QW2001 Paper 6A2

Mr. Juris Borzovs & Mr. Martins Gills
(Riga Information Technology Inst. )

Software Testing in Latvia: Lessons Learned

Key Points

Presentation Abstract

Software testing is an integral part of software development process and one of the most efficient quality assurance methods. This presentation reflects the main issues of testing in Latvia’s IT industry: a brief look at the history, an analysis of current day problems and lessons learned, and the vision for the next decade. The experience has been gained from three largest local software companies - DATI, SWH Technology and IT Alise.In Latvia, there is a strong scientific background in the field of software testing. Early research was related to automatic construction of test cases - both theoretical and practical approach. Courses on software testing are included into undergraduate computer curricula of Latvian Universities for more than a decade. Recent and current research in testing is related to software test tools, universal symbolic interpretation, software process improvement (testing issues), practical manual methods of software testing [1-6].A software development as an industry began to develop approximately a decade ago when in 1991 Latvian software designers won a bid for tenders to set up an information system for the social insurance of artists in the German state of Bremen. The work was done successfully, and this early achievement confirmed the fact that Latvian specialists are entirely competitive in Western markets. From year to year, the volume of information technology service exports to the West has grown, and in 1998 Latvia’s two largest software producers - DATI and SWH Technology - exported products worth a total of Ls 5.3 million, and in 1999 - Ls 7 million.

Initial approach was more ad hoc based, and the importance of testing was underestimated. Currently the picture has considerably changed - early starters are now the largest and the most experienced companies with ISO 9001 certified quality systems. The aim to raise the quality criteria was motivated by competition in IT market and by lessons from projects with unstable success. A considerable evolution of quality requirements both from the suppliers and acquirers is observable. The way towards unified approach in the software engineering was supported by individuals who worked on adoption of IEEE standards for use in a company DATI. As a result, a number of company IT standards were developed, covering fields of software quality assurance, testing, specification, planning and documentation. In parallel a large portion of IT terminology was developed. Most of current Latvian National IT standards were approved in 1996, adopting DATI internal standards.For couple of years in Latvia, major companies large business software development, especially documentation, base on IEEE J-STD-016-1995 standard. Along with that, during product development, largest companies follow a well defined life cycle model with defined processes (adoption of ISO/IEC 12207).

While over the past years systematically working on testing issues, these companies have learned a number of lessons. They are:
1) Testing in the company could be organized both by means of a separate testing institution such as laboratory or department, or by creating a small test team within each project.
2) Testing should not be regarded as just another project activity. Testers should have a background equal to system analyst or designer, plus a specific knowledge of a software testing. As a result a system with a qualification levels for testing professionals has been developed. Within a SWEPE (Software Engineering Professional Education) project, a knowledge area for testing professionals is undergoing definition phase [7].
3) Many software acquirers are poorly informed about testing. To avoid the project failures one should educate a customer about the testing and quality assurance.
4) Well defined test process is the only way to achieve quality with minimal time and staff resources.
5) Although test automation has considerably increased over the past couple of years there is no evidence that it can replace the manual testing activities. Tools for testing can give a strong support, but the test planning and design are almost purely creative activities that do not undergo the automation. Tasks like GUI, user manual testing, help or localization testing almost purely rely on manual testing effort. Just like there is no software that writes the code (semantically), there is not one for test creation.
6) A number of measurements should be made to estimate the efficiency of testing and to check the hypothesis. For example, there has no evidence been found of Pareto principle (where 20 percent source code contains 80 percent of problems [8]) in porting projects.
7) Along with the overall awareness of software testing, the unsatisfied demand for testers is becoming higher than for any other IT profession;

According to various studies, there is a shortfall of between 130,000 and 500,000 software specialists in the world right now, and the deficit may increase to some 1 million people over the course of the next 5-10 years [9-11]. Latvia’s vision for the next decade is closely related to rapid development of IT industry. Rough estimation shows extreme potential of the three Baltic states to become a major software development and maintenance region able to employ up to 120 thousands IT engineers and to export software and maintenance services. Latvian IT companies, as a result of exporting their services, will reach turnover of Ls 4 billion each year, while the three Baltic States in total can reach a level of Ls 12 billion. Analyzing the software engineering activities that can be performed remotely from the acquirer, the main ones are: design, coding, testing, maintenance, reengineering and porting. Taking into account the overall increase of the awareness of the role of quality assurance and independent testing, the software testing is the IT industry sector to experience a rapid development.

About the Author

Mr. Juris Borzovs was born in 1950 in Finland. He graduated from the University of Latvia (UL), Riga, Latvia in 1973, received his candidate of science degree from the Institute of Mathematics, Belorussian Academy of Sciences, Minsk, Belarus in 1989, Dr. and Dr. habil. degrees from the UL in 1992 and 1999, both in computer science. He was with the UL in 1973-1992. Now he is a Director with Riga Information Technology Institute (RITI) and half-time Docent with the UL and with Riga Technical University. Since 1992 he was the Head of Software Testing Lab within RITI dealing with testing for industrial software projects. Mr. Borzovs is a Member, Strategic Group, Coordinating Council, National Programme "Informatics"; Chairman, IT Terminology Subcommittee, Terminology Committee, Latvian Academy of Science; Vice Chairman, IT Standardization Technical Committee; Member, Legislation Drafting Task Forces, Ministries of Transport, Culture, Welfare; Invited Expert, Government Task Force on Millenium Problem; Member, Swedish-Latvian IT Council, The Baltic Sea IT Fund, Swedfund; President, Latvian Information Technology and Telecommunication Association (LITTA); Founder and First President, Latvia Chapter, Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA); Vice President, Latvia Chapter, International Federation for Automated Control (IFAC); Member, IEEE Computer Society and IEEE Standards Association. He has published over 60 scientific papers. His interests include software quality, software testing, software engineering, software copyright, and terminology.Participated with presentation in ICSTEST conference in Bonn, April 5-7, 2000.

Mr. Martins Gills received his MSc cum laude in Computer Science in 1999 from University of Latvia. For several years he has been working in the testing field. Currently he is a test team leader in Riga Information Technology Institute (RITI). One of the most challenging projects he managed was CANON printers software driver GUI testing comprised 18 natural languages and performed distantly. During last two years, he mostly participated in year 2000 testing projects. His main testing interests are related to test method efficiency. Participated with presentation in SQM and ICSTEST conferences in Bonn, April 5-7, 2000.