Testing Other Pools

When the gap between requirement and availability is too wide to be bridged,
some innovation can help to cushion the shortfall. Who realises this best than
the testing companies? In Bangalore alone, there is a manpower shortage of about
8,000. And the demand will only rise. So companies, besides ramping up fresher
hiring, are also looking at creating a resource pipeline-starting up education
wings and tapping non-technical people.

For instance, MphasiS, which has a very large BPO business with several
thousand employees, has opened its testing door to call center executives,
providing a hope of greater career growth. However, it would be presumptuous to
assume that each and every one of them has the aptitude to be a testing
practitioner. "We pick those BPO executives who are interested, and groom
them with in-house training, followed by certification from an internationally
accredited organization,"says Vidur Kohli, head of testing business at
MphasiS. In this case, it is the Certified Software Testing Professional (CSTP)
certification from the International Institute of Software Testing.

At a high level, testing can be viewed as functional and non-functional
testing. In the first kind, business analysts with domain knowledge of the
business are needed. "Those of us who understand business logic are best
suited for this," he says. "Non-functional testing is akin to
programming and requires people with programming background." There seems
to some kind of a consensus in the industry regarding the level at which
non-technical people can be accommodated. Ashok T of Stag Software would rather
call the non-technical personnel as "functional specialists."
Employing them is already a practice in the US and Europe. For example, if
someone is a banker, one can join a company that specialises in developing
banking software.

T Srinivasan, managing director of Mercury India, explains a new part of the
testing suite called Business Process Testing. It’s not technical testing
where one essentially looks at what the application does or what part of the
business does it cater to or does it work the way the business wants it to work.
For example, "you would be checking for whether the order processing or the
purchase process is being done correctly, essentially, an application that looks
at testing from a non-technical perspective," he says. "User
acceptance testing has always been there-it was either underplayed or was
manual. Automating Business Process Testing is a new area." The scope for
non-technical people in testing will further expand, he says, because it is one
way to bridge the gap between requirement and availability.

Learning the ropes
To get into this growing field, functional specialists require training and
their technical counterparts looking to migrate from other engineering
backgrounds need ‘re-skilling.’ Training institutes have therefore
mushroomed all over, offering all kinds of testing courses, at all kinds of
costs. Tools are apparently the easiest to train, says Ashok T. So, training
centres, to a large degree, have become tool-based. There are about 15
institutes in Bangalore alone. And in Chennai, there is a poster on testing
training in virtually every street you walk into. Unfortunately, testing tools
are not cheap. They cost upwards of $8,000-10,000 apiece. "Since it means
an investment of Rs five lakh per licence, most of these institutes use pirated
versions," he informs.

Kohli of MphasiS says that there is chaos in testing training. "Most of
the institutes are fly-by-night operators, who fleece ignorant people. They don’t
offer training worth much," he says.

As industry scrambles for real talent, many institutes, and even software
firms, have got into this area to offer good training. Of course, it comes at a
price. Quality Solutions for Information Technology (QSIT) says good training is
available at all levels, but it does come at a price. The institute offers a PG
diploma in Software Testing at Rs 30,000-35,000 for 110 hours. The four-day
automation tool training on Mercury products may cost up to Rs 18,000, plus
service taxes. And the CSTP certification course will cost Rs 9,750 at the
lowest level and Rs 13,500, plus $250 at the highest. Stag Software has a
division focussed on education and concentrates on different training concepts-how
to design test cases; how to plan effectively; how to automate efficiently; how
to analyse results. Training for this organization means a steady flow of
resource to meet its manpower requirements. When it can’t absorb, it helps in
placements elsewhere.

"Even a few engineering colleges are also opening up to testing modules
now. It was not there till about last year. Now, we have requests from various
colleges to include our products as part of their curriculum," says

Changing thoughts
To attract good talent, according to Ashok T of Stag Software, popular
perceptions about testing-it is not challenging; it is monotonous; and it is
low on value chain-have to change. However, testing as a field, he says, was
never properly understood: "what is boring in testing is execution and
people have generally understood only that. They need to understand that there
is more to testing-the whole lifecycle: strategy, design, automated
scripting," he says. For that matter, "every discipline has a boring
part. For example, programming has one terribly boring part-documentation."

However, today, there is no dichotomy between an engineer who is in
development and one who is in testing, with little difference in pay. So
perceptions have started changing, opines Srinivasan of Mercury India. "If
you look at any of the appointment ads, there is a lot of demand for Quality
Assurance (QA), testing professions. And that’s what fuelling the
demand," he says. "Worldwide, only 20-30% of enterprise applications
are tested before they go live. That demand will therefore only increase."

In the last few years, most of the development work was under the hammer of
cost reduction. Now, end customers are looking at quality. One of the ways to
ensure quality in application is to test adequately using proper automated
tools. "Most people have realised that to do QA and testing functions,
insights into the development process, the whole lifecycle of software
development is required," he explains. "A broader domain knowledge is
needed because testing is done after the development is over. Changes in the way
applications are being delivered to customers is what is leading the change in
perception." Till such changes take place, companies have to keep
innovating to draw talent into their testing labs.

Goutam Das

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