The China’s Computer Market 2008 Forecast Report has been released recently. It showed that in the first three quarters of 2007, the software industry in China has registered sales revenue of $50 billion, up 23.6% on pcp, accounting for 10.95% of the entire electronics and information industry’ sales revenue. As the software market matures, people have higher and higher expectations over software features, quality and reliability. In October 2005, Ministry of Labour and Social Security formally listed computer software product tester (software test engineer) as one of the new professions. In only two years’ time, software testing has become a powerful dark horse in the software industry.
Steadily rising status
“In the early 1990s, software industry was still at an infant stage in China. Most software projects were very simple, the whole code writing and development process could be handled by one person. As industry competition intensified, software companies were gradually evolving from one-man-band small shops to software engineering co-operations. Although division of labour could improve software development efficiency and functional varieties, it also lead to increasing number of bugs between modules and deteriorating qualities,” said Mr Wang Yazhi from CONCEPT Information Technology Ltd, a major software development company in Beijing. Quality impairment would not shareit for laptop only damage a software firm’s competitiveness, it could also lead to massive economic loss for software users or even personal injuries, such as medical accidents.
As China’s software enterprises continue to prosper, the importance of software testing has also been increasingly appreciated by software companies. Many large and medium software companies have begun recruiting professional staff to take care of software testing. Ms Ran Chunjuan, a former testing manager in Wuhan Superidea Technology Ltd, said that “in Superidea, the ratio between software testers and developers is 1:4. Although this is still well behind the international best practice of 1:1, it is still a great improvement from 1:8 a few years ago.”
Industry experience appreciated
In addition to lifting the number of software testing staff, many companies are demanding higher staff quality as well, especially in areas of professional testing experience and thinking ability. “A tester without professional training can still work out 3-5 testing methods, but not necessarily detect bugs. Even if bugs are discovered, he might not be able to express the problems in proper languages, which could increase developers’ workload. Those well-trained testers can work out 10-20 testing methods, such as boundary value analysis, equivalence classes and cause-effect diagrams, to maximally discover any bugs. Professional testers can also articulate testing documents in standardised languages, thus improving the recovery rates of software problems,” said Mr Liu Fei, a former testing manager in Qualcomm. Many companies in China have now established independent testing departments, working along with R&D departments.
As companies’ software testing knowledge deepens, work scope for testing staff is expanding from system testing phase to unit testing and integration testing phases. “This requires software testers to have in-depth knowledge about the businesses a product is involved in,” said a testing manager from Founder Group, one of China’s largest software companies, “for example, when we test software for banking applications, we have to first understand the specific users in the bank. Some operators only use keyboards in the office, but if we don’t know about this and design it as a mouse-friendly control, banks will not buy, it no matter how well the software works.” Therefore it could be forecast that the status for software testers who possess technical experience and customer demand knowledge will further enhance.