Modern Trends in Testing — Beyond what you’ll learn in ISTQB.
Andrew Palmer (Senior Test Manager) explores some of the latest trends in testing that you should be aware of and how the prominence of Agile delivery is transforming testing priorities.
#1 Focus on Feedback
The purpose of a specialist tester within a delivery team has matured in recent years. Traditionally testing has focused on verification of the solution against requirements. Whilst this is still a valuable and important activity, delivery teams are looking for a greater contribution from professional testers.
This means that we have to provide more than just test results, and even more than making a recommendation to a change board. 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 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 in a team 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 Automation First
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 like 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 project’s test planning includes automation from the start.
#3 Test Estimation
The ongoing challenge for Project Managers is how to estimate the necessary budget for testing. Many take a rule-of-thumb 20% of Development costs, some base it purely on the time available. 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 Testers responsibility therefore to be the advocate for quality and testing efforts. They must be able to communicate both the value they add and the unique skill set they provide. Being able to provide justified and accurate test estimates is a core skill of the modern test professional.
#4 (Continuous) Self-Learning
Mastek is proud learning organisation with staff time dedicated to it. As a people based business it is one of the key differentiators between Mastek and their competitors. Training and self-learning is something that everyone must take personally. Individuals should own their development plan and understand their personal needs. It is important that each tester understands their own skills, limitations and interests so that they can focus their learning on the most effective areas of improvement.
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 that testers need to understand how their testing skills can be applied to. The most effective way to do this is to engage the testing community, share knowledge with colleagues and other testing professionals. Learn from each other and be prepared to share your own knowledge.
#5 Value, not Quality
The language of testing is maturing in businesses, from delivering quality towards delivering value. Quality is hard to quantitatively define, test results are one metric and our feedback is important, but in the end how you define quality is subjective.
Value is easier to define and is a much more user friendly way to provide feedback. It can be described though three key metrics: 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 and understand how their expert testing skills are adding value to delivery.
Andrew Palmer CITP is Senior Test Manager for Mastek in the UK .