Business leaders like their applications, but want them delivered faster

Survey shows software development and testing processes ripe for continuous delivery, automation and more collaboration.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Business leaders are losing patience. They see -- and feel the heat from -- competitors advancing their digital profiles. They are leaning on their IT departments harder and harder, pressing for more and faster delivery of software that will keep their companies in the digital race. They like what IT is delivering, but the challenge for IT managers is to step up the pace of delivery with as few glitches as possible. 

Photo: HubSpot

Overall, C-suite executives are happy with the applications and solutions that come out of the pipeline, a recent survey of 310 IT executives, conducted by Forrester Consulting in partnership with Eggplant, finds. However, they are anxious for the faster delivery of these apps. 

The majority of business leaders, 70%, rate the functional outcomes and business value created by the software delivered as "good" or "excellent," the survey finds. However, close to half feel things aren't being delivered fast enough. Forty-six percent scored the speed of testing as "average," "fair," or "poor," and 41% say the same about the speed of their overall application development. More than a third (36%) also rated the quality of code in development for testing as "average" or worse.

Testing is hindered by budgets, fragmented tech, and the lack of skills, the survey states. Budgetary pressure is the biggest challenge to testing strategy, cited by nearly a third of firms (32%). "In the digital transformation landscape, with competing budgetary demands, testing innovation might not rise to the top of priorities for large firms," the researchers state. Another issue slowing up progress is fragmented legacy technology which is difficult to automated, cited by more than a quarter (26%) of respondents. Getting the right technical skills was the third highest challenge, and one in four firms also flagged the challenge with getting the right domain skills. 

While testing tends to slow things down, IT managers are acutely aware of its importance. Business leaders need a greater understanding of its importance as well. "While there is agreement on the need to focus on product performance and functional quality, business leaders and IT teams have different priorities regarding other desired outcomes for testing strategy," the report's authors -- led by Asha Dinesh of Forrester -- point out. "The business seems to focus on the outcomes while IT focuses on the means of getting there." For example, in terms of speed, productivity, and alignment, 42% of IT leaders considered reducing testing cycle time as a key desired outcome, compared to just 27% of business leaders. IT also prioritizes the productivity of testing more than business leaders (38% compared to 28%), as well as aligning testing with Agile (29% compared to 19%).. 

The best way to get software out the door faster while maintaining quality? Embrace more Agile, DevOps, continuous and automated approaches to software delivery, Dinesh and her co-authors recommend. .

Continuous testing is the bailiwick of Eggplant, the survey's sponsor, so naturally, this gets prominent mention as an approach to faster software delivery. Still, with continuous delivery/continuous integration becoming an important initiative for improving the software delivery process, it stands to reason that continuous testing needs to be built into this as well.  On average, the survey shows, more than half of application development teams are implementing continuous testing (52%), and nearly half (49%) apply automated functional testing.

Interestingly as well, a significant share of the managers and developers surveyed are even exploring an intelligent approach with AI usage (47%). However, many are still encumbered by traditional approaches, with 51% of application development teams on average still applying manual functional testing. "Manual testing is ineffective in the context of diverse devices and software architectures at large firms today," the survey's authors state. "Test automation is increasingly a necessity for accelerated software delivery, as it augments coverage, increases test depth, and improves software quality," according to Dinesh and her co-authors. "Test automation is not just about replacing manual test execution with automation execution. It is also about design automation of tests and automation of orchestration of the test process with a continuous integration versus continuous delivery environment." 

Expect more job opportunities to come with continuous testing as well. The greatest expected increase is in developer testers, with potential growth of  21% on average over the next three years. "The focus on customer experience in software development, and the growing need to incorporate user feedback into continuous testing,
will raise the profile of business testers," the survey report's authors predict.

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