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Mercury: Drag & Drop Software QA

Officials at Mercury Interactive , makers of enterprise business technology optimization (BTO) software, announced an extension of its product line Monday, called business process testing (BPT).

Based on Gartner Group research, which found that 80 percent of all unplanned downtime is caused by application errors, officials at the Mountain View, Calif., concern thought it was time to put business process software testing into the hands of the experts and engineers alike.

Mercury's BTO software, according to Mark Sarbiewski, the company's senior director of products, has essentially operated like a VCR -- you hit "record" on the software application and it records all the interactions taking place in a normal business process. A script is then generated that automates that particular process.

The problem with that method, Sarbiewski said, is that after a while the process changes and the scripts themselves start to become too unwieldy, turning into a maintenance issue for quality assurance (QA) engineers.

BPT, on the other hand, automates tests on those business processes and puts the creation and editing of scripts into the hands of the business analysts, a group of people who have historically avoided BTO because of the knowledge needed to create/update scripts, ceding that function to QA engineers.

The software is almost entirely drag-and-drop, Sarbiewski said, taking the IT out of the hands of the business analyst. The QA engineer will map out the activities and the analyst will come in afterwards and fill in the processes, akin to a Visual Basic-type experience.

"Instead of building, say, 500 hundred individuals scripts the way it would have been done in the past, [QA engineers] can build out 50 components and reuse them in different orders, different combinations to get the business processes," he said. "So, the leverage of your QA engineer goes way up, I get a lot more testing that I can automate with the same or fewer resources."

What this brings, officials said, is a unified approach for IT departments and business experts to testing, the fulfillment of business requirements and quality. This is critically important, said Dave Peterson, Mercury vice president of communications, with the increasing demands in application complexity, government-mandated compliance measures and outsourcing.

"We're basically at a point with all these business drivers that we can't scale to meet the demands of the business and [businesses] really need to scale their efforts with subject matter experts to ensure the applications are tested properly and test them more frequently," he said. "BPT was designed specifically to really scale that effort."

Mercury has already begun work plugging BPT into major software packages. A BPT Accelerator for Oracle Applications 11i is available today, and the company is planning accelerator plug-ins for Siebel, PeopleSoft and SAP applications.