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INSIGHTS / Media Coverage

Poorly defined user requirements often cause software problems

 14 May 2008 
INSIGHTS / Media Coverage

Poorly defined user requirements often cause software problems

 14 May 2008 

High quality, certified software testing specialists are essential if companies want to avoid damage to their reputation through faulty software, says a testing professional.

According to a recent survey by Australian software testing and certification company Planit, the major risk factor for 24% of businesses implementing new software was potential damage to reputation if important projects failed, says managing director Chris Carter.

this was followed by failure to beat the competition to market for 23% of companies and the risk of not meeting statutory and legal requirements for 20%. “It’s not all about money,” says Carter, “Interestingly enough, loss of money invested in the project rates as a major risk for only 9% of our respondents.”

Planit is the largest independent testing consultancy in Australia and had revenues last year of $A17.5 million($21.4m).

Its training materials are offered in New Zealand through Auckland based company The Testing Consultancy and Wellington-based Equinox.

Most of Planit’s clients are TOP 100 companies, such as banks, telecommunications businesses, the financial sector and government departments, which invest heavily in information technology.

Carter says the most common issue in software faults is badly specified requirements in the first instance.

“We would expect to see a fairly comprehensive user requirement document and also detailed technical specifications. Quite often they don’t exist or, if they do, they’re nowhere near the level of detail and quality that you would need to test the delivered application.” he says.

“Equally, one question how a developer could actually build a system to meet the user requirement, when the user requirements are so poorly defined.” Planit offers the opportunity to work with clients to get the initial requirements adequately specified and runs courses on the issue.

“That’s the number one problem. I’ve worked in software testing for 20 years, and for 20 years it’s been the same old story.”

He says companies have to do a trade-off and consider what would happen if a system is put into production which doesn’t work.

Businesses need to factor how much time, money and effort would be spent in maintenance when, if they had invested up-front and got it right first time, the process would have been cheaper and less painful.

The company runs courses for all software-testing professionals, from those just starting out to senior people who need to hone their skills to ensure they are up-to-date with latest developments in software testing.

It offers a needs-analysis assessment for clients, involving testing capabilities of an individual company’s IT staff.

For larger clients Planit will send trainers to New Zealand to run tailored in-house testing programs.

Carter says many clients don’t have an independent and objective view of exactly how capable and experienced their testers are.

Planit has developed a series of examinations to assess staff capabilities and determine the best career development paths.

this could entail a refresher course in testing processes or progression towards certification and team leadership roles.

“We can assess their competencies from a technical and also from a test precess perspective.”

The most sought-after training at present is in certification. Planit’s accredited training courses prepare students for the international Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification exams.

It is the only internationally accepted certification for software testing, allowing testers to take their skills around the world and increase their overseas work experience.

The programme was first developed in 1999 and, since then, more than 30,000 testing certifications have been granted.

Carter says certification helps to benchmark software-test quality, not just locally and nationally, but internationally.

“we hear about corporate governance and IT governance and quality assurance a lot more these days and testing really is a fundamental component of that”, he says.

“it’s being more recognized at the executive level. It is a necessary and vital component system development life cycle.”

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