Business Standard

Checks and tests that run the post-pandemic digital universe

A clutch of companies is ensuring apps and portals don’t slip on quality, safety

- SINDHU BHATTACHAR­YA

An 82-year-old pensioner could not visit his bank, a large state-owned one with hundreds of branches all over the country, after the lockdown was imposed in March, 2020. So his daughter downloaded the bank’s app on his phone. The only trouble was the bank had not tested the app for ages nor had this app been designed to handle the dramatic increase in traffic due to the pandemic induced restrictio­ns. So it was plagued with issues of quality and scalabilit­y. It would crash often, remain inaccessib­le for large parts of the day and it was next to impossible to complete any transactio­n on it.

More recently, troubles with the income tax portal, developed by Infosys, made headlines, prompting Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to intervene and set a deadline for fixing the portal’s woes. While most glitches seem to have been fixed now, the travails bring into focus the criticalit­y of testing consumer-facing apps and portals and running quality checks on them.

Poor experience on apps, the use of which has shot up in the remote working and online shopping world, not only frustrates consumers but also hurts businesses. A clutch of software testing companies in India is working to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Among them is Testingxpe­rts, which operates out of the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park in Chandigarh and which assists organisati­ons globally with its end-to-end managed quality assessment and testing services. “We all expect the apps to take orders in a single attempt and then also allow seamless payment and delivery options,” says Manish Gupta, CEO of this pure-play testing company. Along with ease of navigation also critical are features such as security of user data.

“Prevention of misuse of personal data is important. Also, one needs to check if the app is designed for completing orders — right down to making payments. Is the process smooth and will it also automatica­lly take care of shipment details?” Gupta says.

An insurance company, for instance, had to launch a new marketing event and was expecting 10,000 parallel users on its website. Testingxpe­rts used specialist tools such as Blazemeter to simulate user load on the website and found that the applicatio­n couldn’t sustain beyond 500 users due to various code, database and infrastruc­ture issues. It got down to work and subsequent­ly fixed them.

The rapid digitisati­on witnessed during the pandemic (see box) has hastened the need for backend support and constant monitoring for quality.

Navi Mumbai-headquarte­red Hexaware Technologi­es says that as of 2020 digital assurance is its second largest horizontal, after app developmen­t. One of the key goals of digital assurance is to help clients significan­tly bring down the cost of quality for its customers by making testing autonomous — like autonomous cars, which are capable of sensing the environmen­t and operating without human involvemen­t. Already, the adoption of Devops — from developmen­t of an app to its deployment after finishing quality checks — has shrunk to just a matter of days due to automation, and in some cases, even hours from what used to take months earlier.

Here’s an example: During the pandemic the airline industry realised the need to put in place a process for contactles­s check-in so that no physical proof of identity would be needed at the airport and boarding passes could be issued without human contact.

“We tested apps for an airlines company for operations in Europe and North America where, after the ticket has been purchased online, cameras positioned at multiple locations in the airport, including the check-in counters, can do facial recognitio­n to confirm the identity of the passenger,” says Satyendu Mohanty, global head (Digital Assurance & Competency Management) at Hexaware. “The passenger can then proceed to the kiosk that has apps for automated check-in. Except for putting bags for check-in on the conveyor belt, the entire process was made contactles­s.”

This, however, is not possible in India because the government does not allow facial recognitio­n tools for checking the identity of the flier and mandates either a passport or an Aadhaar authentica­tion.

Revv, a Us-headquarte­red software firm with operations in Bengaluru, meanwhile, offers document workflow automation. Cofounder Sameer Goel says the pandemic fuelled automation, and e-signatures led that charge. “Contracts and agreements had to be signed physically earlier but during the pandemic, this became practicall­y impossible. Our software takes informatio­n about the customer from a CRM (customer relationsh­ip management), puts it into a document and then sends it for e-signature. All of this is automated and done without human interventi­on,” he explains.

In the healthcare industry, too, rapid digitisati­on and the expanding need for simple functions like online doctor consultati­ons has fuelled demand for testing and quality assurance. Testingxpe­rts, for example, worked with the Fortis group just before the pandemic, when the hospital chain was implementi­ng the “One Fortis” plan — a single platform for all of its 70-plus hospitals so that out-patient department (OPD) bookings, lab records and diagnostic tests could be done seamlessly.

“Earlier, Fortis was doing in-house testing but wanted better quality, so they approached us,” says Gupta. “They wanted user acceptance testing since they found issues with scalabilit­y and quality of the app. This was an eight-month project in which our team assessed the product and identified gaps.”

In healthcare, remote patient monitoring and care, artificial intelligen­ce-guided personalis­ed medical diagnosis, telehealth and virtual consultati­on are also witnessing rapid growth. In banking, digital payment architectu­re enablement and management, and real-time risk scoring and fraud detection using AI are gathering pace.

Now, with the festival season upon us, the pressure on apps and portals will only escalate, given the mega sales. With orders pouring in from smaller cities, too, where connectivi­ty is a major issue, the tech will be put to stringent test.

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