The Golden Age For Software Testing In China

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 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.

A sellers’ market

“The software testing industry is at a growth stage,” said Prof Zheng Renjie, a software testing expert. The current hot market for software testers is mainly due to the rapid development in software industry itself, “companies are demanding better quality software, which has in turn stimulated demand for software testers. But talent supply and talent training are lagging behind the dramatic changes in market demand, hence a telent shortage.”

At present, software testing talent shortfall in China has exceeded 200,000, and it is rising to the 300,000 threshold. According to statistics, total software tester supply from nationwide IT training institutions is less than 10,000 per year, thus it can be foreseen that the testing talent shortage could last another 5-10 years. At the same time, talent shortage has given leverage to tester remunerations. According to a remuneration report from 51Job.com in China, starting salary for software testing engineers ranges from $400 – 650 per month, and it could increase to $1200 – 1650 for engineers with 2 to 3 years’ experience, higher than the remuneration for many developers with similar service years. As the talent supply shortage continues into 2008, software testers’ remuneration is looking for more gains.

Education and training

The shortage in software testers in China has not only lifted the remuneration levels, not also created a boom for educational and training institutions. Even two years ago, several prominent IT professional training institutions had realised the importance of software testing positions, and organized a few domestic and international software testing experts to co-develop training courses, which have successfully cultivated lots of software testing talents in the past two years. Currently in China, apart from overseas recruitment and company internal training, external professional training is also an important channel for producing software testers, amounted to 12% of total talent supply. As companies are paying more attention to labour costs control, more professional talents are expected to come from external training institutions.

While professional IT training is booming, tertiary education institutions also began to test the water. In August 2007, the first software testing education forum was held in Shanghai by various government bureaus and universities, explicitly marking “software testing” a core area in software engineering courses in China. But Dr Chen Honggang, who had been involved in development and testing of projects such as Windows95, Internet Explorer 4.0/5.0 and SQL Server 2000, commented that although universities can ease some pressures on software testing talent educations, based on overseas experience, professional training will still be the main channel for supplying software testing talents.

Film Radiography is Declining in Industrial Testing Applications

DODGED THE DIGITAL DILEMMA

The shift from analog to digital technology has given a new lease of life for NDT applications in the industrial radiography market, thus, broadening the scope beyond traditional applications. Digital X-ray systems are proliferating with increased acceptance across all industry verticals, including highly regulated and traditionally conservative aerospace and automotive industries. The most significant contributing factor for this paradigm shift to digital X-ray systems is the cost-saving, which is 5-6 times more (in both computed and direct radiography) when compared to film-based systems. The shift is also being fueled by the bridge of gap by digital systems when it comes to high-resolution images, which used to be a niche for film radiography. Megatrends, such as Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things, and Big Data, are expected to progressively phase out radiography on film.

ADVENT OF PORTABLE RADIOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT

The industry is experiencing significant influx of portable equipment in the recent years. With the need for inspection activities to be carried out at multiple locations and in various orientations, the industry demand for portable testing devices is increasing. The demand for compact and lightweight devices, which enable easier examination, has been a key trend in the market. Innovation in manufacturing technologies is propelling the deployment of these products. Elimination of installation costs with the use of portable devices, which helps in reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of these devices, is further helping the manufacturers strengthen their economic position in the market. The oil & gas industry, which employs testing across the industry supply chain for gauging the structural integrity and for continuous monitoring of intricate structures of various sizes, like plates, tubes and drilling machines, is expected to be among the most dominant end-users for portable radiographic equipment.

DIRECT RADIOGRAPHY TO BE THE GROWTH ENGINE

What's leading the pack in digital radiography? Direct radiography is the fastest growing type of radiography with near double-digit growth rate as compared to the overall market. This segment is aided by advancements in hardware, such as tubes, sources, and detectors, as well as software improvements facilitating better user-friendliness and efficiency. The advantages of direct radiography, including shorter exposure times, real-time applications, use of recognition software, reduced inspection time, environmental concerns, portability, and increased dynamic range (enabling multiple thicknesses to be inspected in one shot), are driving their adoption across all industry verticals. Direct radiography equipment is offering guaranteed high ROI to customers, which is the biggest contributing factor for their growth. Significant market opportunity for direct radiography (includes real-time) exists in automotive and aerospace segments, which are witnessing very high growth rates, even exceeding that of the overall direct radiography market.