World Quality Report 2021-2022: A New Realism as QA Bounces Back
If there’s one word to describe the state of Quality Assurance (QA) over the past year, it is optimism. There’s a sense that the discipline overall has matured and is valued by CIOs as integral to both customer experience and quality. This theme under the banner of ‘A New Realism’ is central to the 2021-2022 World Quality Report from Capgemini and Sogeti, in partnership with Micro Focus, published on 30 September 2021.
Responses to the thirteenth global WQR survey were received from 1,750 interviewees during April and May 2021. They revealed steady and encouraging progress, with acceleration in QA transformation clearly visible. The growing maturity also contributed to the resilience shown by QA and information technology (IT) teams across the world in the face of the COVID-19 crisis that marked the previous year’s report.
We can see that Agile is now the default way of working which, after 20 years since it was introduced as a fundamental change to the software lifecycle, is timely. In a sense, Agile has caught up with the maturity level of development. At the same time, a lack of professional test expertise in Agile teams is the biggest challenge in applying testing to Agile development, cited among the top three challenges by 44% of respondents. We believe that this is partly the result of the blurring of boundaries across software development and test teams: when everyone shares responsibilities for quality, everyone’s skills in that area need to level up, and collaboration between teams must improve.
Skills and cloud migration
The theme of skills continues with ‘having adequate staff with the right skills’ viewed as the most important aspect of boosting testing efficiency. This was cited by 65% of respondents versus a 47% ranking for increasing the level of test automation as the least important.
As test environments and IT systems in general continue the gradual shift into the cloud, new challenges are emerging due to legacy decisions (sometimes 20+ years old) being exposed as no longer up to the task. For example, decisions about security and architecture need to be rethought. In general, however, this move to the cloud has seen a growth in people’s confidence in the technology stack of underlying applications with the assumption that they will ‘just work’.
There has also been a levelling in terms of the importance of different aspects of IT strategy. So, for example, enhancing customer experience, enhancing security, responsiveness to business demands, and high quality of software solutions are given broadly equal weight. This reflects the sense of pragmatism in QA and testing as the world starts to emerge from the global pandemic.
Remote access to systems
Clearly, the shift to remote working witnessed throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns has elevated the importance of remote access to test systems and test environments. This was cited most among the top three factors needing particular focus in a post-pandemic scenario, with a 48% tally versus disaster recovery and resilience testing at the bottom of the scale at 36%. With people’s working days and the geographies of test teams changing (potentially) for the long term, we will need new metrics for the productivity and quality of these remote working teams.
Wherever QA and test teams are located, quality remains the most important outcome of their work. And that quality is now being assured by teams following better engineering practices — we are seeing a shift from QA to QE (quality engineering). There is greater confidence that testing will deliver and that it is not a cause for delaying a release or system upgrade. As in previous years, test automation is viewed as a contributor to this quality, bringing better control and transparency of test activities.
AI Maturing – but not there yet
Of course, we cannot talk about technology without updating you on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in QA and testing today. While the ambition is high, with more respondents saying they plan to use AI in testing in more ways, we perceive that this ambition outstrips the reality. Many believe that AI is a silver bullet and there’s no doubt that smart technologies in QA and testing are arriving. However, there aren’t enough people with the skills to use them — yet. Nonetheless, AI is gradually being infused into the QA process. As more and more data is captured, AI can help us make sense of it all and almost half of this year’s respondents said their organizations were willing to act on the intelligence provided by their AI and ML platforms. This is AI ‘infused’ into decisioning as algorithms are built into test automation routines rather than greater adoption of specific AI tooling.
A new realism
Finally, as we stated at the outset, there is a new realism across QA and testing globally. Having gone through the fire of COVID-19, test professionals have adapted to new ways of working that will be with us for a long time. Of course, there are still challenges — there always will be — but the momentum towards more quality engineering, cloud-based technologies, analytics AI and ML, amongst other trends, is encouraging. Further, with the next generation of digital transformation underway in industry — what we refer to as Intelligent Industry — the value brought by QA and testing in bringing smart products into play will be immense.