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Leadership Insight: QualiTest on the QA Opportunity in AI, Blockchain and Big Data

01-09-2019-norm-merritt-1569402380

New to the quality assurance space, Merritt previously headed e-commerce SaaS provider ShopKeep, and founded an advisory practice working with several financial services clients. Given his background, it’s not surprising that his technology interests are diverse. For QualiTest, Merritt believes there is opportunity to be found both in sectors which have, historically, lagged behind in technology adoption, such as insurance, but equally so in early adopters like banking, where many companies are now dealing with vast and complex ecosystems of applications.

Q: Where do you see the real need for quality assurance?

Every sector is at a different point of technology adoption. Some industries are further ahead than others, but because they started first, they are now stuck with some legacy issues and need to transform themselves, even though they’re pretty technologically advanced. We’re seeing the advent of new technologies like artificial intelligence and true big data – not just massive amounts of data, but analysis and insights, the ability to manipulate unstructured data in ways that we could never even dream of before, and even some first steps into quantum computing. Sectors like insurance are really interesting to us, because they have lots of legacy infrastructure and are looking to quickly upgrade. As they put this new infrastructure in place, companies are rapidly increasing their risk profile, and therefore, independent quality testing comes into high demand. We’re a company that really understands quality holistically, not just in terms of functionality, but usability and security as well.

Q: Who are QualiTest’s biggest competitors?

There are lots of companies that play in the space, ranging from independent contractors to large service providers with broad service offerings, of which testing is just one piece. We tend to be in a unique and emerging group of specialists, whose sole domain is quality assurance and risk management. What makes us unique is that we adapt our solutions to specific business problems our clients are facing. Unlike our competitors, our focus is not on the individual tools used, but specific frameworks tailored to our clients’ infrastructures and applications.

Q: What are the automation technologies that excite you at the moment?

We’re excited about AI-based test automation, but we use it where appropriate for client needs. What we’re really interested in is delivering the appropriate solution for our clients and if that involves both manual test creation and automation, then that is the approach will take. I do think artificial intelligence will eventually lead to a decline in demand for manual testers, but we are not at that point yet. I’m also personally interested in the evolution of blockchain. There’s a lot of hype around the applicability of blockchain, but I think some of the use cases being floated out there are not realistic. However, I’m very confident in the ability of blockchain to obviate the need for certain investment banking or insurance functions. A public ledger that’s been agreed upon by everybody intra-company is necessary. And this is another new technology, which will introduce a lot of risk and create a huge need for quality assurance. My other key interest is in big data. We’re currently seeing a transition, where businesses are moving beyond using pure, unstructured data and are beginning to use tools to identify the broader trends. More and more companies are using these technologies to make connections that they could never make before, tracking customer behaviour and identifying the drivers behind purchasing and financial decisions. But taking advantage of this technology also introduces a lot of risks. We employ a number of data scientists, who are pushing the envelope in terms of the ability to test big data solutions.

Q: What are you planning for your first 100 days?

Learning tour. Over the next few months, I’ll be looking to get to know the business more, get people inspired about the direction we need to take. So far I’m very excited about the team I’ll be working with and I can see that people in this industry are highly motivated to innovate.