How can Big Data Testing for Pharma Sector Boost Innovation?

Big Data testing

According to a joint study by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters and Jobsite, 47% of recruitment Managers have anticipated increased demand for IT workers in 2017. The findings from the survey of 700 senior technology professionals indicated a rising demand for Business Intelligence (BI) and Big Data professionals.

As per the report estimates, 2017 will see a soaring demand for Big Data and Cyber Security experts/professionals. The reasons are obvious – there is increasing awareness amongst enterprises about the benefits that they can reap from Big Data Analytics tools and skills.

While this is logical and evident from industry trends, the specified survey substantiated this point too!

Relevance and application of Big Data and Analytics is apparent across sectors and domains. Concurrently, critical and life-enhancing industries like pharma and biopharma are making a serious stab at the benefits they could reap from Big Data.

At the same time every sector has also put across its own challenges in Big Data integration.

Why is Big Data an Enabler for Pharma sector?

Pharma is a highly research-oriented and data-driven industry that triggers innovations on the basis of data and analytics. The entire drug development process is conceptualized and executed on the basis of past records, namely, clinical trial data, electronic healthcare records, and medical test results.

Over the years, the volume of data has been increasing dramatically, which has posed the biggest challenge for the sector. While the challenges are evident, understanding the relevance is equally important.

  • Big Data sources enable pharma companies to drive research for future R&D activities with effective development and identification of Drug candidates.
  • Companies that can successfully manage big data would be able to effectively access data and analyze it to tackle challenges related to complex regulations, drug development timelines, and validity of the existing patents.
  • Big Data helps in predictive modelling of drugs by leveraging the existing spread of information related to Clinical and Molecular data.
  • From Operational perspective, Big Data helps capture logistical data that can help companies boost their supply chain and related internal processes.
  • Data captured electronically can run through various functions – discovery to development, external partners to contract research organizations, etc. that enable real-time analysis and help derive business value.
  • Real-time monitoring of trials and related data can help identify expected operational and safety issues and help address unexpected events/delays.
  • Reference to R&D, Big Data integration enables pharma/drug development companies to combine real-time evidence with existing data streams and derive valuable outcomes.
  • Sifting through large volumes of data is practically impossible without implementing advanced analytical capabilities.
  • Big Data can enable faster and logical recruitment of candidates for Clinical Trials, thus enabling shorter and cost-effective trials with more success ratio.

Analyst reports have indicated that Pharmaceutical R&D is facing declining success rates and a static pipeline. Big data and Analytics can go a long way in resolving some impending issues.

The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that comprehensive Big Data strategies can help take informed decisions and generate almost $100 billion value annually for the US healthcare system, drive innovation, boost the quality of research and Clinical Trials, develop improved tools for physicians, and better OTC products for individual consumers.

The benefits of Big Data are especially compelling in complex business environments where there are multiple types and volumes of data available.

What are the core challenges of Big Data Integration in Pharma?

As we talk about challenges, experts claim that Big Data remains an opportunity as well as a challenge for the pharma sector. Industry numbers suggest that about 70% of pharma data projects primarily involve Data Management, which comes prior to any further analysis.

Here are some clear challenges:

  • When massive data gets more heterogeneous, cleansing and integrating the data gets further complex.
  • Testers are supposed to constantly monitor and validate Volume, Variety, Velocity, and Value of the Data, so understanding the data becomes critical and a real challenge.
  • Additionally, analyzing unstructured data requires tremendous technical expertise and understanding of tools.
  • Having consistent and credible data is the biggest challenge for R&D in pharma.
  • Management of data at all levels of the value chain is critical and enables organizations to derive maximum value.

Big Data Testing entails successfully processing terabytes of data using commodity cluster and other components. Considering that the processing is very fast, it requires a high level of testing skills. It involves three types of testing – Batch, Real-time, and Interactive.

Apart from this, it is important to ensure data quality in Big Data Testing. It is essential to check the quality of data, checking various aspects – conformity, accuracy, duplication, consistency, authenticity, and the all-inclusive nature of the data.

Why consider Test Automation for Big Data Testing?

Test Automation for Big Data testing can ensure that large data sets across various data sources are integrated effectively to provide real-time information. It further certifies that the quality of constant data deployments is maintained and it does not hamper the decision making process.

It aligns data with changing parameters to take predictive actions and helps gain right insights from the most minuscule data set. It helps ensure scalability and data processing across various layers of data and touch-points – structured and unstructured.

With Test Automation for Big Data Testing your enterprise can validate both structured and unstructured data from various source points. This also helps improve the quality of data warehouse that ultimately boosts the quality of data to help drive insight-driven business decisions.

Can Big Data testing improve service delivery?

A practical example can very well testify the benefits that Big Data Testing and an experienced Testing partner bring for you.

A leading biopharmaceutical company with a widespread market across US, UK, and Canada collaborated with Gallop Solutions to test the Aggregate Spend program. The company needed testing expertise for ETL/DW and BI testing of their Aggspend solution.

The client operates in critical therapeutic areas, namely, deficit hyperactivity disorder, human genetic therapies, gastrointestinal diseases and regenerative medicine. They preferably needed strong domain background in Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industry, and if possible, knowledge about the Physician Sunshine Act.

The Gallop team faced challenges related to quality of data for some entities. The production version feed files were huge, time taken to process the feed files was high during test cycles, and the challenges got doubled with the client’s inadequately defined requirements.

Considering the complexity of the domain and related technical requirements, Gallop team proposed the right mix of ETL/DW & BI (Data validation, functional and integration) testing and domain experts, and was ultimately selected as the preferred partner.

With detailed study of the client’s needs, support from Business Analysts, Subject Matter Experts and test managers, Gallop designed a comprehensive testing approach that ensured timely delivery and compliance with high quality standards.

Are you struggling to achieve faster test cycles, Go-LIVE timelines and zero defect leakage into production?

Connect with our experts to achieve an all-inclusive Test Automation strategy for your Big Data Testing needs that can help you build a robust go-to-market strategy, not just for pharma but for any business.

The opinions expressed in this blog are author's and don't necessarily represent Gallop's positions, strategies or opinions.

5 Big Data Testing Challenges You Should Know About


5 Big Data Testing Challenges You Should Know About

Enterprise data will grow 650% in the next five years. Also, through 2015, 85% of Fortune 500 organizations will be unable to exploit Big Data for competitive advantage. – Gartner

Data is the lifeline of an organization and is getting bigger with each day. In 2011, experts predicted that Big Data will become “the next frontier of competition, innovation and productivity”.   Today, businesses face data challenges in terms of volume, variety and sources. Structured business data is supplemented with unstructured data, and semi-structured data from social media and other third parties. Finding essential data from such a large volume of data is becoming a real challenge for businesses, and quality analysis is the only option.

There are various business advantages of Big Data mining, but separation of required data from junk is not easy. The QA team has to overcome various challenges during testing of such Big Data. Some of them are:

Huge Volume and Heterogeneity

Testing a huge volume of data is the biggest challenge in itself. A decade ago, a data pool of 10 million records was considered gigantic. Today, businesses have to store Petabyte or Exabyte data, extracted from various online and offline sources, to conduct their daily business. Testers are required to audit such voluminous data to ensure that they are a fit for business purposes. How can you store and prepare test cases for such large data that is not consistent? Full-volume testing is impossible due to such a huge data size.

Understanding the Data

For the Big Data testing strategy to be effective, testers need to continuously monitor and validate the 4Vs (basic characteristics) of Data – Volume, Variety, Velocity and Value. Understanding the data and its impact on the business is the real challenge faced by any Big Data tester. It is not easy to measure the testing efforts and strategy without proper knowledge of the nature of available data. Testers need to understand business rules and the relationship between different subsets of data. They also have to understand statistical correlation between different data sets and their benefits for business users.

Dealing with Sentiments and Emotions

In a big-data system, unstructured data drawn from sources such as tweets, text documents and social media posts supplement a data feed. The biggest challenge faced by testers while dealing with unstructured data is the sentiment attached to it. For example, consumers tweet and discuss about a new product launched in the market. Testers need to capture their sentiments and transform them into insights for decision making and further business analysis.

Lack of Technical Expertise and Coordination

Technology is growing, and everyone is struggling to understand the algorithm of processing Big Data. Big Data testers need to understand the components of the Big Data ecosystem thoroughly. Today, testers understand that they have to think beyond the regular parameters of automated testing and manual testing. Big Data, with its unexpected format, can cause problems that automated test cases fail to understand. Creating automated test cases for such a Big Data pool requires expertise and coordination between team members. The testing team should coordinate with the development team and marketing team to understand data extraction from different resources, data filtering and pre and post processing algorithms. As there are a number of fully automated testing tools available in the market for Big Data validation, the tester has to possess the required skill-set inevitably and leverage Big Data technologies like Hadoop. It calls for a remarkable mindset shift for both testing teams within organizations as well as testers. Also, organizations need to be ready to invest in Big Data-specific training programs and to develop the Big Data test automation solutions.

Stretched Deadlines & Costs

If the testing process is not standardized and strengthened for re-utilization and optimization of test case sets, the test cycle / test suite would go beyond the intended and in turn causes increased costs, maintenance issues and delivery slippages. Test cycles might stretch into weeks or even longer in manual testing. Hence, test cycles need to be accelerated with the adoption of validation tools, proper infrastructure and data processing methodologies.

These are just some of the challenges that testers face while dealing with the QA of a vast data pool. To know more about how Big Data testing can be managed efficiently, call the Big Data testing team at Gallop.

All in all, Big Data testing has much prominence for today’s businesses. If right test strategies are embraced and best practices are followed, defects can be identified in early stages and overall testing costs can be reduced while achieving high Big Data quality at speed.

The opinions expressed in this blog are author's and don't necessarily represent Gallop's positions, strategies or opinions.

2 Major Challenges of Big Data Testing

2 Major Challenges of Big Data Testing

We all know that there are umpteen number of challenges when it comes to Testing – lack of resources, lack of time, and lack of testing tools. The industry has faced, probed, discovered, experimented and found its way out of most of the challenges of data testing. Having trumped so many challenges you would think developers can now sit smug and relax.

Not really. Those many challenges were just small fry when compared to the BIG one. We are of course talking about the BIG problem that the industry is currently wrestling – Big Data Testing. What are these challenges then?

Challenges of Big Data Testing

Why Big Data testing is more challenging than other types of data testing is because unlike normal data which is structured and contained in relational databases and spreadsheets, big data is semi-structured or unstructured. This kind of data is contained in database rows and columns which makes it that much harder. To top it all, just testing in your own time frame isn’t enough. What the industry needs today is real-time big data testing in agile environments. Large scale big data technologies often entail many terabytes of data. Storage issues aside, testing these Terabytes that usually take servers many months to import, in the short development iterations that are typical of an agile process, is no small challenge.

So let’s look at how this can impact two of the many facets of Testing:

1. Automation

Automation seems to be the easiest way out in most testing scenarios. No scope for human error! That seems very appealing when you’ve faced some painful ‘silly’ mistakes that can mess up your codes big time. But there are a few challenges here:

Expertise: To set up automated testing criteria requires someone with quite a bit of technical expertise. Now, Big Data hasn’t been here long enough to have seasoned professionals who have dealt with the nuances of testing this kind of data.

Unexpected glitches: Automated testing tools are programmed to scope out problems that are commonly expected. Big data, with its unstructured and semi-structured format can spew out some unprecedented problems that most automated testing tools are not equipped to handle.

More Software to Manage: To create the automation codes to manage unstructured data is quite a task in itself, creating more work for developers which misses the whole point of Automation!

2. Virtualization

This is one of the integral phases of testing. What a great idea to test the application out in a virtual environment before you launch it in the real world? But then again, here are the challenges:

Virtual machine latency: This can create timing problems, which is definitely not something you want, especially in real time big data testing. As it is, fitting in big data testing in an agile process is already a herculean task!

Management of images and the VM: Terabytes naturally gets more complicated with images. Seasoned testers know the hassles of configuring these images on a Virtual machine. To add to this, there is that matter of managing the Virtual Machine on which these tests are to be run!

There are many more challenges to Big Data testing that we will be discussing in future blogs. So what is the solution? Call the software testing experts at Gallop to know how your big data testing needs can be best managed.

The opinions expressed in this blog are author's and don't necessarily represent Gallop's positions, strategies or opinions.