The growing focus on Agile delivery has had a ripple effect on software testing priorities – transforming how the service is delivered across businesses. So, how can testers make the most of changing business and technology dynamics? I’ve detailed five trends that testing teams can capitalise on and meet customer expectations.
1) Focus on feedback, not test results
The purpose of a specialist tester within a delivery team has matured in recent years. Testing functions traditionally focused on verification of the solution against requirements. Whilst this is still a valuable and important activity, delivery teams look for greater contribution from professional testers.
This means that testers must provide more than test results. They should go beyond making a recommendation to a change board. This is because delivery teams need testers to be the voice of the customer, quality advocate, testing specialist and chief provider of feedback.
Test results are one quantitative way to give feedback on a product, but there are many more. Here are some of the questions that testers can answer for a project:
- Do the requirements make sense?
- Has enough testing been done?
- Will the solution realise the planned benefits?
- Was the delivery process effective?
- What could be improved?
The testers can act as a living retrospective for the team. Their specialist talent for quality checking and testing techniques makes them uniquely placed to use their voice and provide feedback into the team at every stage of delivery.
2) Automate first, realise the benefits sooner
One of key facilitators of this wider tester role is that so much of the manual verification activity can now be easily automated. Automation does not replace testers, rather it liberates them for exploratory testing and providing feedback.
Many still view test automation as an additional extra to manual testing. Whilst that was true a few years ago in the times of QTP and Winrunner, the case of ‘automate later’ in delivery has now diminished. Test automation frameworks such as Mastek’s own ATOM and SWIFT have made it cheaper to automate tests and quicker to realise the benefits of test automation. Test Driven Development and DevOps approaches have pushed the adoption of automate first in delivery to a point where a project’s test planning now includes automation from the start.
3) Test estimation is possible
The ongoing challenge for delivery mangers is around estimating the necessary budget for testing. Many take a rule-of-thumb that includes 20% of development costs, while some base it purely on the time available to deliver testing. Neither of these are sufficiently accurate or facilitators of high levels of quality.
In Agile projects, testing must not be squeezed in at the end, either at the end of an iteration or of a release. In an effective cross-functional delivery team, testing specialists can make up to 40% of the team. This is because the testers are present throughout the delivery lifecycle providing feedback at every stage from requirements analysis through to release.
It is the tester’s responsibility therefore to be the advocate for quality and testing efforts. Testers must communicate both, the value that they add, as well as the unique skillset they provide. Being able to provide justified and accurate test estimates is a core skill of the modern test professional.
4) Continually self-learn
It is difficult to find training courses that keep up with the current pace of technology change. Blockchain, AI, AR and IoT are all emerging technologies where testers need to understand how their testing skills can be applied. The most effective way to learn is to engage with testing communities, share knowledge with colleagues and other testing professionals.
Testers should own their development plan and map it based on their personal needs. It is important that testers are aware of their skills, limitations and interests, so that they can focus their learning on the most effective areas of improvement. At Mastek, we have a learning culture with staff time dedicated to this process. As a people-based business, this is a key differentiator between us and our competitors.
5) Test delivery is about value, not quality
The language of testing is maturing in businesses – moving from delivering quality to delivering value. Quality is hard to quantitatively define, test results are a metric and a tester’s feedback is important, but in the end how someone defines quality is subjective.
Value is easier to define and is a much more customer friendly way to provide feedback. It can be described though the three key metrics of efficiency, agility and predictability.
Efficiency: How easy is it to realise the benefits of the change. This is not necessarily the cheapest solution to implement, rather what has the best and quickest return on investment relative to the requirements of the user.
Agility: How robust is the change relative to the solution, is it easily maintainable? Can it be easily adapted in the future? Is removal low cost?
Predictability: Are the delivery and outputs transparent? Can the effort for delivery be easily and accurately estimated? Are the benefits to be realised relatively certain, or is there a large element of risk?
Testers should be able to link their testing activities, functional and non-functional, back to these trends and understand how their expert testing skills are adding value to customers.