Impact of the Digital Revolution in the Communications Industry on Testing Mobile and Web Applications over the Cloud

by Kalilur Rahman

The evolution of social media and activism has put consumer acceptance at the forefront of any technological decision. This evolving landscape has led to a new wave of empowerment amongst the consumers of today to influence key decisions based on their needs. Be it the “Internet of Things”, “Social Media”, “Mobility”, “Analytics”, “Cloud”, or “Everything as a Service”, leading technology companies today focus on solving the most complex consumer issues with the simplest possible solutions. Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, stated that “data is the new oil”[1] and going by the proverb scienta est potenta – which means knowledge is power – the digital revolution supports innovation, growth, and advances in human capability. Hence, organizing this huge information base and translating it into tangible, consumable knowledge poses a challenge for testing these technologies. Testing has never been as exciting as it is today because of its creative, innovative, and agile needs which can cater to the rapidly growing mobile, multi-modal, and omniscient customer channels of today.

Evolution of a Digital Revolution

How does the digital revolution impact the communications industry? According to a survey by Ericsson, by 2020 there will be 5 connected devices per customer in mature markets, 1.5 billion connected vehicles, 100 billion processors with USD 1.2 billion in revenue generated by smart devices. A staggering statistic isn’t it?

According to a High Performance IT Survey [3], high-performers are distinct due to their ability to focus on customers and deliver on consumer needs, focus on the context of customer interaction, have a combined IT and business strategy to deliver value, be agile and nimble at the same time, have an expansive cloud-based infrastructure helped by virtualization and tighter security, and have a “working and proven” analytics engine to monetize customer interactions and the data available. Most important is a focus on data veracity to make decisions, and deliver products and services more swiftly with higher quality and stronger customer contact via an omniscient channel presence. Some big-league players in the digital landscape, like Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, have set the trend and are continuously upping their game in information management and data crunching. This has mandated a redefinition of innovation from enterprise-centric to consumer-centric. Along with a focus on the right tools for information management, companies are also placing increasing significance on customer experience by introducing newer wow-factors at every customer contact. Newer technologies for customer care, customer relevance, ways of collaboration, information access, privacy and security of personal data, transactional information, etc. are making inroads into the ecosystem and replacing the traditional call center experience. Technology leaders focus on investing in innovative technology early and break away from the market as leaders. The cases in point are Google, Apple, Facebook,
Twitter, and LinkedIn to name a few.

The communications Industry has been a pioneer for advances in the digital growth of mankind – from the first telegraph to the latest machineto-machine ‘Internet of things’ revolution. The current focus of leadersin the communications industry is to “provide the right information tothe right person at the right time”, meaning customer analytics, dataveracity, and innovative product and service offerings, “find better ways to interact with customers”, which is about having omniscient always-on, multi-modal channels to interact, and “deliver new services or productsto customers”.Communication service providers across the globe have come up with the “build-your-own-bundle” mechanism which offers consumers much needed flexibility and choice, and embraces the BYOD wave. In a broader context, to survive the cut-throat competition, telecoms firms are expanding their digital marketing strategy to both long-term ARPU and innovative short-term spikes in ARPU with creative offerings. These may be daily use data bundles, pay-per-use OTT TV, freemium offers (to increase ad revenue), value-added services such as a trusted service
manager for a “bank in a box/device” type of offering, etc. – enabled by mobility, NFC, or other advanced technologies.

With the increase in phablets, smartphones and connected devices (expected to exceed USD 250 billion by 2020[4]), a majority of the revenue for services will come from digital data consumption, which would lead to increased investment and innovation in technology. Mobile service providers are seeing a decline in voice and SMS revenues with the advent of viral-social messaging leaders who are coming up with creative ways to tap the market. On the other hand, the cost of service for the service providers increases with every data-hungry smartphone that is added to the network. The key need is a fine balance between these two. How can the mobile service providers cross the chasm? This can be done by understanding Business+Technology is > IT. Adapting to the changing consumer – to connect multi-channel to different customer segments, by brand differentiator with niche and differentiated customer experiences (such as an Apple Store experience), and a seamless digital customer experience in a multi-channel, multi-device, multi-platform delivery. KYC is the new norm, and customers today want the service firms to know them by providing customer-centric interactions and offers, showing them that the service provider knows them – by a personalized service offer through knowing their channels and products of preference, and enabling them with “relevant” products and offers. This is feasible with customer analytics and data monetization of the predictive analytics of consumer behaviors. Certain retail firms are having a field day by targeting marketing to consumers based on their buying patterns and preferences, and increasing their spend per visit by targeted marketing, ads, and placements. Similar customer-centric mobile care can be delivered by the market leaders.

In a digital world where supply exceeds demand for the customer, the context of interaction is key. Customers have many choices when evaluating
a vendor before buying their services or switching over. As the customers are constantly in a channel, customer segmentation analytics play a key role. Here, digital analytics such as big-data, predictive analysis, and forecasting are vital. Some of the Wall Street analysts were able to predict the quarterly performance of certain retailers by checking the car parking density available over GPS-enabled maps to forecast growth numbers, and a retailer in the US was able to predict types of products for a female customer based on buying patterns, and sending relevant coupons and ads to her home. Many market leaders are doing analyses on “how much is their data worth” to monetize digital customer behaviors, buying patterns, and other information to provide predictive and prescriptive analytics. In certain cases, the value of the customer data could run into several billions. Netflix[9], for example, analyzes metrics on customer browsing patterns, and types of scenes they pause and replay to target movies – features that could be of interest to customers. Similarly, certain leaders (such as AT&T)[6] are using analytics to conduct sustainability and corporate social responsibility tasks better by starting a carbon war room. Hence data analytics – which is a key part of the digital revolution – plays a very important role here.

Two other key elements of the digital revolution are virtualization and software-defined networking. Aided by cloud and advanced technologies, market-leading firms are able to make changes rapidly using the Agile framework and expand their capacity. Web giants such as eBay[7] are able to rapidly develop, test, and deploy features using a virtualized production infrastructure without the need to change application or infrastructure components by rapidly reconfiguring the networks using SDN. Some of these deployments happen in minutes. Given that every minute is worth a few millions of revenue for eBay, this digital technology advancement is a game-changer.

Given that digital data is likely to grow by a factor of 300 or more (with a forecast of about 5200 GB for every human by 2020[8]), digital data will double in size every two years, in a tautologically similar construct to the famous Murphy’s Law. With this large growth in volume, what is needed is needed is data veracity and the ability to digest information and make the right decisions faster. SAP’s HANA technology promises 10000[9] to 20000-times faster performance for the companies using SAP and the 10+ customers leveraging the service. Similar advances in data technology, such as Hadoop, Cloudera, R, MapReduce, NoSQL, Exadata, Google Analytics, etc., contribute to explosive growth in good analytics that can lead to a better customer experience, efficient data monetization, and efficient spending on IT and marketing.

With the phenomenal growth in data, cloud and omni-channel interactions comes an increasing threat to security. In the new digital world, data security has become a paramount priority for the digital leaders. They are well aware of the business risks posed by security threats, as it could result in damage to intellectual capital, operational risk due to outages, and loss of business or a reputational risk when customer data is stolen and makes the headlines – notwithstanding the legal and financial fine-related risks.

From a communications industry customer perspective, to be the market leader in the digital economy it becomes a priority for the service providers to ride the digital wave by having:

a. The right customer experience management, segmentation, and marketing spend to get better ROI and ARPU.

b. A market-leading approach to digital and social media marketing, connects and conversion of leads to cash.

c. Multi-channel, always-on platform for sales, fulfilment, assurance, and billing services to customers.

d. Next generation, real-time, flexible, customer-customisable plans, bundles, and offers integrated with efficient order management and billing systems.

e. Lightweight, lightning-fast cloud and web services-based channel and platform integration architecture.

f. Real-time fulfilment, assurance, and billing platforms.

g. Effective customer analytics, insight, segmentation, and marketing insights for data monetisation, campaign and marketing management, efficient sales pipeline management, and enhanced customer experience.

h. An always-on personalised, secure customer care platform via different channels and segments.

i. Secure and flexible platform to meet increasing demands.

j. Agility to develop and deliver new products and features in a rapid fashion.

k. Ability/infrastructure to actively fend off security threads by safeguarding customer data, intellectual capital, and critical business processes.

l. Continuously innovating technology that is greater than (>) thecombined best of business and IT.

Testing Innovation for a Digital, Mobility, Web and
Seamless Cross-Channel Customer Experience

To test efficiently for a changing landscape, i.e. moving away from the established practice of individual application interfaces, to testing the integration touch-points of a closed-loop enterprise integration consisting of custom/legacy applications or a green-field system integration implementation, or to a hybrid integration involving legacy and the likes, it is important to have a test strategy that will allow the organization to deliver test innovation for digital/SMAC areas.

With the explosive growth in application stack and testing needs, some of the areas can be grouped as shown in table 1.

In addition to various types of testing/test phases, some key areas of
focus for innovative, industrialized test delivery could be:

▪ Having a comprehensive test framework covering testing across platforms, devices, and channels.

▪ Use of an innovative tooling strategy to cover the various test phases/types and environments to test.

▪ Ability to perform cloud-based remote testing to:

▪ Reduce testing schedule and for faster time to market.

▪ Improve omni-channel customer experience.

▪ Manage and control devices/access platforms/browsers/OSs centrally for vertically-integrated platforms, and provide globally dispersed teams with access to common devices to perform testing.

▪ Innovative “automation strategy” to test various types of verticallyintegrated platforms and devices.

▪ Ability to support global sites and localisation of applications.

▪ Ability to test end-to-end across the SDLC for “digital” applications.

▪ Need to integrate testing into the end-to-end SDLC with integrated tooling that allows for agile/rapid implementations, continuous automated test delivery, virtualised infrastructure to leverage “utility”-based test delivery model by leveraging testing-as-aservice, process Innovation with testing maturity by adhering to standards/frameworks, Agility to integrate testing with any type of tool such as Open Source, market leading or custom implementations, etc.

▪ Ability to improve maturity of the testing organisation before reaping the benefits of the productivity advantages (such as automation) offered by various tools With the digital revolution changing the technology landscape, a lot of complexity arises:

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a. Advances in ecommerce platforms have changed the way we trade, buy and sell things (for various types of daily commodities as well as luxury goods), and transact money.

b. Advances in the cloud computing infrastructure and services have lead to utility computing for organisations with a myriad of options for their IT and delivery infrastructure (private, virtual private, public, hybrid clouds) for software application, platform and infrastructure services.

c. Mobility growth and data monetisation opportunities due to explosive growth (catalysed by the cloud, and social and ecommerce growth) and the need to manage this growth efficiently.

d. The pervasiveness of technology enables multi-channel anytime anywhere access and the blurring of life’s physical and digital barriers.

e. Next generation disruptions, such as wearable technologies, 3D printing, 3D interfaces for technology, software-defined networking, healthcare improvements, connected vehicles, Internet of things.

Along with these complexities, the challenges of testing arise. If normal testing costs are around 32% of application development, then with the changes in investment for the explosive growth of technology, the demand for testing services will grow over next few decades. However, the majority of the growth will be for automated and intelligent test services rather than human-dependent test services.

What this means is that testing would need to support:

▪ Different facets of testing (i.e. test phases)

▪ More efficient and effective testing (with more £€$$)

▪ More rapid testing

▪ Continuous testing

▪ Testing with more automation

▪ Preparation of pre and post requisites with automation

▪ Replacement of time-consuming admin tasks by tools

▪ Testing for various combinations

▪ Cross-platform/cross-browser/cross-geography testing needs

▪ Testing for compliance and regulatory requirements

▪ Testing for security

As the testing service evolves, the growth in intelligent test services, tools, technologies, and methods will increase. Whether it is automated test services for cross-browser or cross-platform testing; automated robotic device validation testing; automated anytime simulated field; network validation testing for communications services and application validation testing; automated multi-channel, multi-lingual, or multivariant test services for various permutations; automated verification of content (such as bills, images, and user interfaces), or non-functional aspects, we are looking at the tip of the iceberg of the testing revolution.

Conclusion

Given the need to rationalize operations, system stack, and the legacy system complexity, some of the tenured communications industry giants
are starting to make the digital transformation slowly. The real threat comes from technological innovators who are foraying into the stronghold of telco giants with their digital technological might. It may not be long before the communications industry becomes fully commoditized horizontal, spanning across industries, in lieu of being a technology-centric vertical. All these technological advancements (Internet of things, machine-to-machine, social media, mobility, analytics, cloud, everything-as-a-service (EAAS/XAAS), data management, security, and virtualization) will lead us along that path. To conclude, there will be a strong digital divide between the leaders and laggards in the communications industry and it will be the “survival of the fittest” in the long run. It is a good idea to start investing and making the best of the digital technologies. With this explosive growth in digital technologies, the demand for testing maturity will be very high, the need for innovation will reach its zenith, and it presents a very interesting situation and a challenging growth situation for testing professionals to deliver.

References

[1] http://www.thenewfederalist.eu/Neelie-Kroes-Information-is-thenew- oil,0432
[2] Accenture Tech Vision 2013 Microsite – http://www.accenture.com/ Microsites/it-trends-innovations-2013/Pages/home.aspx
[3] Accenture High performance IT Review Report 4
[4] “M2M 2012: Fragmented Requirements Still Biggest Challenge for Internet of Things,” IHS, 2012.
[5] Making Data Visible So You Can Act on It,” MIT Sloan Management Review, December 11, 2012.
[6] “EBay Goes Live with Virtual-Networking Maverick Nicira,” Wired, August 7, 2012.
[7] “The Digital Universe in 2020: Big Data, Bigger Digital Shadows, and Biggest Growth in the Far East,” IDC/EMC, December 2012.
[8] More than 50 billion connected devices – http://www.ericsson. com/res/docs/whitepapers/wp-50-billions.pdf

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