Designated as the ‘automation specialist of choice’ by Old Mutual S.A., veteran software testing group DVT is setting its sights on the UK, eager to help new clients in a post‑Brexit world.
Now that 2017 is fully underway, Editor of TEST Magazine Cecilia Rehn caught up with Chris Wilkins, CEO, DTH and Bruce Zaayman, Director: DVT United Kingdom, to discuss how this South African powerhouse is poised to help UK businesses optimise automation this year.
DVT is well known as one of the largest, privately‑owned software testing groups in the southern hemisphere, but can you give us an introduction for our European audience?
Chris Wilkins: DVT started in Cape Town in 1999 and we have built up our group to a staff of 600 professional software developers, testers, business analysts, project managers, architects.
At heart we are a software development company and over the last 10 years we’ve recognised that software testing is becoming more and more important, so we built up a very large and very competent testing team. This is made up of 200 - 250 testing professionals, which includes our Global Test Centre facility in Cape Town, one of the largest, specialised testing facilities in the southern hemisphere.
Our clientele spans from large finance and insurance firms and media companies, down to smaller organisations such as Doddle.Our focus in testing is automation; we believe that the world will slowly move towards automation, and we believe that outsourcing software testing and commoditising it, and making life easier and allowing enterprises to focus on the more specialised, and possibly more interesting, QA jobs is the way to go.
What are the main services that DVT provide?
Bruce Zaayman: We provide agile software development, testing, consulting and training.
We have also built our own test automation framework, which means our clients don't have to pay any license fees for their testing projects. The main reason we developed the java‑flavour, UTA‑H (Unified Test Automation – Hybrid) framework is because a lot of companies don’t want to spend the money on the big players. You know, the HP titles or the CA type tools. For that reason, this is based on Selenium web driver, saving costs as we’re not limited by a license for one individual machine.
If we need to run through a massive amount of work in a short amount of time we spin up a couple of VMs and we can run on double, triple, the amount of machines in order to reduce the time. So that’s a major selling point and I think that that’s something our clients look for.
CW: Everybody wants flexibility; everybody wants scalability. We, as a company, are pragmatic delivery specialists; we’re not trying to play in that big generic space. We’re not looking for these massive deals; we’re just saying ‘we can get the job done for you.’ The framework’s been built with that in mind, to get the job done, and it’s 80/20. Once the process is more or less 80% complete, the learning curve has been so dramatic that it makes that last, more challenging 20%, that much quicker and easier.
BZ: We also use other tools for automation frameworks. We are agnostic, if a client has a tool, then we are more than happy to augment that team with our service offerings and our skills. To us, an automation specialist is not just a functional software tester with some tech background; we have a java‑development type of resource that is useful. We run test automation from a development point of view, and find that this flexible and scalable approach works very well.
What can a South African venture offer to the UK/European market?
CW: Post‑Brexit, we think Britain is looking at being more of a global citizen again, and we believe South Africa is a culturally and economically sound partner.
In terms of IT outsourcing, we believe the Indian model, although effective for some companies, is not specialised, nor boutique enough for most. And when you consider the euro’s recent increase, other Eastern European options have become more costly. In contrast, the South African rand is extremely competitive, which means that there is a strong case to say that partnering with a Cape Town‑based firm can be a cost reduction and cost mitigation, strategic exercise as well.
However, we consider our strengths to be based on more than economics. When it comes to cultural familiarity, there’s a strong link between Britain and South Africa. We’re part of the same Commonwealth, share a common language, and the same time zone so you can pick up the phone and talk to someone straight away. A lot of Brits travel to and from South Africa, and a lot of them have families there as well. So there’s a strong sense of it being part of the British framework.
And of course there are loads of South Africans working in London and in the UK. These cultural links are so important for IT outsourcing in particular, when miscommunication could have huge ramifications for a project. South Africans' first language is English, they are educated in a system that reflects the British educational system and our best practice, the way we do things, the way we work, the methodologies, the jargon, they are all exactly the same.
On the whole I think communication is as easy as it can get. We are a much easier country to work with than any of the other primary sources of offshore work at the moment in Eastern Europe and India.
A key part of DVT’s business is your Global Testing Centre. How does this support your offerings and clients?
CW: The Global Testing Centre is a natural extension of our testing service. It’s all about having your testing carried out remotely, so you don’t have to hold onto the headache of staff, you don’t have to manage your peaks and troughs as large projects come and go in quick succession. Our clients don’t have to worry about finding very specialised skills for 10 hours a month; we’ll find them internally.
So the logistical benefits are enormous, it just takes away the nuisance.
We will also make sure that the bridge between the clients and the test centre is built and that it is maintained, and that there is just the right flow of communication that goes on between them. Every client is on a different maturity curve when it comes to software testing, and we provide a tailored, bespoke service.
Because DVT’s focus and expertise has been on automation, we can consult and advise on how to tackle the more emotional aspects of automation with your staff, how to take them down that road, how to get them onto that first rung of the ladder, and then how to continually invest so that over time your automation gets faster and faster.
We ensure clients can get product to market faster, and most importantly that no one is holding up all of the expensive software developers who keep waiting for testing to finish.
Our global test centre can facilitate all of that.
BZ: The GTC is structured into pods of 30‑50 odd people, run by senior technical managers. This structure ensures that there’s always senior technical knowledge onsite, in close contact. All resources allocated to clients have senior oversight. South Africans, in general, are very positive to working with international clients and forging global business links. So we ensure we have talented staff onsite with the technical knowhow to support clients, and the enthusiasm to go above and beyond.
CW: Enterprise firms like the GTC because we have the size and the scale of a larger organisation structure and start‑ups like us because we have agility in that centre and we can move around quickly. Also, the really good news is that we always have 10 to 15 people available at short notice. We would encourage any new client to work with us on an initial proof of concept, which we can often turn around in a couple of days or weeks. This would be an investment by DVT into a client, to demonstrate the way we work, the kind of experience they might get if they signed us up as a more strategic partner.
You’ve recently partnered with British TSG, what does this partnership look like?
CW: We were initially introduced through mutual acquaintances 18 months ago. This partnership makes sense: TSG went through an MBO last year, so with new ownership and invigorated management, they are tackling the market with fresh eyes. They’re British owned, British managed with blue chip clients.
As specialists in the UK market and with high‑end consultative skills, TSG really complements our proposition as an outsourcing destination. Partnering with TSG allows us close proximity with the client and senior boots on the ground, whilst we give TSG scale, flexibility, and dynamism, all in the same language and same time zone.
Working closely together from TSG’s City offices, we serve as the preferred offshore partner. I think every British software vendor or testing specialist needs this flexibility for their clients. To stay competitive, it’s an absolute necessity.
TSG is our partner of choice. We don’t want to have to have a shotgun approach to partnerships. We’d rather have just one very good partner, and of course, we want to accelerate this business together now and win new UK clients.
What are your thoughts on trends in outsourcing for 2017 and beyond?
CW: It is clear that organisations will need to invest in various different avenues to tackle testing challenges, including cost‑effective outsourced partners and a serious focus on automation.
What it boils down to is that we need less and less actual people to do more and more testing work. With the legacy that surrounds an enterprise today, there’s an enormous amount of software, lines of code. I think automation is critical otherwise costs, time and effort will balloon out of proportion. You will not be able to keep up with more agile competition.
We’re offering a specialised solution; we’re not trying to do mass‑produced stuff. South African outsourced staff have opinions, they’re not just going to sit and do as they’re told and say ‘yes’. They will question and talk. So I think we could be a very refreshing option for people wanting to outsource.
We’re a good company to work with if you want to slowly, first of all, outsource and have a manual oriented approach, and then transition across into a more automated environment. So, we tick the boxes on both sides, and over the 10 years of developing our QA competency, obviously being software development specialists we’ve introduced all the learnings, and techniques, and best practice. But not best practice in just a global generic sense, but best practices in the way that we feel what is the right way to test software.
Another key concern for organisations is how to cope when you need some specialised skill or opinion or consulting for a just a few hours a week or a month? If you’re not outsourcing, you’ve got to go find that skill somewhere if you don’t have it in‑house. We’ve got a big test team, an extended team through the company as well, so we’re more than likely to find it internally. Increasingly, organisations are finding out that this can be a big advantage. Immediate access to specialised knowledge and insight can clear log jams very quickly.
You’ve been in the industry for a long time, how do you think testing and QA is changing?
CW: I don’t think it’s changing fast enough. I think the extraordinary high amount of software code out there means that actually regression testing is, or should be, one of the primary focuses for enterprise, not just for quality, but also for speeding up the entire delivery lifecycle.
Automation testing products are reaching a better level of maturity. We’re seeing for the first time in the last few years that these products really can do the job, which means that testing automation will start coming into its own in the next five years.
So we believe in automation and offshoring, but with a more boutique flavour; not mass production ‘throw 20 more people at the project’ ideology that’s been adopted by other jurisdictions. This is a tired tactic, and we need a sharper, more adaptable approach now. And of course Brexit is going to introduce its own peak of regression testing where small code changes are going to have to be made to accommodate compliance for whatever Brexit regulations are agreed upon.
So, where is it going? There’s more formality around it, I think everyone agrees that getting an expensive java developer to test is crazy. You actually need to make sure you have a separate team with a separate responsibility with people who are trained to test not to code. There’s going to be some type of tension in post‑collaboration between those two teams. Software developers also write their own codes, so they’re more inclined to test it and say it’s okay quite quickly.
And it’s not only the code; it’s the UX as well, which is also becoming more important as the end users’ expectations change.
We’re looking forward to showing the UK what we’ve got, and helping this market navigate post‑Brexit uncertainty with a strong, neighbourly partner!
For more information about DVT please visit: www.dvt.co.za
Source: This article was published in the March 2017 edition of TEST Magazine.