Budgets tell a story. They show where the priorities are: what the business wants to do more of and less of. They tell us which activities are getting easier and which are dragging the business backward.

It is reassuring to see that budgets for quality assurance and testing continue to benefit from improved efficiency. The proportion of total IT spending on quality is 26%, down from 31% in 2016 and 35% in 2015. This is a sign that spending is falling back to the reasonable level of 25%, one that marks a good balance between feature creation and feature validation activities. However, when asked about historical spending,

68% of survey participants say they have seen an increase in the proportion of IT budgets spent on QA and testing over the last four years, up from 63% in 2016.

Finally, the organizations’ projections regarding future costs is a concern. Survey respondents continue to be pessimistic about their ability to control spending. For example, in this year’s survey, the respondents project that in 2020 they expect to spend 32% of their IT budget on testing, six percentage points more than their current level.

Overall though, the drop-in test budgets may point to organizations achieving greater efficiency in testing. However, there are other effects. While it was easy to measure test budgets in the centralized shared-service model, with the introduction of Agile and DevOps, where teams are devolved to the business units, it becomes it harder to account for all test activities in an overall project budget. Similarly, organizations are still unsure whether Software Development Engineers in Test (SDETs) should draw from the test or development budget.

The story takes another twist when we look at expectations of future spending. On average, respondents expect their quality assurance and testing budgets to increase to 32% of IT spending by 2020. If increasing efficiency explains the fall in budgets this year, then why do the same respondents expect to become less efficient in the future? Other factors are clearly at play.

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