In this era of belt tightening, companies are on the lookout for ways to reduce the time and money it takes to test their new software products before launch. Long test cycles can lead to delays, a loss in revenue, and dissatisfied customers. A method that companies are increasingly using is orthogonal array (OA) testing. It checks the functionality of an application but does not include an exhaustive analysis of the program’s inner workings. Basically, testers are aware of what the software is supposed to do but not necessarily how it does it.
OA testing is most effective in finding errors with faulty logic. It’s frequently used in performance testing and regression testing, as well as evaluations of systems and user interfaces. Businesses that use the OA method include banks for their online financial products, telecommunications companies for their networks, defense contractors for weapons systems, and car manufacturers for engine and climate-control systems.
“Several large companies have seen huge cost, schedule, and risk-reduction benefits from applying OA methods and tools,” says IEEE Member Madhav Phadke, who pioneered the use of orthogonal arrays for testing. “Raytheon recently cited in its Technology Today magazine that it saw a 30 percent reduction in the cost of testing while maintaining or improving test effectiveness.” Phadke is founder and president of Phadke Associates, a company in Colts Neck, N.J., that offers consulting services and software tools to help businesses with their design, test, evaluation, and systems engineering challenges.
Companies can’t find enough people qualified to do OA testing, he says: “The Department of Defense is spending billions on testing, and they need a lot of people to help them with it. But financial companies, banks, and car manufacturers need experienced people, too.”
Phadke has partnered with the IEEE New Jersey Coast Section to teach an online class, “Efficient and Effective Software and System Testing,” to be held on 15 August from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT USA/13:00-17:00 UTC.
“Having the technical skills for optimizing test costs is highly valued,” he says. “We believe this training will help unemployed members and military veterans get back into the workforce.”
The number of unemployed members in the New Jersey Coast Section spiked after the closing in 2011 of Fort Monmouth, a U.S. Army installation. The post was home to engineers who worked for the Army acquisition executive office, which developed and managed command and control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and related technology. According to Ralph Wyndrum, an IEEE Life Fellow and vice chair of the section, some members have even been without jobs since the former Bell Labs complex, in nearby Holmdel, closed in 2004. And other engineers and military veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are having a tough time finding work.
“A lot of people aren’t exactly up to date technically, so we wanted to offer a course that would qualify them for getting a job fairly quickly,” says Wyndrum, who is the section’s chair of educational activities. “Phadke, an active volunteer with the section, suggested this training. Orthogonal array testing is very advanced but can be learned quickly and makes the person very valuable.”
The four-hour online course will cover the history and methodology of OA testing and how to construct arrays for test problems for each phase of a program, Phadke says, adding that the course will discuss the method’s benefits in various industries, including telecommunications, defense, and finance. Hands-on exercises and case studies will be included, he says. Participants are expected to learn how to use rdExpert Test Planning Lite software, the industry leader in OA test planning. Attendees will receive a complimentary license for the software, which retails for US $235, for their use during and after the course.
Experience in statistics is not required, but a bachelor’s degree in a technical field is highly recommended. Some experience with system or software testing is helpful. Good candidates for taking the four-hour course include hardware and software engineers and developers, systems engineers, scientists, and IT consultants.
The registration fee is $280 for members and $375 for others. The New Jersey Coast Section will waive the registration fee for unemployed combat veterans, and Phadke asks that companies consider giving internships to veterans.