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Exactpro Wins Award for Most Innovative Professional Development Initiative in A-Team Group Innovation Awards 2024

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Exactpro has won the award for Most Innovative Professional Development Initiative in A-Team Group’s Innovation Awards 2024. These annual awards celebrate innovative projects and teams across vendor and practitioner communities that make use of new and emerging technologies and techniques to deliver high-value solutions for financial institutions in capital markets.

Exactpro’s professional development initiative was selected as an award winner by A-Team Group’s independent, expert advisory board in collaboration with A-Team’s editorial team.

Iosif Itkin, co-CEO and co-founder at Exactpro, explains why and how the company’s award-winning initiative was developed and the benefits it can deliver.

A-Team: Please tell us about Exactpro and the types of capital markets clients the company works with.

Iosif: Exactpro serves various types of exchanges, post-trade, payment, market surveillance systems, as well as technology vendors. Although each of them is unique, our clients are committed to the same goal – providing compliant low-latency services to their end users and customers, and maintaining uninterrupted operations in an environment of ongoing change.

A-Team: What challenges are your clients facing at the moment?

Iosif: Capital markets firms face regulatory pressures and the need to optimise operational costs, modernise legacy systems and digitise and automate manual processes – the list goes on. Be it a specification change in a trading or payment protocol, expansion to a new asset class, or adjustment of risk management algorithms, it all trickles down to software or hardware changes that can potentially disrupt existing processes and leave infrastructure vulnerable to defects. It’s easy to imagine how many of these technical changes go into, let’s say, a platform migration.

Some software defects are relatively easy to detect, while others can stay dormant for months or years until triggered by a rare combination of conditions.

A-Team: How does Exactpro help customers address these challenges?

Iosif: As an independent software testing services provider, we put objectivity first, and objectivity comes from being informed about all aspects of the system. Due to our comprehensive approach, the extent and depth of our quality assessment goes well beyond supervisory, business or any other requirements. It allows us to obtain extensive knowledge of and control over the system we test, and stress it with multitudes of controlled outages, helping to pinpoint any vulnerabilities.

Since early 2023, our approach has been enhanced with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. They assist our human testers and significantly optimise their work in cognitively demanding tasks throughout the software testing process. Similarly to our clients, we continuously improve our methodology to provide services in a more efficient and transparent way.

A-Team: More specifically, please tell us why and how Exactpro developed its award-winning AI testing training course.

Iosif: Being a technology vendor that supports financial market infrastructure (FMI) transformations gives us the foresight and advantage to align our practices with the highest standards. In addition, we have long been committed to regularly sharing expertise well beyond our firm. Growing our own AI capabilities and seeing AI technology leapfrogging its way to industry adoption, we realised that we are uniquely positioned to help formalise and standardise skills assessment for technology professionals in this new context.

In early 2024, our Certified Tester-AI Testing (CT-AI) training curriculum for individual and corporate clients received accreditation from ISTQB, a global software testing certification body. This followed in the footsteps of the ISTQB-accredited Certified Tester Foundation Level training course that the Exactpro team taught to a global audience in a remote format from 2022 to 2023.

A-Team: What are the client benefits of taking the AI Testing course and, more broadly, how could the course benefit the wider industry?

Iosif: To ensure resiliency in the capital markets ecosystem, the industry needs solid guidance on efficient quality evaluation. The course provides a much-needed benchmark for the professional competence needed to operate ML and AI systems and assess their quality. The curriculum offers an extensive theoretical part and practical skills needed to comprehend, create, train and test intelligent systems. It also provides guidance on building AI and ML capabilities to facilitate the testing of complex infrastructures.

Our hope is that, with this educational initiative, the industry is one step closer to levelling the playing field and standardising the now disparate use of AI and ML techniques. The initiative should catalyse a transformative shift in terms of how quality and resilience are ensured in finance and beyond.

A-Team: Please run through a short case study of Exactpro’s award-winning professional development initiative.

Iosif: Use cases for taking the course vary, but it aims to serve:

  • Those looking to learn the basics of AI systems and their quality assessment
  • Specialists already using AI and needing to increase their level of confidence or organise their knowledge base and, of course, those planning to take the official ISTQB Certified Tester AI Testing certification for academic, professional or other purposes.

From the very first video session, participants – either individually or as part of organised groups – will start to get a structured in-depth view of:

  • The types of AI and the unique quality characteristics of AI-based systems including flexibility, adaptability, transparency, interpretability and explainability
  • Data handling and model training for ML
  • Methods, oracles, performance metrics, acceptance criteria and test environments for testing AI systems, including neural networks
  • Integrating AI into software testing.

In as little as 44 class hours, or in self-paced mode depending on preference, participants will get an exhaustive and critical view of AI and ML systems and a toolkit for responsible implementation and testing of their strategic initiatives.

Anticipating the needs of our audience, the course makes the ISTQB syllabus come to life. The course is highly visual and interactive, it aims to facilitate comprehension, accommodate various types of learners, and support them on their journey to taking the official ISTQB CT-AI exam, should they choose to do so.

A-Team: How will you develop the AI testing training course over the next year?

Iosif: We don’t plan to introduce changes to the curriculum in the coming year as we don’t expect changes to the official ISTQB CT-AI syllabus that our program already covers exhaustively. However, we will rely on the feedback from our first participants to further develop the variety and delivery of our supplementary materials and practice workshops.

We hope to see the course shape more and more skilled professionals and innovators equipped with the tools to responsibly drive ML and AI technology forward, for the good of their firms and across industries.

A-Team: Finally, what does winning A-Team Group’s 2024 innovation award for Most Innovative Professional Development Initiative mean to Exactpro?

Iosif: Promoting professional excellence has been a strategic direction for our delivery centres and the global Exactpro Group for a long time. Winning the award helps us reinforce Exactpro’s position as a technology and thought leader in our space. The team and I truly appreciate such high recognition of our work.

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