that have created new challenges for testing teams today?
Prasad Mk: Thanks, Josiah. Before I discuss the evolving tools landscape, I would like to mention that in this era of continuous, agile DevOps and the Digital Five Forces (mobility, social, big data and analytics, cloud, and artificial intelligence and robotics), using testing tools not just for test automation, but across the entire software lifecycle has become all-important. At the risk of stating the obvious, I must reiterate that trying to enhance speed to market or bringing in the right set of efficiencies is absolutely impossible without the right tools.
Given that context, let me tell you about the three key aspects that are changing (or have changed over the years) in the market.
a) There is a wide variety of tools available for all specialties of testing—continuous integration testing, test data management, mobility assurance, and many, many others. There are several tool avatars of the same capability with differential value adds. And there is no single tool that suits multiple testing types.
b) There is an ecosystem beyond the testing function that is influencing the creation and use of these tools. There is a touch point with the dev and ops teams, and it’s very important to look at a tooling strategy in conjunction with the entire ecosystem.
c) There is a much stronger aspiration to automate the entire lifecycle, and not just the traditional testing phases.
Josiah Renaudin: What are some of the drivers for these changes?
Prasad Mk: It’s first and foremost the need for agility driven by end consumers and, thereof, by the business. This fuels the increasing need to adopt newer technologies—like the Digital Five Forces or Internet of Things—to deliver change effectively. This further drives IT organizations to adopt newer delivery models like agile, DevOps, crowdsourcing, cloud, etc. And due to this technology and delivery model change, there is a new, unique opportunity for the testing organization to innovate by using the right set of tools, including open source tools.
Josiah Renaudin: What are the top reasons why organizations have been successful or unsuccessful in defining their tooling strategy and choosing tools?
Prasad Mk: You may find it surprising that one of the top success factors is effective change management—especially in organizations that have embarked on their transformative “Digital Reimagination TM” journey. In such organizations, change is not easy, as IT and testing teams have usually grown from legacy systems and hence already have a set of tools in place. There is also a lot of capital invested in existing tools and allied infrastructure, frameworks, and environments. So they are cautious and rather reluctant to make any switch. In such a situation, the right consultant who can help optimize the existing toolset, prioritize new investments, reskill existing resources, and map out a complementary organizational change management strategy assumes importance.
Josiah Renaudin: Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all approach here, but what approach have you found to be most successful for proper tool selection and use?
Prasad Mk: You’ve hit at the core of practicality on that question. This is what we help our customers with on a daily basis. A fundamental first step is to identify one’s needs across the entire lifecycle and then lay down clear tool evaluation criteria that address those needs. Organizations should have a holistic view of their end-to-end tooling needs, and not merely a desire to pile up a variety of tools for each of their needs. This evaluation needs to be based on enterprise needs, including those of the development and operations teams.
Next, organizations should not disregard the investments they have made on their tools or frameworks so far. They should instead re-evaluate how they can harness them in conjunction with the newer tools, both open source and third-party. They have to figure out ways of making the existing and new tools talk to each other happily, instead of having them work in silos. This is usually accomplished through innovative accelerators and under-the-hood integration tools.
Organizations should also construct an overarching framework which can serve as a wrapper across biz-dev-test-ops tools and automate the entire lifecycle.
And lastly, we have seen organizations being more successful if they imbibe the culture of “testware as software.” What this means is bringing in the culture of software development when building any testware. This will help quality assurance and testing organizations to build scalable test tools and frameworks with the right engineering foundation.
Josiah Renaudin: What part do organizational goals play in tool selection?
Prasad Mk: A pretty important one. There are different sets of maturity levels, with various customers depending on the priorities of the organizations. For example, if an organization is embarking on a digital reimagination initiative of their ecommerce platform, the organization will be keen to choose tools and solutions related to customer experience aspects. Or if the organization is embarking upon an ERP back-office transformation, the choice of tools is focused on ERP technologies. Other sets of organizations that are in the initial stages of transformation are looking at possible tools they need to adopt.
Josiah Renaudin: Should organizations go for commercial tools or build in-house tools? What have you found to be the most successful strategy?
Prasad Mk: I would say it's a combination of both. It can be a mix of both commercial and in-house tools, as well as open source tools. That's where the tool evaluation criteria based on the ROI becomes very important to choose the right tool. Also, there is a merit in leveraging testing as a service based on premise, cloud, and hybrid models to reduce the spend on tools.
Josiah Renaudin: So what enables TCS to advise their customers about the right tool for the right situation? What’s the secret sauce?
Prasad Mk: Our secret sauce is our intellectual property, which can seamlessly integrate with open source tools and commercial tools to automate the entire test value chain.
TCS has a unique approach to guide our customers to identify the right set of tools. Over a period of time, working with several customers in various industries, TCS has created digitized tool evaluation blueprints to assess current maturity level of automation, arrive at recommendations for choosing the right tools, and, more importantly, identify pockets of existing tools that need to be harvested. This blueprint, coupled with assurance consulting, has helped several customers lay out the right foundation and ensure they get the desired returns.
Another element is the reusable frameworks that we have built for various industry domains, and a set of innovative tools like the Intelligent Testing System (ITS) and NETRA (Non Production Environment Tracking and Release Automation), which automate the entire test value chain.
Our test-engineering solutions have delivered significant benefits and cycle-time production, not only within testing, but across the entire software development lifecycle.
Josiah Renaudin: Well, thank you very much for speaking with us today, Prasad. That was a very interesting discussion on effective tool selection, and we hope to hear more from you on other hot topics in the near future.
Prasad Mk: Thank you. Thanks a lot, Josiah. It was a pleasure. There are many more challenges that we face today in quality assurance and testing. For tips, insights, and perspectives into these, you can connect with me and my colleagues at TCS Assurance Services at http://sites.tcs.com/blogs/Think-Assurance. Let’s continue to #ThinkAssurance!
Prasad is a passionate assurance (QA and testing) professional. He is currently a practice manager in the Assurance Services Unit for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). In his current role, Prasad works closely with organizations in Telecom, Media, and HiTech industry verticals to carve assurance strategies addressing their near and long-term objectives. He has worked with global organizations to setup testing Center of Excellences (CoE), test automation CoE, agile testing practices, and championed continuous improvements through shift left and early defect detection approaches. He is passionate about transforming QA and testing organization to a holistic quality guardian across SDLC and thereby assuring right customer experience.