MSTB: Software testing ecosystem coming together
By Karamjit Singh February 8, 2018
- Busy 2017, various initiatives especially Academic Outreach programme with 25 unis
- Service suppliers have to meet public sector emphasis on quality aspects in ICT projects
AS THE body tasked with driving and developing a software testing ecosystem in Malaysia, the Malaysian Software Testing Board (MSTB) has had a busy 2017, running various programmes to push its agenda. MSTB is a national body representing industry interests in promoting Software Quality Assurance (SQA) and software testing as core competencies in the development of IT-dependent quality products and services. Responding to questions from Digital News Asia (DNA) on how 2017 was for the software testing sector, Mastura Abu Samah (pic, above), president of MSTB, took time off from an overseas trip to share some highlights.
The most recent initiative saw the official launch, on 14 Aug 2017, of the national rollout of the MSTH (Malaysia Software Testing Hub) Academic Outreach programme with 25 public and private universities are participating. The MSTH is a public-private partnership with the Government of Malaysia. The intent of the initiative is to pilot an ecosystem that demonstrates the interest of different stakeholders involved and means that are required to ensure a sustainable model to support the MSTH in the future.
“The MSTH Academic Outreach is a key initiative as it aims to enable the creation of a sustainable pool of competent software test professionals to support the expected growth of the software testing industry in Malaysia as well as in the global market,” explains Mastura.
The academic outreach has four objectives that are designed to contribute to strengthening the ecosystem:
- Help enhance universities software testing (SWT) and RE (requirements engineering) offerings through syllabi that are based on international standards and bodies of knowledge while being aligned to industry practice.
- Enable universities to produce fresh graduates with sound foundation knowledge in SWT & RE (some will have professional certifications in these two areas), thus improve their employability.
- Contribute to achieving the target of having 30,000 certified software testers by 2020.
- Create opportunities for academic-industry collaboration via MSTB’s domestic and international professional networks.
While this will help create a strong supply pipeline, another key activity in 2017 was to get more companies certified, mainly through the MSTH-run IVV (Independent Verification and Validation) cluster programme. 2017 saw three companies receive their TMMi certification – Mesiniaga (Level 3), Heitech Padu (Level 3) and Custommedia (Level 5) with a few more to undergo their assessment for Level 3 certification this quarter.
The government has thrown in a strong incentive for local companies to get certified, says Mastura, as its ICT Procurement Guidelines (PK2) stipulates that a TMMi Level 3 certification qualifies a company to participate in IVV tenders issued by Malaysian public sector agencies.
The MSTH IVV cluster programme has been designed to help Malaysian companies which are keen to pursue the growing opportunities in providing software testing services to enhance their testing practices and guide them through the journey to obtain their TMMi Level 3 certification.
“Having said that, the other elements of MSTH such as QS Product Certification, stakeholders engagement and software testing knowledge aggregation were not ignored as they are also crucial in ensuring sustainability of the software testing ecosystem that we have established over the last few years,” Mastura highlights, stressing that the goal is to ensure the entire ecosystem is developed to a high level and not emphasise any one sector over the others.
Government taking software testing more seriously than industry
Even with her fingers very much on the pulse of the industry in Malaysia, Mastura was unable to share examples of the consequence of IT system failures in 2017 that could be pinned to software testing. “I am sure there are cases of IT system failures linked to inadequate testing done prior to deployment. Unfortunately, Malaysian users (and vendors alike) tend to prefer keeping such incidents under wrap.”
Nor have there been any studies /statistics documented as to how widespread and serious these failures are. “But it will not be unreasonable to say that software system failures in Malaysia is likely to be at the same level as that experienced in the industry worldwide, particularly so in emerging economies,” she feels.
And taking a slightly different perspective, she points out that it is not uncommon to hear about delays and cost overruns of ICT projects in the public sector. “And we believe this one of the motivating factors for MAMPU to set up the Test Centre of Excellence for the Public Sector (My TCoE).” Mampu which stands for Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit and is the defacto ICT lead agency for the government and has been putting in a lot of efforts over the past few years to update public sector software testing capabilities.
Its efforts have led many to say that that in Malaysia, the government rather than private sector seems to be taking the issue of software testing more seriously. Mastura concurs.
“It certainly seems to at present. As part of the MSTH programme, MSTB has managed to convince the Government on the values of IVV in the public sector – in essence, ensure quality of software and systems deployed (and hence contributes towards quality of service delivery) as well as mitigate risks of project failures (delays, cost overruns, under-delivery of software/systems, etc), thus ensuring more effective public spending on ICT,” she explains.
Yet this is not to say that the private sector is not taking any initiatives, she adds. The multinationals for instance have been institutionalising software quality assurance (SQA) practices for a long time. Bigger Malaysian companies have also embarked on their own SQA initiatives over the last few years.
Looking back, Mastura points out that the “buy-in” by the public sector administration on the value of IVV actually started to show with the issuance of PK2 (ICT procurement guidelines) by MOF in 2013 which incorporated the requirement for IVV on critical and high-impact ICT projects undertaken by public sector agencies, although enforcement of the clause only started last year.
As background to this, as part of the efforts to enhance the understanding and appreciation of SQA/software testing by public sector agencies, MSTB - in collaboration with EPU, Standards Malaysia and MAMPU - embarked in 2013 on the Public Sector Software Testing project, or Pengujian Perisian Sektor Awam (PPSA). The PPSA project was completed in 2016, and involved injection of IVV elements into (then) ‘live’ projects in various agencies. In total, eight projects were selected.
This was a significant pilot as, in addition to the lessons learnt and the resulting deeper understanding on the IVV engagement processes, PPSA also produced two major outcomes, namely:
- The IVV Handbook (pic, right) for the Malaysian Public Sector, provides comprehensive guidelines on procurement and engagement of IVV services (testing by third parties) in ICT projects undertaken by public sector agencies; and
- The establishment of Test Centre of Excellence for the Public Sector (My TCoE) by MAMPU with the intention to provide advisory on IVV-related matters to public sector agencies
It was both a logical and prudent move by the government, says Mastura. “Being one of the biggest users of ICT systems in the country, the government’s move to embrace SQA and IVV practices will certainly influence the market movements with respect to software testing,” she explains.
“Consequent to this, we believe that with the public sector putting emphasis the quality aspects in their ICT projects, service suppliers will have no choice but to adopt reciprocating quality measures in their practices and delivery approaches. They too must refer to the IVV Handbook to be able to continue serving the public sector market.”
These service suppliers will find that the PK2 outlines two key elements in relation to IVV requirements:
- All critical and high-impact ICT projects undertaken by public sector agencies must include IVV component; and
- The party engaged to for the IVV part must be certified/recognised by Standards Malaysia
To fulfil the second requirement (above), MSTB has proposed certification under the TMMi (Level 3 and above) or ISO 29119 standards. According to Mastura, certifications under both these standards will confirm that the service providers have the testing capability and testing processes in place. to bid for the IVV tenders issued by public sector agencies.
She also expects a ripple effect where users in the private sector are also expected to follow the lead provided by the public sector in insisting on quality in their software deployments.
This will ultimately lead to software companies, startups and any enterprises offering technology offerings to the market, to upgrade the quality of their products or lose the business to those who will meet customer needs.
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