Following last week’s Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage, UK tech bosses are warning that, similar collapses could happen across retail in the run up to peak as there is a lack of engineers to test software and platforms.
The warning comes as both high street and online retailers look to maximise their revenues and profits against a backdrop of untested e-commerce technology and software. In recent times this has been melded together at breakneck speed by a remote workforce and hasn’t been sufficiently tested. This makes systems vulnerable to coding errors, traffic tsunamis, DDoS attacks, ransomware, malware attacks and DNS provider downtime which will almost certainly lead to a lack of fulfilment, late delivery and even overcharging.
A massive shortage of trained quality engineers in software testing to check, test and maintain software and e-commerce systems has created the perfect storm. Retailers face an unprecedented demand on the supply of products and the delivery of goods to the end user in their post-pandemic recovery and with Christmas only 12 weeks away.
A number of British retailers have reported systems issues and websites crashing as the UK struggles to return to pre-pandemic output and cope with demand. Software testing plays a critical role in e-commerce retailing as we rely on more online purchases.
Two British tech firms – Credersi and ROQ, which are both tech training and software testing companies – are addressing the shortage by training “work-ready” quality engineers through a uniquely designed fast-track training course. They are also increasing their efforts to encourage more women and members of the BAME communities into software testing.
ROQ are pioneers in delivering strategic software testing solutions and providing trained quality engineers. The firm provides services to the likes of legal giants Linklaters, as well as Deloitte, Boots, Specsavers, Unilever, MS Amlin, The Post Office and the NHS.
Stephen Johnson, Founder and CEO of ROQ Software Testing Solutions, is one of the leading figures and experts in the strategic software testing industry. He says: “As we approach the busiest time of the year with Christmas weeks away, retailers are faced with an unprecedented set of demands from consumers. Demand is outstripping supply and goods are taking longer to manufacture and deliver. Much of this due in part to the factors of Brexit and the pandemic.”
He continues: “The Facebook/Instagram/What’s App outage this week has also perfectly demonstrated the vulnerability of systems if they are not regularly tested. No company is too big to fall and the impact on any business can be devastating both financially and in losing customer trust and goodwill.”
He adds: “This is also a time when retailers face huge spikes and surges in their e-commerce sites with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and increased online shopping with Christmas demand. Brexit and the pandemic have also created the perfect storm of skills shortages across a number of industries. Software testing provides an essential role to the core functionality of any retail and e-commerce business. Unless you rigorously test systems, you cannot find the weaknesses or vulnerabilities until it’s too late. Often for an e-commerce retailer, this comes at great financial cost and has a major impact on customers.”
In December of last year, the Debenhams website crashed when more than 1 million shoppers tried to access the site. The cloud computing service Fastly took down thousands of websites in multiple countries earlier this year, costing numerous businesses billions in lost revenue. Retailers such as Amazon and eBay also found their websites had disappeared for an hour. These 2 companies alone boast a combined £25 billion in annual sales in the UK, meaning a 1-hour outage would have cost £3 million between them over that period. Other e-commerce sites such as PayPal were also hit and based on their 2020 transactions of $963 billion, the 1-hour outage would have cost them around $106 million.
Johnson continues: “It is absolutely vital that any high street or online retailer with an e-commerce presence ensures that their software testing is put front and centre of their operations. There simply aren’t enough quality engineers to keep up with the demand by British companies and very soon this will reach breaking point.”
The skills shortage in software testing has also been accelerated by the offshoring of “testing services” and Brexit. Andy Lord warned of the very real risk that if the UK does not train enough quality engineers for software testing, “there could be disastrous consequences not just for retail and e-commerce, but also business, industry and manufacturing who all need software systems tested.”