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Closing the gap between business and developers

The notion of running IT like a business seems to have established itself as the next big industry idea. Earlier this year, a Yankee Group survey found more than 175 IT execs from 2,000 companies were making business technology optimization (BTO) a strategic priority. A corollary of that notion currently gaining serious traction is the proposition that not only should IT be run like a business, but more business people should be involved directly with IT.

A case in point: Mercury Interactive's latest category-spawning product release, which the testing company is billing as "the first application delivery product that was purpose-built to enable business people to validate the quality of automated business processes."

"If you think about the situation today," Mercury CMO Christopher Lochhead tells eADT, "with the number of applications in production, the complexity of the production environment and the new challenges around compliance -- there's a lot of change going on in terms of the kinds of software functionality that people need to roll out. By allowing business people to get involved in validating and testing business processes and sharing the roles typically played by engineers alone, we can increase the number and frequency with which applications get tested. You don't have to be an engineer to do business process testing, if you have the right tool."

Not surprising, Lochhead (who is often credited with coining the term BTO) believes Mercury's new Business Process Testing (BPT) software is that tool. Created to enable business process owners and designers to work with software QA teams to test the functionality of mission-critical applications, the tool has been shipping since mid-June "under the covers," but was officially unveiled last week.

Part of Mercury's Quality Center suite, the BPT product "closes the gap between the business people who design the business processes and the technical people who design and deliver the applications," Lochhead says. Mercury's BPT comes with a set of new features and functionality designed specifically to make it easy for non-engineers to create business process tests. It has drag-and-drop capabilities, as well as the ability to construct test components and test cases with natural language, scriptless, keyword-driven testing. And it is designed to work with Mercury's QuickTest Professional and WinRunner products.

Testing has elbowed its way to front-burner status in the past few years, Lochhead says, as companies have come to realize that ensuring an app works is as important as designing and building it. This new respect for testing has given rise to a new software development discipline, which Lochhead calls "application delivery," and which he characterizes as "sort of the testing market growing up."

"Application testing is a responsibility shared across the entire application quality ecosystem," notes Theresa Lanowitz, research director at Gartner, in a recent statement. "Accountability for application quality has escalated from the QA engineer to the CIO. CIOs need to unite the efforts of their QA and business experts to ensure that software meets the rapidly changing needs of the business to compete and respond to legislative and compliance pressures."

"Frankly, the responsibility and accountability for the performance of software is now a huge imperative in the enterprise," Mercury's Lochhead adds. "We're attempting to satisfy that imperative with a logical pairing of skill sets. We allow the engineers to work on the technical part, the business people to work on the business part, and both to unify their resources and approach -- not just to design and develop software, but all the way through delivery of that software into production."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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