In March 2021, software test automation company Qentinel published QWeb automation library as open source. This key library enabled success of Tax Administration giant Valmis project. Releasing QWeb as open source is beneficial for both the Finnish Tax Administration as well as Qentinel, the publisher.
In the project called Valmis that ran from 2013-2020, the Finnish Tax Administration set out to unify their business process system landscape onto the GenTax platform. Qentinel’s test automation solution — based on the open source Robot Framework — was one of the project’s cornerstones.
”Qentinel offers a solution that is suitable for a system landscape that experiences continuous and extensive development. What was especially important to us was the flexibility and easy maintenance that are crucial when it comes to taxation systems,” explains Jarkko Levasma, Chief Development and Information Officer at the Finnish Tax Administration.
When the Tax Administration was picking a solution for test automation, one crucial factor that guided them towards an open source solution was that it meant spending no extra money on licensing fees that you would normally pay for a commercial solution. This way, the money could be spent to tailor the solution to the Tax Administration’s specific needs.
A larger group of developers means more security
Now Qentinel will be releasing the QWeb test automation library, one of the core test automation libraries in their cloud test automation product, for open source. As an innovative public administration actor, the Finnish Tax Administration has always supported new solutions, including open source.
“I am happy to see an increasing number of companies releasing their open source technology for further development. However, it’s important to underline that choosing to go with an open source solution doesn’t mean going for a “free” solution. Naturally, developers always need to be compensated for their efforts,” Levasma emphasizes, having worked as a developer himself.
Qentinel’s decision to publish their QWeb library for open source means that the Qentinel Pace test automation tool gains more developmental power. Qentinel strongly believes in the open source philosophy, and Qentinel Pace remains the best cloud platform to run QWeb and other open source technologies.
“We’d really love to see other developers working on the QWeb library to ensure that we can improve it with an increasing number of capabilities. However, to us, the most important thing is still seeing Qentinel responsible for our test automation operations,” says Levasma.
According to Levasma, open source is an advantage for the Tax Administration, for instance, when it comes to adding new features on top of test automation. Another important factor is security, especially for a party like the Tax Administration, dealing with critical systems.
“In the world of open source, it’s easier to audit the source code because there is a whole community looking at it, as opposed to commercially developed software where you have to rely on the company that provides it to have their own testing processes. ”
Although Levasma sees many benefits in open source, he points out that he is open to any technology solutions, as long as they function well.
“We feel it’s important that we choose technologies that are future-proof and that have long-standing support in the future. This is crucial because, on the one hand, our business solutions have a long life cycle. Still, on the other hand, the environment in which they operate is constantly changing. We need to be able to adjust them today, tomorrow, and ten years from now,” says Levasma.
Developing two different systems simultaneously
From early on in the Valmis project, Qentinel has been building a library for Gentax. This was then used as the basis for the QWeb library, which is one of the core automation libraries in Qentinel Pace.
The testing automation team further developed the library with the project’s specific needs in mind. For example, in the income register project, a more productized and less customized QWeb library was taken into use directly.
“It’s been a real pleasure to see how well the QWeb library is suited for different test automation needs. The groundwork from the completed project and the experience we gained have made the QWeb library a solution that can be applied to all sorts of use cases. In the income registration project, the implementation of the QWeb library was successful and created no major issues,” explains Kalle Huttunen, a consultant at Qentinel.
In March 2021, Qentinel will release QWeb for open source at the RoboCon conference. The release is a significant step for Qentinel in opening its own IPR up to the open source development community.
Unified tools and processes equal functioning systems
During the spring of 2021, the Tax Administration will test the QWeb library in the Gentax test automation environment.
“Right now, it looks like we will be able to convert the QWeb library into a format that we can use in the Gentax test environment quite easily. This would be a great solution for us,” says Janne Suortti, Product Owner of Quality Assurance for Software Production at the Tax Administration.
The introduction of QWeb in both environments reinforces the Tax Administration’s commitment to unified tools and processes across all their systems. This is not always a given at every company.
“The smooth operation of all systems related to taxation is always the main priority for us. That’s why we make changes only after thorough testing”, says Suortti.
According to Suortti, the use of open source technologies in the Gentax solution has been really beneficial for the Tax Administration.
“Ever since the beginning, we’ve wanted to ensure that our test automation is as flexible as possible. For instance, when we add new software updates to our system, it’s enough to simply update the test automation libraries. We don’t need to touch the test cases — that would be a significantly bigger hassle.”
Complex systems require more testing
The impact of automatic testing can be measured to be around 160 million euros compared to doing manual tests. Suortti points out that, in reality, hiring hundreds or thousands of manual testers wouldn’t be possible. This would have meant reducing the number of tests.
“The quality of regression testing, as well as the quality of the software would be poorer. Even small mistakes in the taxation of private customers, for example, could cause huge losses to the national economy. ”
There are enormous amounts of data from different sources. Those are handled in a versatile manner in the Tax Administration’s systems, and the data then goes forward from there. Testing around 150 different accounts has been the touchstone of the largest IT project of the 2000s in Finland.
The taxation system’s regression testing is a huge process, and it would be impossible to manage manually. Regression tests test the effects of individual system changes on other parts of the system. This is crucially important, especially since the legislation governing taxation is continually changing, which means constant developments within the system. Every change must be made in such a way that the integrity of the system is maintained.
“Taxation is a very complex field in which testing new rules and their different combinations requires a lot from a test automation tool.”
“Test automation gives us peace of mind. If there are mistakes, we will notice them during the tests and fix them before anything is deployed into production. Never running into any issues in the test would be more concerning than running into a few,” says Suortti.
Into the cloud
A few years ago, the Finnish Tax Administration made the decision to approach all new projects and systems from a “cloud-first” perspective.
Due to this, they have already conducted many studies on cloud data security, focusing on whether it would theoretically be possible that confidential information could be exported and processed while stored in the cloud. And yes, as with most systems, there is indeed a risk.
A large chunk of analytics is already running in the cloud, and this year the rest is moving there as well. Additionally, the Qentinel Pace test automation of the income register is a cloud-based service. All test automation of the taxation system however operates in a state-owned data center. This makes it slower to scale than a cloud service.
“Running test automation in two environments requires fast scaling, which is only possible in the cloud”, says Levasma.
The Finnish Tax Administration is a forerunner
For years, the Finnish Tax Administration has already been a pioneer in the way they run their public administration IT projects. The goal is always clear and defined: to ensure that taxation runs smoothly and without errors.
“We continuously want to make our operations smoother for our customers. We also want to stay at the forefront of digital development so that our services — such as OmaVero, MyTax — are easy to use for everyone,” explains Suortti.
Test automation is a critical function for the Tax Administration when it comes to the development of their entire system landscape. It is not enough for the solution to be implemented once, but it will be updated continuously in line with legislative changes, thus creating a need for continuous development and testing.
“We’re really pleased with our cooperation with Qentinel. The test automation solution they provide is exactly what we need. We’ve gotten exactly the results we wanted, and the Qentinel developers have done an outstanding job for us,” summarizes Levasma.