Earlier this year, SunGard Global Services conducted a survey (PDF) into the current state of system testing in financial services organizations. The aim was to understand a bit more about this often overlooked but critical part of day-to-day operations in the industry. What it revealed was a discipline under enormous pressure. And, it appears that the in-house staff are bearing the brunt of the pressure and pain.
Internal IT environments are becoming ever more complex, making the testing of IT systems increasingly difficult. This, coupled with the fact that these IT systems are more mission critical than ever, makes for a potent combination. Finding the most efficient and effective methods of conducting system testing is therefore a key concern for all organizations. One of the main findings of the survey, however, is the lack of a clear consensus amongst testers of how to go about this.
The survey found that the importance of system testing is now being reflected in the extra resources that is typically being allocated to it. However, with no clear agreement between survey respondents on the best way to carry out system testing. It's perhaps no surprise that this increased budget isn't seen as enough. It's not uncommon in such situations for more and more money to be thrown at a problem in an attempt to solve it, but in current economic conditions, the amount of money available for these things isn't endless.
The expertise of the typical employee tasked with system testing appears to bear this situation out. The survey revealed that the second largest group of testers is internal staff, who are untrained for the tasks they have been asked to do. By contrast, external contractors (independent experts in Testing) made up the smallest group. Given that 78% of respondents said that testing once under way had a medium to high impact on day-to-day business operations, there is clearly an extraordinary amount of pressure on untrained, in-house staff. Small wonder then that they feel the need to request more budget to ensure they get things right.
Given this, and the clear appetite by the survey respondents to improve how system testing is completed, it's interesting to see that many were considering outsourcing part or all of their system testing needs. The average size of an internal system testing team is between one and five people. By outsourcing to experts, institutions might be able to improve efficiency but also free up already limited internal resource to concentrate on other areas. System testing really seems a classic example of where everyone involved can benefit from bringing in outside expertise for all, or part, of the process.
Stephen O'Reilly is Quality Assurance & Testing Practice Lead at Sungard Global Services.