Study finds financial services developers struggle to meet test targets

According to Diffblue’s new developer survey conducted by Vanson Bourne, the time developers spend writing unit tests costs companies an average of £14,843 per year, per developer. With an average of 43 developers employed at the large financial services companies included in this study, each organisation’s typical unit testing cost is more than £630,000 per year.

Despite this, the report’s findings reveal that 43% of developers who work in the financial services in the US and UK have found it difficult to meet the unit test coverage targets set by their managers, suggesting time alone isn’t enough; developers need support, including better tools and cultural change.

However, code quality remains an area of heavy investment for companies in the financial services industry.

Developers understand that tests are the key to quality code

Unit tests are important to code quality because they make it possible to identify unintended changes in code behaviour early in the CI/CD pipeline.

Developers in the financial services understand this and work towards the goal of writing enough unit tests to adequately cover their code: On average, they spend 21% of their time writing unit tests, and typically have an average code coverage target of 61% in their organisations. Only 36% of respondents agreed that they have skipped writing unit tests to work on new feature development—lower than the average reported by study participants across industries (42%).

Despite these efforts, 90% of software developers in financial services believe better testing is needed to improve software quality, and 49% stated that their company suffers from increased costs for fixing errors as a result of poor software quality, indicating a gap between what financial institutions need and what their software engineers can produce with their existing tools and resources.

Developers identify automated test creation as an area to invest in for software speed and quality

The developers in the study had their own ideas for how this challenge might be resolved, many of which aligned with DevOps best practices, including introducing better automation and AI tools, and an increased emphasis on testing culture.

Insufficient software testing (46%), unrealistic schedules (40%) and too many manual processes (39%) were the top three reasons for poor software quality cited by financial services developers, which could be addressed with AI technology (51%), automated testing (47%) and test-driven development (46%).

It also found that a further 63% of financial services developers also believe automating the creation of unit tests will speed up development. For financial services to achieve their goals of efficiently producing high-quality software, these are the initiatives to invest in.

In response to the survey’s results, Diffblue CEO Mathew Lodge says: “Catching bugs and unintentional code changes early are critical for financial services because it allows them to deliver better software, faster. The developers who took part in this study understand this and are spending a significant portion of their time trying to create tests for their code that will alert them to changes immediately, but they’re still struggling to hit their targets, which is a sign that something needs to change.”

“For companies to achieve continuous integration and competitively produce great code, management must provide their teams with the support they need. With the right tools, developers can improve code quality even as they reduce the time they’re currently spending writing tests, which should make this an obvious area to prioritise investment in.”

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