Monday, 29 September 2008

Testing times

I’ve just spent a worthwhile morning at the Software & Systems Quality Conference to pick up on what’s happening in the Testing Services scene. The most useful part (for me, anyway) was meeting the various vendors to get a feel for what impact the current stormy conditions are having in a segment I thought should have been fairly weatherproof. The answer seems to be more a case of ‘sunshine and showers’. Some of the vendors I spoke to see little impact on their business, but I was told by one European major of a €500K testing services deal that the client has now “deferred to 1/2Q09” (and we all know what that means). So it seems that however sensible the business case may be, even with testing, the spending freeze is brutal. My sense is that testing projects already underway are not being curtailed. But new projects are coming under the same scrutiny as any other IT project and subject to the same due diligence – i.e. if it doesn’t pay back (and more) this year, it ain’t going to fly.

I had expected a better turn-out from the Indian players than just Cognizant and lesser-known Zensar, given that testing is one of the Indian SIs’ fastest growing service lines. Cognizant reckons it’s the king of the castle, with some 10,000 employees in its global testing services business. Well, Wipro may have something to say about that, but it does sound close. Zensar, in which Fujitsu Services used to have a stake, is much smaller (some 5,000 employees all up, with about 300 in testing) but has some top client brands in the UK, such as John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and National Grid. Zensar aims to have 1,000 heads in testing by 2011 and is on the acquisition trail. First stop is likely to be Germany – watch this space.

But it was great to meet a couple of ‘Little British Battlers’ very much holding their own in this segment. Grid-Tools is a tiny software outfit that has developed what appears to be a unique testing data generator product highly sought after by the major SIs. One sure sign that they have something a little special is that almost every one of the top Indian SIs has been beating a path to its door to incorporate G-T’s products in their testing proposition. On the services side, SDLC Solutions claims to be the UK’s largest independent testing house. It’s £9.5m revenues are a mile away from market leader SQS Systems’ (see SQS tests India – and a lot more besides) but SDLC is UK-owned and based. While they increasingly deal direct with corporate and government, they have partner relationships with the likes of Accenture, EDS, Capgemini and (now here’s a name you don’t hear much of) Hitachi Data Systems.

Of course, how long Grid-Tools and SDLC choose to remain independent, given the high interest in the testing services segment by major SIs, becomes an interesting question.

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