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The testing challenge

As IT organizations look to integrate multiple packaged and homegrown systems, and extend all of the above to wireless devices, automated testing must become an even more critical part of development projects.

For many IT operations, testing has long been an overlooked piece of the development puzzle. Automated testing tools can be costly, somewhat difficult to use and, for the best results, should be used during and after each phase of the development life cycle. Yet developers often see the tools as an intrusion into their development process. Thus, observers have said, such tools often gather dust on the shelves of IT development outfits.

Nonetheless, several innovative firms like Mercury, Segue, SQA (now part of IBM) and others created a viable market, and several more firms have made a good business of selling testing tools. Testing has become an integral piece of some of the best IT development groups, but the concept has never caught on to the extent some experts predicted.

As integration becomes perhaps the most important chore for development groups, and new technologies like mobile computing move further into view as the economy improves, experts say testing must become a crucial function in the development life cycle.

In this issue, we look at some trends that demand a deliberate testing process to ensure that new and extended apps can work alone and as part of an integrated system.

Reporter Lana Gates and Editor-at-Large Jack Vaughan take a look at some emerging testing technologies that focus on so-called “off-the-shelf” applications, which they note are no longer “off-the-shelf” due to widespread customization by users. Companies have learned the hard way that one size doesn’t fit all.

Industry experts tell Gates and Vaughan that virtually every installation of packaged apps, such as PeopleSoft, SAP, Oracle and Siebel, include heavy chunks of customized code as operations aim to include features unique to specific industries and companies. In addition, many operations are looking to integrate multiple packaged apps, an extremely difficult process. These are “bet your business” apps that can shut down operations when unexpected defects hit.

Such complex projects demand intense testing to ensure that working applications emerge from the development process. Gates and Vaughan look at some early solutions that are emerging from small and large testing tool suppliers. Analysts say some passable systems are starting to come out, but that improvements will continue to arrive for some 12 to 18 months. ADT has long advocated that testing should become a recurring part of each phase of the development process, and we will continue to closely monitor emerging testing technologies.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.

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