Challenges in a Product Testing Environment

[article]
Management and People Perspectives
Member Submitted
Summary:
This paper presents some experiences of Novell Bangalore in dealing with test engineering challenges as part of their product engineering delivery responsibilities for key Novell products. The paper identifies major challenges that were faced, some strategies that were used to overcome these challenges, experiences and results. A survey of test engineers done through an in-house designed questionnaire gave valuable inputs on people perspectives as well as insights into many of the management processes that are critical for success.

The software industry in India has gone through significant changes during the last two decades. From a largely on-site services driven market we have come a long way to be recognized now for rarer skills such as project management and product development engineering. test engineering is an extremely key aspect of product engineering and it has been a major challenge for many companies the world over to do this right so that they can get high quality products delivered to the marketplace. One of the major reasons why test engineering continues to be a challenge is related to how it is managed rather than due to technology factors.

This paper presents some experiences of Novell Bangalore in dealing with test engineering challenges as part of their product engineering delivery responsibilities for key Novell products. The paper identifies major challenges that were faced, some strategies that were used to overcome these challenges, experiences and results. A survey of test engineers done through an in-house designed questionnaire gave valuable inputs on people perspectives as well as insights into many of the management processes that are critical for success.

1. Introduction
The software industry is characterized by a constant ferment, fuelled by competition and yet the industry is only in its infancy. Being only average is not enough in an environment such as this, which is filled with constant innovation. Businesses want to be and need to be the best of the best. Needless to say quality is a key differentiation in achieving this and software testing has a major role to play here.

Software testing is an integral part of product engineering just as software design and development are. Further, it is also a complete engineering discipline with its own life cycle and so, should, perhaps be called software test engineering and not just software testing. However, this fact has not been recognized by many companies, both in India and around the world. This has contributed to less than satisfactory products being delivered to the marketplace as well as dissatisfied customers. The importance given to software design and development engineering, more often at the cost of test engineering, from a management perspective, has only made matters worse. There are obvious challenges to be overcome to get software test engineering its rightful place in the software industry today. These mostly relate to management issues rather than technology issues. This paper deals with some of these challenges as well as some experiences in dealing with them at Novell's software engineering center at Bangalore.

2. Background
Novell's software engineering center at Bangalore is a wholly owned subsidiary of Novell Inc. in the USA and is the largest engineering center for Novell outside of USA. It has complete responsibility for developing, delivering and supporting some of Novell's key products and for major components for some of the other products. It was established in late 1994 and has, in the last 6 years, established tremendous credibility for delivering complete products with a high level of quality to Novell's customers worldwide.

3. The Challenges
It is difficult to prioritize the many challenges involved in setting up and managing a successful test engineering organization as part of a product engineering organization. However, we have made an attempt to capture some of the most important challenges that we have faced. We believe there are issues that are common to many other product engineering organizations in India.

  • Managing perceptions about Test Engineering and Test Engineers
  • Building and nurturing a Test Engineering organization
  • Developing Test Engineering as a career
  • Recognizing and rewarding Test Engineers
  • Test Engineering Practices

3.1 Managing perceptions about Test

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