Commercial industry has been fundamentally changed by digital technology. The most revolutionary organisations, like Uber and Netflix have shifted the goalposts, moving entire businesses online and introducing accessible, engaging and immersive consumer experiences. And, while tech innovation has historically happened at a discrete product or operational level, today it’s taking place across an entire business - and beyond. Organisations are changing their whole ecosystem in order to capitalise on the opportunity that digital disruption brings, to protect entrenched positions, and to see off competitors.
So, it’s no surprise that most analysts predict that digital transformation will continue to be a major theme in the New Year. 2018 will see the establishment play catch up - the disruptive impact of technology has a sent clear ‘do or die’ message to mainstream organisations. They too must embrace the disruptor mindset which Unicorns - as billion dollar tech startups were dubbed - introduced in 2016 and 2017.
More advanced VR, AR, AI and machine learning will be prevalent next year, and more contextual and auditory experiences will be developed. And, location-based VR services will continue to move through the ‘hype cycle’ into the mainstream, as people use tech to interact differently with the world around them.
The next stage of digital disruption is in enabling more natural online interactions with organisations. Chatbots and voice enabled technology solutions will grow ever more popular as consumers gravitate towards the easiest channel to interact with brands. For many AI adopters, the goal is better customer experience at a much lower cost, while delivering an intuitive and natural interface. The Royal Bank of Scotland’s Chatbot Luvo is a great example of how a rapid response and minimal waiting can vastly improve customer satisfaction.
Meeting consumer expectations in a complex testing environment
Of course, an abundance of digital tools and services means that consumer expectations are heightened. User experience outweighs brand loyalty - and fierce competition - as everyone gets on the digital bandwagon - highlights the need for robust quality assurance.
The need for speed to market and quality of service puts testing on centre stage. What was once seen as a bottleneck will now become a ‘corkscrew’ - allowing organisations to unleash the potential of new apps and services, while ensuring customer satisfaction. The goal of teams will be to ensure fast feedback, improve mapping of target coverage areas and, crucially, to embed quality appropriate testing practices throughout the entire development life cycle.
But the testing environment is increasingly complex and difficult to manage. Let’s look at an example. A financial institution like the Bank of America is renowned for introducing innovative, interactive, and customer-focused digital services. But testing these continuously, throughout their development lifecycle and beyond, is an immense task. Creating and managing a large database of test user profiles, together with numerous different interaction platforms - smartphones, desktops and tablets - in any number of user conditions, is enormously difficult. And with increased mobile usage comes the need for increased security testing; identity management, authentications and sign ins will require robust quality validations. No easy feat.
It’s complexity which has perhaps slowed some of the innovations that were expected to grow exponentially in 2017. This is the case with IoT - which analysts and market leaders alike say presents an unparalleled opportunity, which transcends industries.
Indeed, despite the hype, there haven’t been mass deployments - and IoT has been off to a (relatively) slow start. IoT isn’t easy, and presents significant challenges to organisations and developers that want to use it. Gartner predicts that 75 per cent of IoT projects in 208 will take up to twice as long as planned - and much of this is down to complexity, cost and ensuring interoperability.
So, in testing, automation will become vital, together with Agile practices that encourage rapid and flexible response to change - and prioritise a focus on quality from the outset. But what will become increasingly apparent next year, is the crucial role of DevOps.
DevOps reach maturity
So, the importance of developer teams even more pronounced - 2018 will finally be the ‘year of the DevOps’ - where the most efficient software teams take ownership and responsibility for the final product - and, as a result, optimise their workflows and reduce delays.
The DevOps momentum is occurring within all industry sectors - as organisations are leveraging DevOps to support their business transformation towards agility and speed. And as release cycles go to from weeks to days - or even hours - velocity is key. The rise of DevOps comes hand in hand with the pressure on organisations to meet the need for accelerated delivery of applications and services - combined with heightened customer expectations.
Agile practices will continue to thrive -but for teams to feel the impact of these values on their work and for organisations to see meaningful results, the transition requires changes to culture, tools and strategy – not just adopting a project management framework - and this is, again, where DevOps will win the day.
And the freedom of DevOps to take control may also signal a diversifying of testing frameworks. With today’s rich set of tools and frameworks, it can be hard to decide which mobile testing framework to use - but DevOp teams - who may have been tied to one platform (usually Selenium or Appium) will now have the freedom to choose alternative platforms like Espresso or XCUITest - or even use multiple platforms in tandem, to further speed up testing.
Cloud services will continue to give DevOps access to scalable and ready-to-use virtual labs with the library of operating systems, test management and execution tools, backup and storage necessary for creating a test environment that closely mirrors real life scenarios. The cloud will importantly offer them scalability - allowing many small or mid-sized organisations to ‘punch above their weight’ in terms of innovation. But the cloud doesn't come without associated security concerns, and DevOps will need to look for reassurance from their technology partners that security is prioritised and guaranteed.
And a final word in testing - Smart AI - and data driven testing -will finally come to fruition in 2018. It will drive smarter testing, data driven decision making - and reduce maintenance. But will it take over developers jobs? At the moment, no. While AI to automate testing can do plenty - from reducing the level of effort, creating built-in standards, testing for numerous scenarios in a complex debridement, and even running codeless test automation, there's still plenty of need for human interpretation and expertise.
So, as organisations strive for digital transformation, there will be an increasing need in 2018 for organisations to look not just at the technology itself but also at the broader ecosystem that supports it - starting with development, testing and quality assurance. And as the importance of this becomes clear, it will go hand in hand with the rise of DevOps - a crucial function which could be make or break for digital businesses.
Eran Kinsbruner, lead technical evangelist, Perfecto
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