Research Reveals How Test Can Enhance Product Development ​



You can learn a lot from today’s leading test
organizations—faster development and
more reliable products chief among them.

Product development isn’t what it used to be.

As anyone can see over the last decade, increasingly complex, connected, and intelligent devices are forcing engineers to rethink their product development and manufacturing processes.

Organizations aren’t delivering on key metrics. Our new research unearths how a focus on test can ignite progress and identify critical gaps holding you back.

These days, product organizations struggle to manage product quality and reliability expectations within shorter and shorter time-to-market windows. NI's recent research, conducted in the spring of 2023 among 200 global test leaders, confirmed this continued challenge. Along with performance issues, the test leaders we surveyed cited budget constraints as the leading concern when it comes to test organizations helping to meet business expectations. 

A small group of best-in-class test organizations are leading the way. This elite group represents 24 percent of survey participants—primarily senior managers, directors, and VPs in the US, China, and Germany. They perform above or well above expectations on product quality, reliability, and speed of test. That outcome, of course, isn’t a random occurrence: These leaders invest in test in a way that matches expectations and are more likely to embrace software-centric commercial technologies such as advanced automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. 

“Test teams are constantly caught in the middle of delivering more complex products with higher quality and in less time than before,” observes Ritu Favre, executive vice president and general manager of NI’s global business units. “This demands new test approaches—especially test standardization and data management—to capture new market windows.” 

Thankfully, best-in-class test organizations have shown the way.  

Prioritizing Data and Automation

Faster, more automated tests and connecting data across the entire organization—that’s what the leading organizations from our survey (24 percent) are doing in their pursuit to lead their respective industries. Automation results in faster findings and better insights. 

Getting there, however, requires investment that matches expectations of the test function. While many surveyed test leaders see technology investment as the answer, they often don’t control the budget necessary to make those investments. Our data found that even a marginal investment in test can increase teams’ ability to hit key metrics. It’s about prioritization and streamlining processes and tools to gain performance improvements at every step of the process.

“Test leaders have overcome the budget obstacle, however, by demonstrating the enterprise-wide business value of a software-connected test strategy,” says David Hall, director of NI’s global business units. “In other words, seeing is believing when it comes to modernizing test approaches and investing in them. This is something best-in-class test organizations do better than anyone else.”

Consequently, these leading organizations are getting the investments they need to keep up with increasingly disruptive technologies and product complexities while improving product quality and speed of test. Since less than half of surveyed companies believe they are performing well across their most important metrics, including product reliability, speed of test, and time to market, it’s clear today’s product organizations need a revamped approach to product development—one that places more value on test. 

Leading Technologies: A Laser Focus on
Data and Software

While many test organizations would like to make investments to drive toward their testing goals, including test data and system management software (66 percent), as well as cloud-based data storage (65 percent), ongoing budget battles have put those investments in jeopardy.  

By showing how test can benefit the entire organization, test leaders will be more successful in securing the funding for key investments, like moving measurement processing/compute to a centralized server, advanced automation, handling, and robotics, and other technologies for remote access and control of test systems, and simulation.

In that way, the survey results present a “chicken and an egg”-like problem. Test leaders need investment in test technology to show the value of an enterprise-wide approach to test, but they often can’t get that investment without first showing the value of connected test. One way to budge the stalemate is for test leaders to shift their mindset, even before spending on test software, hardware, and personnel. By positioning test as an overall competitive advantage that can drive business outcomes, they can increase their influence within the organization to help fuel future investments in test.

“Thinking of test as a value-adding differentiator, rather than a cost center, sets apart the best-in-class companies,” explains Graham Green, chief solution manager for NI’s portfolio business unit. “Educating leaders around the value of test in terms of quality, time to market, cost savings, returns, and customer satisfaction is important in allowing test to play a wider role. This leads to a more intentional or proactive strategy, and that will unlock huge value across the organization.”

Three Lessons from Test Leaders

  • Expand Test’s Influence—Modern test requires a budget to match company ambition. Even a minor increase can yield big results, but test leaders are on the hook to educate company leadership on the business value of test.
  • Break the Status Quo—If you’re doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Leading organizations understand the value of new commercial technologies that prioritize software-centric automation, standardization, and connected data, and they invest accordingly.
  • Never Settle—Best-in-class test leaders are not content with existing gains in test. After they’ve seen better results from new processes and tools, they share those insights with key stakeholders and company leadership and deepen the value of connected test data by scaling to other parts of the organization.

When positioning your test team as a competitive advantage, these three lessons can go a long way to securing the support and funding you need to succeed. See how your organization compares to the 200 test leaders surveyed in our 2023 Test Leader Peer Report—The Power of Test.