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Reality Check: The role of mobile testing for the enterprise

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column where C-level executives and advisory firms from across the mobile industry share unique insights and experiences.

Enterprise mobility is changing the way business is done while also introducing new challenges for development, quality assurance and information technology teams. Businesses are adopting mobile for a variety of reasons, including increased productivity, efficiency, collaboration and innovation, as well as satisfying employee needs/expectations and encouraging new business and service delivery models. With such elevated stakes, ensuring consistent quality in the mobile user experience has never been more important. Poor performance, bugs and longer load times for enterprise mobile apps and websites were once accepted as normal growing pains and grudgingly tolerated. Today, users expect that mobile apps should work as or more efficiently and effectively as their desktop apps, which is why integrating mobile testing into any mobile strategy has become mission critical.

Mobility drives new requirements for development, QA and IT teams, oftentimes stretching thin their existing resources in the quest to develop and integrate new mobile quality guidelines and processes. With the amount of money, time and effort now being invested in the mobile channel and with accompanying expectations for the growth of mobile-derived revenues, ensuring a quality mobile experience is no longer optional. Below are three of the primary challenges currently facing mobile development and QA teams – device proliferation, “bring-your-own-device” and agile processes – followed by potential solutions to those problems.

Device and OS fragmentation

Device and operating system proliferation has always presented challenges for developers and testing teams, but new complexities continue to be introduced with the increased diversity and sophistication of today’s mobile devices. Although there has been a reduction of mobile operating systems, the number of device types and screen resolutions for Android and iOS has exploded. Since Android is an open platform for developers, it introduces inherent differences in the functionality and performance of each device. For QA teams this added complexity can feel like chasing ones tail, never catching up with the continual cycle of updates and upgrades.

Having the right testing platform and process that enables development and testing teams to easily and quickly validate new code is crucial and will help QA teams to manage the inherent complexities of a rapidly shifting mobile landscape.

BYOD

BYOD refers to the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices to their workplace, and use those devices to access privileged company information and applications. And while BYOD has allowed for greater flexibility, mobility and convenience for employees, it has also done its fair share to increase existing pain points specifically for internal IT teams by introducing the complication of managing employee devices that may contain unapproved or unsecured applications. The challenge lies in allowing employees to use the device of their choosing, while still maintaining tight controls, policies and security guidelines for using those devices in the business setting. Additionally, BYOD can introduce performance issues as well, as many internal CRM applications can cause conflicts with other resident apps, causing them to malfunction or creating holes open to security breaches.

Implementation of a well thought-out mobile testing and monitoring strategy can help to mitigate potential degradation of the mobile user experience, while increasing employee productivity and reducing any negative impact on the overall brand or the mobile revenue stream.

An increasingly agile environment

Many organizations are moving to more agile processes, and this is especially true with regards to mobile. Agile processes represent an iterative approach, involving continuous planning, testing and integration in a collaborative environment involving many points of input. On top of that, for mobile development and QA teams, there are also more platforms (devices) than in the desktop world to test across. This all leads to the requirement of more testing needing to be done in an increasingly compressed time frame.

Tackling the enterprise mobile quality challenge may at first glance appear to be a daunting task. Most organizations do not have the resources to keep a closet full of the newest devices and their older siblings and established QA teams may not have the experience or knowledge necessary to tackle the more complex mobile testing issues. In addition, most enterprise QA teams today are distributed across the globe, which multiplies the numbers of device closets required. But there is hope.

Leveraging the cloud

New cloud-based testing solutions that provide access to a wide variety of real devices and operating systems in multiple configurations can help to assure that organizations have continual access to the right tools for the job, while saving time, money and other valuable resources.

Beyond cost savings and increased productivity, cloud testing also provides flexibility. New devices, platforms, firmware releases and technologies are constantly being released, but companies still need to be assured that their apps and websites function consistently and correctly. Implementing a cloud-based testing solution along with real-time monitoring greatly reduces the amount of time needed to get to the root of most issues – and solve them by having 24×7 access via the cloud to a broad set of devices and networks.

Automation

As an organization’s mobile presence matures and grows (most-often through “agile” development practices), this growth will in turn necessitate increased testing, in shorter time frames and with higher stakes attached. A good mobile testing platform will grow with and accommodate these increased demands. Automated testing allows users to create hundreds of automation scripts and leverage them across multiple devices, allowing more tests across more devices in significantly less time. Automation also reduces the potential for human error, resulting in more consistent results and better overall quality. Any decision-maker should look for an automation solution with an intuitive interface as well as one that can scale beyond the needs of the individual tester. Within large organizations those with responsibility for performance and availability may also find great value in these solutions. Sharing these resources can further reduce overall costs and provide additional value to the enterprise.

Ongoing monitoring

To ensure overall mobile quality every organization should perform 24×7 performance monitoring of their mobile apps and mobile websites. Best practices for monitoring mobile websites include monitoring common transactions with a mix of locations, networks and devices to get the clearest representation of overall mobile performance. Enterprises should focus on measuring performance from actual customer or employee locations, using real devices whenever possible in order to get the clearest possible view into actual mobile performance.

If these prerequisites are kept in mind when developing an overall mobile strategy, the quality and performance of any mobile asset will be assured of contributing to its overall success in the market.

 

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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