Posted by: Andy Huckridge | February 14, 2012

On The Testing Edge article: “Software Quality is an Effective Marketing Tool”

On the testing edge was a column I wrote for TMC’s IMS Magazine during 2008. It featured education, thought leadership and news relevant to the Test & Measurement industry. Interesting to note that now in 2012, IMS is actually coming back to life! Hence the re-posting of these earlier articles…

IMS Magazine

Oct/Nov 2008 | Volume 3/Number 5

By Andy Huckridge, M.Sc.

The Chrome browser from Google has been on everyone’s lips recently. But what does it tell us from a testing perspective? In short, it tells us that software quality is now a key marketing tool. In a highly contended marketplace, where everyone knows what bad quality means, a product that simply works as promised can change the landscape over-night — whether or not Google Chrome will actually succeed.

Have you had your browser die on you while filling up various questionnaires and other overly complex web content? Have you felt the sluggishness of the software when trying to multitask across several different sites? Still, everyone knows the web, and its problems, and maybe even take them for granted. But have you had bad experiences with other consumer products? VoIP, 3G, IMS, Digital Television? Most of you probably have.

Consumers Work Like a Herd
Testing has many faces, and if one of those aspects is missed, the endresult will not be accepted by the marketplace. Consumers are more and more informed on the quality of products, and user experiences are shared openly through the Internet. For example, before buying a car, people first search the Internet for common failures in the brand, and study carefully the opinions of other people. Not about the features, but past problems or lack of problems. Such brand-loss is difficult to rebuild, as the Internet never forgets a thing.

User Experience
People buy products with solid brands, and advertise those products openly. Critique is usually open as well. But the selection criteria change over time. The IMS quality assurance market is still caught up in legacy criteria such as quality of service and performance, which might have been the top criteria for carriers and service providers. Consumers see the same issues with different eyes. The main selection criteria are almost always brand and reputation, and those are built from usability and reliability. In short: the overall quality of the product.

Test More with Less
But how do you keep up with the increasing demands of the consumers? How do you keep the brand untarnished? The solution is test automation.

Unit testing today is mostly automated. Almost every testing professional is also a programmer, fluently writing test scripts with a wide range of scripting languages. Test automation frameworks bind them together, and automate the early testing steps. Also, the user interfaces are automatically explored to try various test cases, including recording and reproducing common use cases. Think of them as cheap test engineers – teach them once and they will automatically do the same thing over and over again.

A recent addition to most professional test automation frameworks is fuzzing, a negative testing approach that will explore the unexpected inputs to the software to find and eliminate security issues in the software. In their marketing material, Google described the tests done by fuzzing tools to be like monkey testing, random inputs to various APIs and network interfaces.

Collaborate
The testing at telecom companies has been dominated by large testing vendors that do it all in a piece of test equipment. Today those companies still dominate the carrier tests. But when testing the consumer products, the field is completely different. It feels like client-side testing is so much ahead of the core network testing in the area of test automation.

Due to availability of test automation tools, testing today is simpler and faster. But the area of test automation often involves a number of different tools and test tool vendors. Collaboration between those vendors is key for good quality products. Various user environments and communication technologies require different tools. Very rarely you find one vendor that can offer everything by themselves. But that just enables us testing experts to pick and choose the best products, ones that fit our own special needs.

Andy Huckridge is Vice President, Marketing, Codenomicon. Andy has worked in the Silicon Valley telecommunications industry for more than a decade and has a broad background in defining and marketing products for the semiconductor, VoIP and IMS/NGN space. Andy is active in various Forums including the Multi-Service Forum, where he is chairperson of the Interoperability Working Group & NGN Certification Committee. Andy is a VoIP patent holder, an IETF RFC co-author and inaugural member of the “Top 100 Voices of IP Communications” list. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Telecommunication Engineering from the University of Surrey, England.

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