Companies are leaving their IT systems open to security breaches and risking unnecessary downtime by failing to devote enough time to testing new systems and upgrades, a survey has found.
According to the research, conducted among financial services firms and the public sector by IT services company LogicaCMG, one-third of IT implementation failures in the last two years have been caused by systems upgrades.
Despite this, only 11 per cent of companies in the UK test systems at the upgrade stage, leaving themselves highly vulnerable.
IT directors blame time and budget constraints for forcing them to cut corners during the implementation process. The research also showed that a board-level lack of understanding of the implications of not testing is stalling investment.
Almost 40 per cent of respondents said not enough resources are given to testing a system at upgrade stage, while a further 38 per cent said the board failed to understand the cost of improper testing at upgrade time.
Jon McKellar, associate director of managed testing sales at LogicaCMG, warned that using customers to test systems is no longer acceptable.
"With the move towards highly configurable products like SAP, where there are lots of upgrades, you'd think companies would put more effort into testing. Modern systems are extremely complex - there's no such thing as an easy upgrade," he said.
"Public sector respondents were more likely to accept that there were problems and admitted to postponing projects. But I think the confidence in the financial services sector is misplaced.
"Even though they couldn't quantify the level or cost of testing or failures, they were very confident that things were going to be all right."
LogicaCMG suggests that companies should allocate 20 per cent of project time and budget to testing at the first stage of development, to avoid costly systems breakdowns.
Failure to test at this stage can lead to downtime, systems being opened up to security breaches, and subsequent damage to corporate brand.
"Testing is still not seen as an essential activity; companies would rather spend more money on more development. Part of the problem is that it's not seen as glamourous, which has led to resourcing issues," McKellar said.
But with IT budgets unlikely to be increased in the near future, it is up to IT departments to raise the profile of the testing process and quantify the financial implications of failing to invest, he added.
"IT should be saying 'If our systems go down it will cost the business X-amount', but those conversations aren't happening."
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