Building blocks for software testing niche coming together

  • Inaugural SOFTEC Asia conference attracts regional audience, global experts
  • Leading experts sees synergy between Malaysia and Singapore to mutually benefit

Building blocks for software testing niche coming togetherSPEAKING at the first ever SOFTEC Asia conference, held from Sept 2 to 5, Prof Jasbir Dhaliwal, head of the Software Testing Excellence Programme (STEP) at the University of Memphis, recalled being asked five years ago about what signs Malaysia should look for to indicate that it has arrived as a software testing centre of note.
“I told them one sign was when you have become a location where global thought leaders in this space come to meet and learn. And I think this you have achieved,” he said.
Jasbir was not just referring to the inaugural SOFTEC Asia 2013, touted as the biggest English-medium software testing event in Asia, but also the annual national SOFTEC conference that has been held in Kuala Lumpur since 2008, which already attracts experts from around the world.
Hence organising SOFTEC Asia was not that far of a stretch, although Mastura Abu Samah, president of the Malaysian Software Testing Board (MSTB), shared that MSTB itself did wonder if she was crazy for suggesting such an ambitious undertaking.
The MSTB is an industry-driven national body which represents the industry’s interests in software quality assurance and the promotion of software testing as a profession. It is also the organiser of SOFTEC Asia.
But Jasbir also set another milestone. He shared that last year the chief information officer of FedEx [Robert B. Carter] visited India, not to set up anything or to sell its services. He was there to buy some of the software testing services Indian companies have been offering the world.
The challenge for Malaysia, in the next five years, is to see similar visits by global CIOs to Kuala Lumpur to buy software testing services from domestic companies.
Five years is not a long time and this will be a tough milestone to meet, but Jasbir also offers some hope. “Malaysia is the most advanced nation in South-East Asia when it comes to promoting software testing, but you are a small market. This is where you should partner with someone else to speed your own development,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of SOFTEC Asia 2013.
We don’t have far to look for this partner – Singapore. According to Jasbir, who once taught at the National University of Singapore and was even a founding member of Singapore’s Computer Society, the island nation produces a strong group of software developers.
“But they have never focused on software testing and this makes for a natural win-win partnership with Malaysia and its software testing capabilities,” he argued.
Incidentally, Malaysia has 2,800 certified software testers with the number rising yearly.
Meanwhile, MSTB’s efforts to promote software testing in Malaysia with the eventual aim of making it an export industry received a boost with the Q-Laboratory (Q-Lab), an RM11-million (US$3.4-million) advanced software testing facility, set to join the ranks of globally recognised top-level testing laboratory’s with its impending Level 5 certification by the TMMi (Test Maturity Model integration) Foundation.
TMMi provides a framework for assessing the maturity of the test processes in an organisation, and so providing targets on improving maturity.
Once officially ratified, the Q-Lab will be only the third software testing facility in the world to be certified at Level 5 – the highest certification under the TMMi model.
 Building blocks for software testing niche coming together
According to MSTB’s Mastura, it will help to lower the barrier to high-end software testing in Malaysia (it is very costly to have a lab certified at this level), raise the standards of its practitioners, and further help to position Malaysia in the software testing space.
One barometer of Malaysia’s burgeoning software testing sector is the fact that around 20 multinationals have set up their regional or global software testing hubs right in Cyberjaya.
Malaysian companies do offer such services too, but on a smaller scale and none as yet stand out at the regional or global level. In fact, the MSTB does not yet track the revenue that Malaysian companies derive from offering software testing services.
Meanwhile, complementing the various software testing efforts going on, MSTB's Quality Software Product Certification Scheme (QS), an international standards-based scheme to certify software products, was launched.
Benchmarked against internationally-recognised quality standards, the scheme has been designed to help Malaysian software producers to obtain independent recognised quality endorsement on their product. It also helps enhance their competitiveness internationally.
An interesting development worth watching here is talks between Malaysia and South Korea on a government-to-government level to allow software exports between both countries, but where the products sold must be certified by the software quality agency of each country.
If this happens, it will be a huge boost to MSTB as everyone will have to use its QS lab to get their software certified. In fact, Mastura shared that South Korea introduced a Software Promotion Act making it mandatory for companies to use a Korean software testing lab to get their products certified.
This move is apparently recognised as having played a big role in the current success of Korean software exports.
Also at SOFTEC Asia, it was announced that a successful pilot project between eight local universities with the German Testing Board to increase the pool of technically competent software graduates will move to a national rollout.
This will see the introduction of a full syllabus derived from the German Testing Board for all software programmes in the country. However, it is up to the universities to adopt this.
Mastura is confident though. “The students from the universities that went through the programme really became better coders and testers and were snapped up by industry. This has made the universities even more eager to adopt this syllabus,” she claimed.
Count that as yet another step in the journey to making Malaysia an eventual exporter of software testing skills.
Related Stories:
MSTB out to develop home-grown software testing industry
Preparing IT graduates for careers in software testing
MSTB gears for Softec 2012
Malaysian at the helm of top US software testing lab
Software testing getting visibility boost
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