A $56bn market waiting for South African companies


South Africa needs to move faster to seize opportunities in the $56bn - and growing fast - computer software and systems testing services market.

"India, which has been the preferred market, is battling to cope, while South Africa - with its reputation for innovation and high standards in information technology - is lagging in seizing opportunities in an area of the global economy that is not faltering, but is growing,' says Liza van Wyk, CEO of management and skills-training organisations AstroTech and BizTech.

IT expert, Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx, says that there is not sufficient usability testing done in South Africa and developers often convince clients that all is in order and once in use costly errors occur.

International IT industry consulting firm, Ovum says: "Software testing services will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5 percent from 2008 to 2013, faster than most other (information technology) services." More companies are outsourcing testing services, according to Ovum.

"This gives South Africa, with its excellent software developers and information technology companies, a gap to create work, and opportunities in an increasingly important field,' Van Wyk says.

"Although India has been the favourite provider due to the high demand of testing requests, India is no longer coping and more testing services jobs are going to places like China, Malaysia and North Africa.'

Software testing is the process of executing software in a controlled environment to establish it is functioning as expected and dealing with potential risks before going live or on site.

"In our current economic times we need to maintain market share and customer satisfaction and therefore testing is essential. This is also a field that is outsourced by major groups globally and South Africa needs to move to gain market share,' Van Wyk continues.

Neil Eriksson, head of development for IT company, Pocit, a cellphone payment provider, is one of IT?s frontline gurus.

He notes that they "use Java, which a lot of people do, but we also use a lot of open source technologies - they are freely available and brilliant in what they offer.

"With open source you can get into the code and talk about it with other developers globally. We are constantly on the cutting edge. With the cellphone technology we have developed, as an example, it took four months from concept to have the system running and a further four months of testing before launching it.

"We learn something new every day, and fix issues every day; it is an ongoing process of software testing and development.'

AstroTech and BizTech offer Software Testing as an inhouse training course for companies. "We were ahead of our time when we first developed it,' Van Wyk said, "but with the financial downturn and companies looking for new opportunities, but also trying to protect existing software, as well as IT becoming criteria in new corporate governance codes, we are seeing a strong upsurge in interest.'

The King III report on corporate governance will, when it is released later this year for the first time, include IT governance and its strategic alignment with business.

King III will demand that directors "ensure that prudent and reasonable steps have been taken in regard to IT governance."

They will have to focus on four areas, namely:

* "strategic alignment with the business and collaborative solutions, including a focus on sustainability and the implementation of 'green IT' principles;
* "value delivery: concentrating on optimising expenditure and proving the value of IT;
* "risk management: addressing the safeguarding of IT assets, disaster recovery and continuity of operations; and
* "resource management: optimising knowledge and IT infrastructure."

King III also says COBIT may be used as a check for the adequacy of the company's information security - there is however, not a one size fits all solution.

It says too that IT should be on the board agenda, audit committees should oversee IT risks and controls and too, IT performance should be measured and reported to the board.

"Imagine being on a flight and experiencing air control failure or losing revenue in your business due to software incorrectly calculating the selling price of your merchandise?

"Software testing can eliminate these risks so you can run your business," Van Wyk says. "At AstroTech, we offer a Software testing course which takes you through developing a strategy, to prioritising test cases and the various testing options.'

She says that many organisations don?t take testing seriously and this often leads to increased maintenance and risk, which all adds up to more cost, which could have been avoided if the organisation had a commitment to software testing.

For more information, view Astrotech's page in the training directory, or contact Liza van Wyk or visit Astrotech online.