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World Quality Report 2018-19: Key trends shaping QA today

Malcolm Isaacs Senior Researcher, Micro Focus

The newly released World Quality Report 2018-19 contains important results for anyone involved with quality assurance and testing. The most encouraging finding is that end-user satisfaction is now at the top of testing-strategy goals.

Another notable result shows increasing adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) to help teams test more effectively. At the same time, though, that adoption presents challenges to those who need to test AI implementations—as well as up-and-coming technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain—from both a complexity and a skills perspective.

Get up to speed on the state of QA. Here are the key takeaways from the World Quality Report 2018-19.

End-user satisfaction is the top QA priority 

There are many answers to the question, "Why do we test software?" Beyond the obvious answer, "To make sure it works," responses might include assuring that algorithms are tuned correctly, that the system is secure, or that it complies with certain policies.

This year, though, the World Quality Report finds that the primary reason for testing is to ensure customer satisfaction. This indicates that testing is increasingly aligned with business goals and that teams have the bigger picture in mind.

This supports another finding in this year’s World Quality Report, that 99% of respondents use DevOps in at least some of their projects. DevOps aims to deliver value to the user as quickly as possible, while keeping quality high.

Consequently, there is a need for more automation, which is essential to speeding up the testing process. However, the report notes that automation is the biggest bottleneck that is holding back QA and testing today.

This leads to two other important findings: AI increasingly matters in testing, and testing professionals must acquire additional skills.

Artificial Intelligence is here to stay

When we talk about AI in testing, there are two primary motivations: applying AI to QA, and testing AI algorithms and products. The World Quality Report finds that a lot of organizations are experimenting with AI and how it can be applied to QA. They are starting to investigate how it can be used to optimize the testing that needs to be done, in order to shorten test cycles while increasing their effectiveness.

This depends on being able to extract information from application lifecycle management tools, testing tools, and production monitoring systems and to process that information in a timely manner.

However, it’s not easy. Although they understand the importance of AI and want to apply it, 55% of respondents are struggling with identifying where to apply AI. Some 51% also say they have experienced difficulty integrating AI with their existing applications.

But AI is present in many applications, and, of course, the AI components must be tested. This poses a set of additional challenges, not least of which is that an AI tester must master an additional set of highly technical and mathematical skills, such as mathematical optimization, neurolinguistic programming, and algorithmic knowledge.

New roles

It is not easy to find professionals with these skills today, and it may become even more difficult as more organizations start adopting AI techniques.

The World Quality Report predicts the rise of new roles in QA and testing:

  • AI QA strategists, to understand how to apply AI to business. They will need to master both business and technical knowledge.
  • Data scientists, to sift through test data and use predictive analytics, mathematics, and statistics to build models. They must have a deep understanding and experience of data analysis techniques. 
  • AI test experts, to be involved in the testing of AI applications. In addition to traditional testing expertise, they will need to understand machine-learning algorithms and natural-language processing techniques and to have other highly technical skills.

While AI requires a new skill set for testers and QA professionals, it is by no means the only technological challenge to this group of staffers.

Focus on other new QA skills

The report notes that trends such as AI, IoT, and blockchain all require new skills and roles for QA and testing professionals. The adoption of IoT technology is rising, to the point where 97% of the respondents have some kind of IoT presence in their products. IoT devices can capture very large amounts of data, which might be sent to the cloud for processing, or processed in part or in whole on the device itself ("edge computing").

The devices also communicate using a variety of protocols, some standard and some proprietary, and implement various sensors in hardware.

Some 66% of respondents also say that they are either already using blockchain technology or have plans to do so over the coming year. No longer exclusively associated with the cryptocurrency bitcoin, blockchain is being implemented in many systems that require a secure, distributed ledger to record transactions.

Blockchain implementations must take into account security and data risks and mitigate dangers associated with integration into other systems.

Hiring personnel with the necessary skills can be a challenge, so the report recommends building up the skills within the current workforce through internships, specialized training, and development. The report's authors present a four-stage approach:

  1. Attract agile test specialists with automation skills, or reskill those already on staff. 
  2. Bring software developers in test (SDETs) into the team. 
  3. Ensure that the testers have skills in security, nonfunctional testing, test environments, and data management.
  4. Bring in QA experts with AI skills.

Put users at the center by acquiring new skills

The report notes that the user is top of mind for QA professionals today. But without a deep mastery of new technologies such as AI, IoT, and blockchain, it will be difficult to ensure that users will have the superior experience that they deserve.

This can be seen across all of the sectors that were analyzed in the survey. Even the public sector, which lacks maturity in agile and DevOps adoption, is talking about AI and cognitive technologies.

The main message of this year's World Quality Report is that in order to successfully deliver on the strategy of putting users at the top, organizations must ensure that staffers are equipped with the skills to test the new technologies that are becoming increasingly prevalent in today's products.

Download the World Quality Report 2018-19 to learn more about the state of QA and testing today and how you and your organization should be preparing for the future.

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