Based at the University of Memphis, USA, Malaysia-born Professor Dr Jasbir Dhaliwal, FedEx Institute of Technology director, system testing excellence program (STEP), gives his take on CIO challenges and what Malaysia and other Asean countries can learn from software testing adoptions in developed nations.
Photo - Professor Dr Jasbir Dhaliwal, Director, System Testing Excellence Program (STEP), FedEx Institute of Technology.
What are the main issues or problems faced by CIOs today in organisations within the Asean region?
With the rapid integration of business in Asean, CIOs are faced with challenges to make IT systems work seamlessly across borders with countries having big differences in sophistication of IT configurations, user interfaces, back-end processes, mobile infrastructure, pricing and business rules, etc.
Regional CIOs have to spend a lot more time and attention on testing to make sure these challenges are overcome and to ensure that business is not impacted by failure in software functionality.
They are also faced with a shortage of skilled personnel who understand sophisticated software testing best practices that to lead to quality software. The rapid pace of change in mobile computing is also forcing CIOs to increase investments on testing to make sure business software runs seamlessly across multiple platforms.
The fact that many C-level business executives, who are the peers of the CIO, don't understand the value of the cost of investments in software quality also creates challenges for the CIO to make a strong business case for such investments.
How quickly do you see organisations in the Asean region adopting software testing in their companies and also which industries are moving into this area?
By and large Asean today remains a net importer of business and scientific software. This flow can only be reversed if Asean technology organisations strengthen their testing efforts to produce higher quality software that strengthens their global branding. Over the last decade, there has been a growing realisation about this and I am seeing significant progress.
There is a growing realisation that software testing has a key role to play and that software testers are a key profession and career path separate and distinct from coders and systems analysts. I also see a big jump in the ambition of regional technology organizations in wanting to be producers of world-class software especially in a new world where software is being incorporated into all kinds of physical products.
There is a lot of software code today that is incorporated into the core of physical products such as cars, weapons systems, digital assistants, TVs, etc. that have large consumer markets in ASEAN so I expect these industries to move very fast on software testing. At the same time, the diversity of Asean necessitates complex supply chain and demand networks for servicing customers - these are all coordinated and optimised by software. The greater the complexity and dependence on these networks, the larger will be the investment necessary for software testing.
How can software testing produce ROI for organisations?
Returns on investment is a complex phenomenon incorporating both tangible and intangible costs and benefits. Too often many business executives don't buy into the ROI of software testing efforts until there is a major breakdown of their business systems that brings their organisation to its knees in terms of revenues.
It does not have to be like this - our research centre is working intensively on educating North American C-level business executives in this regard.
I have found that some CEO's of large enterprises often prefer an outside assessment of software testing ROI than their own internal studies. I suspect this could be because current technology executives have a poor understanding of methods of relating business risks to software failures. They may also be struggling to articulate the business value of sophisticated software testing methods (which can be very technical) to their peers.
I constantly preach to CIOs and software development executives that the costs of software testing must always be separated from the overall budget for new software so that business executives get used to making direct investments in software quality. The good news is that Risk-based Testing methods are becoming known and popular now at senior business levels. Developing sophisticated ROI methods for software testing remains an applied research challenge and we are focusing on it.
Please share any other similar business models that have worked in other countries that may be adopted by the countries in Asean.
A greater number of American organisations are now focusing on the unit cost of diverse testing activities. This is driving a lot of change in how test planning is done and how software testing is managed. There is also a move towards having distinct service-level indicators that are testing based in outsourced testing contracts. Too often in the past, these were either too high-level or borrowed from the "call-center" mindset that did not value the creative dimensions of testing work.
This is changing the way outsourced testing is being contracted. There is also a big push to measure and manage innovation in testing work - both in terms of automated tools and sophisticated test methods. This is shifting the traditional out-of-date mindset of software testing as being a largely manual and disorganised effort at finding bugs or breaking software.
A lot of these ideas are fast seeping into and becoming common place in the Asean technology management and testing communities. While Asia has a growing technical research community in software testing and a large hungry market for applied testing innovations - we need to do more to bridge the divide between these two groups for future success in practical business models for software testing.
What new things can we expect from SOFTEC Asia this year?
Softec 2013 represents a landmark in the continuing development of software testing as a technology discipline and profession in the region. Besides earning recognition as a truly Asian phenomenon now, it is great to see Softec grow to become the STAREAST or EUROSTAR of Asia.
The coming together of pan-Asian practitioners of software testing and experts from around the world will spur a lot of innovations and new breakthroughs besides the obvious business deals for companies. I am also excited to see the sophistication of the topics and issues being discussed in the conference programme - they are truly at the cutting-edge and we have some great international speakers involved. There is something for everyone including the junior coder testing his or her first program to the C-level technology executive seeking the best new ideas to keep testing at the forefront of his or her software development efforts. There is even a post-graduate workshop for academics to share ideas and to learn about business needs that should drive future testing research.
SOFTEC Asia 2013 is a regional-level conference on software testing organised by the Malaysian Software Testing Board (MSTB) under the auspices of the Malaysia Software Testing Hub (MSTH) initiative, Public-Private collaboration to develop a new source of economic growth for the nation. The conference will be held at the Sunway Resort Hotel and Spa from 2nd to 5th September.
The inaugural SOFTEC Asia 2013 is set to be the biggest English-medium software testing event in the region and will be expected to be attended by more than 500 delegates from Malaysia and other Asian countries. The speakers will include leading software testing experts and thought leaders from the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. Apart from facilitating pursuit of knowledge and experience among software professionals in the region, SOFTEC Asia 2013 will also be a platform sharing Malaysia's own initiatives and learning experience in developing SQA expertise and capability at a national level.
MSTB has been organising SOFTEC annually since 2008. The conference features a wealth of international speaker who are well-known in the global arena of software testing and it has been gaining increasing support from both domestic audience and members of Asian Software Testing Alliance (ASTA). Today, SOFTEC has grown to become the premier software testing event in the Asian region through support from software professionals in other Asian countries.
Prof Dr Dhaliwal will be present at SOFTEC Asia 2013 in Kuala Lumpur to chair the CIO Roundtable.
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