…says Ralph Joseph, Business Development Manager for Automation at Spirent. He is championing an automation strategy called iTO that brings ROI to the forefront.
The demand for quality, customer retention, corporate reputation means goods and services must be tested. That is clear. But what is the cost? Does testing remain a necessary overhead, like security, or can it deliver real return on investment?
As systems grow more complex, competition mounts and customers grow harder to please, the test team is under pressure. Test integrations grow brittle in the face of new features. Money is invested in expert scripters, developing tests that no one else can replicate or even understand, and test engineers are forced to spend increasing time re-wiring and re-configuring the lab for every scenario, release or project.
Test automation offers a solution, and the industry is moving in that direction. Without a holistic approach, however, automation can involve significant cost without delivering the optimised data-flow and ROI to justify further investment into a smarter test strategy, more capable tools or a lab that is streamlined, accessible, efficient and, most importantly, pays for itself.
The secret is to ensure that you optimise all interactions and all workflows across all aspects of your test strategy. Failure to optimise across the test infrastructure will result in time, money and resource leakage that could impact a test lab for many years. But get it right, and you can look forward to future investment in smarter strategies and even better lab equipment.
The savings and benefits from optimised automation
Here is an example: a leading manufacturer of low-cost Ethernet switches and data-center management solutions to global corporations, large telecommunications companies, service providers, carriers, enterprise and government organisations alike. The growing demand for network virtualization meant the testing cycle had grown seven-fold, demanding extra staff and overseas outsourcing to keep up with the increase in scale and complexity.
The SVP of Business Development recalled that “The growth rate of QA was becoming faster than development”.
Automation was an obvious necessity, and the company had already invested and developed a home-grown script-based system that followed a proven testing workflow yet was proving inefficient and a huge drain on resources. They needed a commercial solution that would enable engineers of all skill levels to contribute to the automation process and help bring a quality product to market in a cost effective manner.
Only one year after adopting an optimised automated test solution, they had created approximately 3,700 test cases spanning 13 different products and 65% of the original test plan was now fully automated. The resulting standardisation meant that their engineers could create and share portable automation assets, including tests, reports, topologies and documentation.
“We can avoid the inefficiency of having one engineer create a test and give it to the automation team to make into an automation test suite,” “The VP for Software Engineering went on, “The automation team can simply leverage the original test plan, moving automation up earlier in the process and saving us a lot of time and cycles.”
Substantial time saving was noted elsewhere in the QA workflow, including regression testing, product delivery and maintenance release cycles. Developers and test engineers streamlined communication and reduced time to resolution by sharing automation assets. Developers were easily able to reproduce bugs at their desktops, saving both groups time and allowing them to focus on further quality testing and development. In summary, the ROI
Analysis Study noted:
- Scripting costs reduced by more than 40%
- 12-fold increase in productivity
- 50% reduction in test cycle
- 14-fold reduction in bug reproduction time
- Over 10-fold reduction in time for maintenance releases
As a consequence, the company was able to reshape its whole delivery approach. According to the company’s Director of Software Quality Assurance: “The performance gains from allowed us to save about $500,000 in resources and equipment. It enabled us to leverage existing resources more efficiently so that we can meet our quality objectives while adhering to a more aggressive schedule.”
A year after adopting this approach, the company was purchased by a global technology and consulting corporation, primarily on the strength of its improved performance, demonstrable ROI and re-positioning as a market sector leader.
This level of productivity gain and ROI does not simply apply to the network equipment manufacturer – service providers, carriers and enterprise organisation have shown similar benefits across the world. The following service provider example shows what can be achieved when optimising across the entire test environment.
The number of automated test cases this service provider could perform against manually-driven tests was increased 50% from a 40/60 ratio to 60/40. Test Bed setup time when viewed as an overall average across the project was reduced from 60% of the project to 20% – 3 Times faster than before. This had a significant impact on actual tester productivity where they observed a 12 Times increase in productivity when viewed as the number of executed tests per person. Defect resolution time was reduced by 86% which facilitated a restructuring of the test organisation to adopt the common communication approach. A 50% reduction in test cycle was enough for the executive management to mandate that all test organisation project and program managers take a closer look at automation and assess viability on all projects moving forward. A reduction in time to market was viewed very seriously as meeting a core business objective. The service provider had seen years of additional cost with delayed product releases and the subsequent impact on project management. With the average test cycle dropping despite the massively increased level of quality, the improvements brought by automation were welcomed across the wider organisation and lauded by senior management and the executive team.
These figures are clearly impressive, but what might they mean in terms of monetary ROI? The following table shows actual savings made by a small product qualification group on one typical release test schedule, based on time saved. Note that this result does not include further savings made possible by multi-threaded stress tests, for example. There is no comparison here because such tests could not be performed without a sophisticated commercial automation solution. Their previous scripted environment was not capable of automating these types of tests.
It’s clear that, scaling up the saving for one release up to a year of 6 regular releases and 6 point or maintenance releases, the total 1st year savings totalled $674,588. The subsequent impact on the time to market, increase in product quality, customer satisfaction and overall increased satisfaction of the test team were observed as key knock-on effects of such astounding results.
How this is achieved – a radical approach to test automation
The testing and quality industry can no longer afford to focus simply on the functional, performance or regression test – instead it must integrate the individual elements of the test workflow and optimise across the entire test lab infrastructure to ensure significant ROI in the lab.
A sure way to achieve this is by adopting a strategy known as Infrastructure Test Optimization (iTO). The strategy was proposed back in 2010 by leading US tech industry analysts, Voke, who determined that to be successful with automation in the network test arena, organisations had to look beyond the functional flow of a test case and into optimising all elements of the test lifecycle from requirements traceability, through tighter element integration right down to optimised test execution.
Organizations that apply iTO are rewarded with better visibility, deeper traceability and realism in their test infrastructures whilst also observing increased collaboration and productivity. Ultimately this leads to greater business value as business objectives can be more closely aligned and synchronised with activities promoted by the iTO method. New innovations and best practices that arise from the iTO method can be embedded in the organisation for years to come.
For “the proof of the pudding”, my organisation first applied iTO to its own automation software product development processes. The results were so impressive that senior engineering management then adopted the principle across the wider engineering organisation as a standard for high achievement.
More significantly, iTO is now embedded into all the company’s pre-sales strategies with the result that, within 6 months of deployment, customers find they can start to develop and improve the way projects are planned and executed – realistically cutting project times by half.
The essence of iTO
iTO encompasses five primary practice areas:
- Emulation & Analysis – Ensuring that real world traffic generation and input data is optimised and provides a realistic picture of the network complexities, subscriber activity and application demand.
- Test & Topology Automation – Automation development environments to build test cases, lab utilities, system workflow and to automate the switching of the physical lab via media cross connects. The provision of automation for all skill levels based on industry standards and established test engineering best practices. Tools to establish test setup, test configuration and test teardown. Tools to analyse real-time incoming data, to handle variance and scale. Tools to execute tests, provide in depth reporting and to facilitate lights-out regression testing.
- Manual & Developer Testing – Support for industry-standard, open software engineering architectures such as Eclipse promote the development of tighter integrations and also enable software development teams to innovate across the testing workflow. The industry is relying on the availability of strong and expansive tool API. The industry tool vendors appear to be listening and this is at the heart of iTO.
- Quality Management – Ensure reliable and efficient implementation of the corporate-wide quality strategy by easing the workflow to improve the level of traceability. iTO promotes integrations with industry standard quality management platforms which are easy to manage, seamless to the test community and fully automated. From Requirements to Design to Implementation to Execution – iTO can ensure that traceability is optimised.
- Lifecycle Virtualization – Embracing virtual computing technology across the entire test infrastructure to provide the required level of scalability whilst avoiding compromise on system efficiency and test performance.
These five practice areas are encouraged to work together in an holistic manner thus promoting the use of shareable and reusable test assets. Collaboration is supported by improved and common communication between adjacent teams in the workflow and this allows for the organisation-wide adoption of best practices and conventions.
The industry is testing. That is clear. But at what cost? The resources needed to maintain a disparate testing workflow make it hard to achieve core business objectives. On the other hand, optimising a test strategy right across the lab infrastructure from the people involved to the potential for tighter element integration can significantly raise productivity, ROI and product quality.
Testing is not just a necessary overhead. An optimal test strategy can put you on the path to market leadership.
Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards®
Global Banking & Finance Review has awarded Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO of Resource Group, Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020 in recognition of his vision, strategy and strong leadership that have contributed greatly to Resource Group’s success in winning the Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020 in this Global Banking & Finance Awards®.
Resource Group is an investment group with a portfolio of diversified businesses that capitalizes on technology and human talent for value creation. The company has proven that it has gone the extra mile to develop innovative solutions aimed at improving people’s lives and helping Lebanon transition toward a knowledge-based economy. Global Banking and Financial Review, the renowned online and print magazine identified a number of areas that Resource Group has excelled. The company has been awarded Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020, and Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO, receives the award for Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020. Under his leadership, Resource Group has grown from a family security-printing business to a diversified international investment group, with a portfolio of companies across 10 sectors in over 75 countries.
Wanda Rich, editor Global Banking & Finance, said “Mr. Itani took the security printing business to another level and expanded into different technology verticals in an impressive list of success stories”. The list includes digital security, smartcard manufacturing, mobile value added solutions, cyber security and secure communication solutions, telecom infrastructure and managed services, elections supply chain services, lottery systems and operations, mobile and virtual reality games, among others.
Resource Group’s focus on technology has had a constructive and tangible impact on government automation and on citizen experience in target markets.
Editor Wanda Rich says “We are proud to offer Resource Group these prestigious awards and wish them continued success and growth into 2021 during these challenging economic times”.
Global Banking and Finance Review is a renowned online and print magazine. The magazine’s website alone receives over 7 million page views annually. Global Banking and Finance Review provides a balanced view with formative and independent news from the financial community. The Global Banking & Finance Awards® were created to recognize companies of all sizes that are prominent in particular areas of expertise and excellence within the global financial community. The awards are known throughout the global banking and financial community. They reflect the innovation, achievement, strategy, progressive and inspirational changes taking place within the financial sector.
Bouncing back in 2021: Digital Transformation is no longer a choice as dependence on 5G, IoT and Data increases in society and business
By Ivan Ericsson, Head of Quality Management, Expleo Group Limited
The global pandemic has put enormous strain on businesses and brought into sharp focus the importance of being agile, adaptable and able to increase the pace of innovation and change at short notice – catapulting technology right to the top of the agenda for many organisations.
As the economy works to get back on its feet, technology is only going to play a bigger role in our lives. At Expleo, as experts in digital transformation and the reliable implementation of technological innovations, we’ve outlined the biggest tech-driven trends that we expect to see in 2021 and beyond.
1) “Digital transformation” no longer a choice
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s that they need to be poised to respond to abrupt market disruption at any moment, making digital transformation mandatory overnight.
With no room for delay, hugely complex corporations – that have historically been slow to adopt technology – have had to accelerate their reliance on technology just to keep afloat in recent months. Digital change, at speed, has become the norm.
Even last year, the idea of an unscheduled video conference call might put people on edge – now most of us wouldn’t think twice about calling a colleague over Teams or Zoom even for a 2-minute conversation. At the same time, social infrastructure has moved with the needs of its users, with telecoms giants strengthening and opening up networks so we can keep communicating despite social distancing.
There are now very few excuses left for operating in a non-digital way. All businesses need to be intelligent businesses that can change direction nimbly, with speed, confidence and composure. As we see more businesses putting this into practice, it’ll likely result in an increased number embracing and normalising some of the behaviours of tech-savvy giants like Apple and Amazon, who have no doubt thrived during this period.
Their success can largely be attributed to normalising an agile approach. By ensuring all applications have testing facilities built in – a “quality shadow” if you will – it allows for continuous improvements, and the ability to change direction quickly and confidently, when needed. This is particularly valuable today as the world becomes more fast-paced and increasingly unpredictable.
2) Big data/AI/predictive analytics
We’re moving into a space where big data can be extracted from the most seemingly innocuous places. In a hyper-connected world, a move as simple as a dog walk could offer huge swathes of data to the right companies. Many businesses already realise the benefits of capturing and utilising big data, but not all have taken advantage of it. The businesses that move quickest are most likely to reap the rewards in a more impactful way than their ‘data shy’ competitors. Where data used to be a side effect of business operation, it is now the driving force.
As businesses begin to rely more heavily on data to make critical decisions, independent assurance becomes increasingly important to get those decisions right. Forward-thinking, data-driven organisations must therefore assure that the data is correct in the first place, to avoid giving businesses false confidence and risk them moving in the wrong direction – something that is rarely affordable in today’s competitive and fast-paced environment. If businesses are not 100% confident in assuring the quality and accuracy of their own data, they should look to a third party for support.
A key data trend we expect to see moving further into 2021 is the increased use of predictive analytics. At the moment, businesses will often use data analytics to give us insights into our past activities, or to tell us where we are right now. However, the real value lies in knowing where we are going and how we are going to get there. Data analytics will help to identify the optional levels that can be pulled to drive change and realise business benefit.
Secondly, as intuitive technology advances and becomes more accessible, we expect over the next 12 months to see companies of all sizes begin to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) to drive intelligent analytics. In this context, AI refers to various technologies that allow machines to learn, sifting through ‘messy’ big data in order to find and unlock valuable predictive insights into future events. This allows businesses to better adapt their strategy to likely future outcomes and get a head start in the market.
However, with this ever-increasing emphasis on data and data protection, ethical AI will have a more prominent role to play in 2021 and beyond. Protected, usable Data is a by-product of good data security and privacy measures; however, the public remain wary of how their data is being used, particularly after the fallout from Cambridge Analytica’s use of data to influence an election. Businesses, therefore, must give their customers confidence that their data is secure and protected.
3) Moral relevance/corporate altruism
Research shows that young people are increasingly researching and considering the ethics of brands they’re purchasing from. And it won’t be long before this attitude starts seeping into every other aspect of their lives, with more and more people wanting to work for what they consider to be “purpose-driven” businesses.
Talent is the lifeblood of any company, so for big corporations, many of whom were born to create profit, this could put them in a tricky position. They might already be influencing society in a positive way – but this is unlikely to have ever been their main goal.
Moving forward, however, all organisations will have to start thinking about the “Triple Bottom Line”. That means considering the environmental and social impact of your business, alongside your commercial imperative.
We’ll soon see a mindset switch across businesses, from ‘competing’ to ‘advancing’. Instead of wanting to be the “best,” the question will be, how can I better serve the world around me?
In line with this, businesses will have to start thinking more about how to use tech for good, as we’ve seen with the likes of Microsoft Teams connecting tens of millions of people every day, during this very dark time.
2021 is likely to bring even more inroads when it comes to using technology to improve society, whether it’s developing bespoke problem-solving technologies or using IT to ‘eco-proof’ existing sectors, the goal for businesses is to rise to this challenge and build a better future for people and the planet through the use of technology. But all organisations will continue to need to be able to justify technology use and prove that they’re using it ethically, and in a secure manner.
4) 5G new networks – just about all big trends are driven by/reliant upon faster networks – particularly relevant for a more distributed workforce
Greater access and utilisation of 5G networks across the country will underpin and accelerate all of the key trends discussed. Everything we do on our smart devices we can expect to do at higher speed, greater capacity and with lower lag times.
As our digital footprints extend beyond simple web browsing and into our daily lives through smart technology, we are creating huge amounts of data every minute. This vast flow of data is increasingly dependent on new high bandwidth networks to facilitate it. Therefore, the merging of technology and engineering will become critical in ensuring big data is carried successfully to drive analytics and drive business.
The fact we have managed to successfully work from home during COVID is a glowing recommendation for the quality of the networks as they exist today, and they will only get better.
The telecoms industry is already working overtime to ensure that people all over the country get reliable access to the internet – and the fact that there is still inequality in this area proves just how challenging this is. But, in line with this trend toward hyper automation, which will make data extraction and analysis a part of everyday life for businesses, the consolidation of tech and engineering will be ever more important.
Forward-thinking companies will look to incorporate 5G networks into their business strategy. This could be from an internal perspective to enhance the abilities of their remote workforce. Alternatively, this could relate to their own products or offerings – developing an internet of things (IoT) strategy, improve user experience, or bring products to market faster by analysing big data and adapting quicker. Either way, with increasingly improved networks, businesses are expected to take advantage of the huge increase in accessible and usable data.
For businesses to truly reap the benefits of these new technologies, they must be developed and adopted in the right way.
Quality assurance, trust and security are three key requirements that the technology of the future depends on to succeed. Having these requirements at the heart of any digital transformation will ensure that systems perform reliably, having been tested and assured.
By prioritising a seamless customer experience combined with an ability to create, test, and scale digital solutions and operationalise at pace, businesses will be in the best possible position to take advantage of the potential being unlocked by these new technologies.
Ahli Bank, Oman, is SunTec’s 50th customer for its Indirect Taxation Solution
SunTec’s GCC VAT compliance solution to help Ahli Bank automate end-to-end VAT compliance process, manage regulatory changes, and seamlessly integrate it with the existing IT ecosystem
SunTec, the world’s #1 relationship-based pricing and billing company and the provider of #1 GST and VAT compliance solution for Banks and Financial Services in GCC and India, has partnered with Ahli Bank, Oman, to provide its GCC VAT compliance solution.
The win is a landmark one for SunTec as it marks the 50th customer for its indirect taxation solution. SunTec has garnered 24 customers in India and this is the 26th customer in the Middle East to acquire the solution.
VAT is likely to be introduced in Oman in early 2021 and Ahli Bank has taken the proactive step of adopting a VAT compliance solution to ensure operational efficiency, enhance revenue, and augment customer experience.
Amit Dua, President – Client Facing Groups, SunTec, said, “We are delighted to partner with Ahli Bank, Oman in what marks a historic win, in their journey to ensure VAT compliance. We understand that the VAT landscape is evolving within the GCC, and therefore, our solution offers agility to respond to these changing regulatory requirements. With the Xelerate platform and GCC VAT compliance solution, Ahli Bank can digitize the entire VAT compliance process and comply with least number of changes to their existing technology infrastructure.”
He added, “VAT is a crucial step that the GCC countries have taken to implement tax regimes. It is imperative for banks and financial institutions to have a robust and scalable solution to accommodate their specific needs. Ahli Bank joins the list of more than 20 banks who have adopted our GCC VAT Compliance solution. I’m proud to say that approximately 3 billion transactions per annum are processed through our GCC VAT/ GST compliance solution across our client base.”
Said Abdullah Al Hatmi, CEO at Ahli Bank, added: “It is extremely crucial for us to be ready for VAT compliance. We are very happy to partner with SunTec to deploy GCC VAT compliance solution. With SunTec we will have a single solution in place covering all aspects of VAT compliance and we will be future-proofed given that any future regulatory changes will be handled by the solution with ease.”
SunTec’s GCC VAT compliance solution based on the Xelerate platform will enable the bank to smoothly comply with GCC VAT regulations and manage potential regulatory changes with ease. The single end-to-end solution helps automate the entire VAT compliance process including centralized rule-based tax determination, input tax recovery, tax invoice, reconciliation, corrections, adjustments, statements, and regulatory reporting.
SunTec GCC VAT Compliance solution is architected to meet the unique needs of banks and financial services firms and can easily integrate with existing IT systems. The solution is designed to process all taxable transactions across business lines and applications, reduce cost of compliance, mitigate potential risk of compliance violations, penalties, and reputational risk.
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