In Malaysia, strong demand for third party software testing on horizon

  • Proof of concept across 8 projects throws up valuable lessons for government
  • Local software players not keen to upskill, expect contracts before investing

In Malaysia, strong demand for third party software testing on horizon

HAVING started training public sector executives in software testing since 2009, the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) – the defacto ICT lead agency for the government, wanted to let the officers to get a feel for the value that software testing brings.

So, between 2013 and 2016, it picked eight ongoing small ICT projects and conducted a proof of concept (POC), whereby it brought in the Malaysian Software Testing Board (MSTB) as the independent software tester for those projects. Naturally the vendors involved were not happy.

“Our intention however was for this exercise to be an eye opener for the government,” explains Mampu Principal ICT Consultant (System Development), ICT Consultancy Division, Kathirrasan K Kupusamy (pic).

And it was. With involvement from agencies such as the Registrar of Societies, Department of Fisheries, Mampu itself, Pharmaceutical Department and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Mampu found many flaws in the way vendors were building solutions for the various government agencies.

At the base level, the project requirements were not done well with some requirements not captured while other were captured in a manner where they could not be tested. The vendor designs were also not conforming to requirements.

That’s not all. “We also found that not enough time was given for testing, with the scope and depth of the testing insufficient,” notes Kathirrasan.

The issues that came up were not surprising as the government was using the same vendor to test their product. “When you employ the contractors to do up the requirements and design their own software testing, in most cases, they give you a script to run the test that won’t cover the entire requirements. And we also noticed that they only did positive testing, there was no negative testing,” Kathirrasan pointed out.

Suffice to say, the outcome of the eight POCs was a valuable report on the lessons learnt and how the government can improve its software development projects. “It was very good input for us and as a result we refined and made changes to our procurement procedures and how we run application development projects,” says Kathirrasan.  

Those lessons learnt were also folded into an IVV (Independent Verification & Validation) handbook that Mampu published last year that is now the guide for how all government agencies go about engaging third party testing.

 

Industry not ready to take advantage of third party testing opportunities

While one would think that the oncoming demand from government would have local IT companies chomping at the bits.

Instead, both Mampu and MSTB are coming up against an industry that is not ready to commit the investments needed in training and tools to equip them to be certified software testers.

While the government is working with MSTB to expedite the state of testing readiness among local companies, many of the companies are asking for assurances they will win government projects before they embark on upskilling their capabilities.

“They want projects in hand before they invest to be certified independent testers,” says Kathirrasan. “But we can’t do that as open tenders means the best will win the jobs.”

The concern at Mampu and MSTB is that there will be a situation this year where more and more government agencies will be asking for third party testers but with only a handful of companies ready. “We could have a monopolistic situation with only a few local companies ready and if there are not enough local players, we will have no choice but to open up the work to all companies,” says Kathirrasan.

In which case, Indian software companies will likely be the short term winners while local players sit on one hand with the other hand asking for guaranteed testing jobs before they commit to upgrade their capabilities.

Part 1:  Mampu drives software testing to raise public sector IT quality

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