Testing: an IT cost-reduction lever

23 July 2015


Testing: an IT cost-reduction lever

The increasing complexity of information technology systems, reduced budgets, time pressures and increasingly fragmented organisational structures are just some of the constraints test teams must contend with. In this context, rationalising test efforts becomes a matter of urgency in terms of both money and time. Detecting faults as early as possibly leads to significant reductions in production anomalies, thus contributing to the reduction of IT costs.

Organisations must improve their processes, transform their business activities and review their communications to increase their flexibility in an increasingly constrained environment.
In order to support companies in meeting these challenges, Sopra Steria has an Advice and Transformation service that aims to reduce IT costs using testing, through the implementation of various different approaches.

The mainstreaming of static tests

Testing activities often reveal faulty processes and/or activities in the IT lifecycle. An analysis of the root causes of the anomalies is one way of identifying areas for improvement.

For one of our customers that is already involved in a test industrialisation programme, we have recommended the institutionalisation of the test levels that are upstream of the acceptance tests, as well as the mainstreaming of static tests (downstream branch of the cycle in “V”). In general, 20% of the faults are introduced at the requirements definition phase, with 25% at the operational and technical design phase. These faults then go on to propagate themselves throughout the coding stages. By placing the test effort into the static tests in the upstream phases, we find that it is possible to eliminate 77% of the faults introduced during the formalisation of the requirements and 85% of those from the design phase. To achieve this goal, we have implemented various formal document reviews that have enabled the requirements and specifications engineering processes to be improved. After 18 months, we had detected and eliminated 95% of the anomalies from the relevant projects and thus drastically reduced the correction costs”, explained Patrick Massot.

The implementation of a reference framework of good test practices

The additional costs related to a lack of information sharing and of capitalising thereon are estimated at 25%. This means that the same unit of work could cost up to 25% less for an organisation with standardised practices.

The main objectives are to have the company commit itself to a consistent and optimised direction. IT systems are inherently complex, but a lack of frameworks and standard reference materials, non-formalised business processes, and poorly defined activities and service levels automatically drive up IT costs. Common test reference materials aim to promote exchange and to provide transparency for testing activities. The pooling of, and capitalising on, best practices allow the organisation to undertake industrialisation actions, ensuring the optimisation of costs over the long term.

The industrialisation of tests

The industrialisation of design or test execution practices, of data sets management or even of the steering thereof, allows for savings of up to 4% of the IT budget to be achieved.
Today, industrialisation is based on suites of mature, institutional or Open Source tools. It enables cost reductions in the order of 30%, in particular for design and execution, and halves the maintenance efforts for automated tests, with a notable increase in the perception of the quality of products by end users .

Transverse governance

The sharing of IT challenges between all stakeholders and the establishment of transverse governance ensure compliance with production implementation schedules. According to a global survey of more than 2,000 CIOs (Gartner 2013), 65% of respondents stated that the main barrier preventing organisations from achieving continuous optimisation of IT costs to date has been the inability of key players to work in the same direction towards a common goal.

Other levers derived from testing activities

The levers listed are not the only drivers of IT cost reductions. They are varied and depend on the organisation’s maturity level. The integration of testing activities into the IT system life cycle, the requirements engineering, the partial or total outsourcing of the testing activities, the professionalisation or the establishment of dedicated organisational structures can also enable IT costs to be controlled.

The implementation of cost-reduction actions in a targeted manner can certainly lead to them to be controlled and reduced in the short term, but this may not always be sustainable over time, says Patrick Massot.

The sustainability of such savings is achieved when a comprehensive cost optimisation programme is committed to, especially in the product validation phase. The key to the success of such a programme lies in the gradual implementation of actions involving the various different factors. With this combination of actions, we achieve good results quickly and sustainably.

The testing process, using the various levers referred to, contributes to the reduction of IT costs. The benefits are increased when there is a comprehensive cost-reduction programme in place that includes improvements across the whole of the IT lifecycle. Indeed, improving the testing process cannot, by itself, aim to optimise IT costs but is actually an indicator of faulty processes or activities in the IT lifecycle.

Some examples of the implementation of our offering:

  • Strengthening the professionalisation and industrialisation of the tests for a customer in the pharmaceutical industry
  • Transformation towards the partial outsourcing of testing activities for a customer in the energy sector
  • Development of a shared and reusable reference framework of testing practices for a customer in the defence sector.
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