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Future of Testing and Automation: The role of the tester in 2020

08 Oct, 2015

Last week, the first TestWorks Conf was held in Amsterdam. This hands-on conference featured a plethora of test automation tools and allowed the participants to gain practical experience with them. Since we feel and expect that all participants will take next steps towards improving their test automation practices, we decided to take a glance into the future and discuss the future of testing and automation together with Alan Richardson.
In a series of blogposts, we would like to share parts of our vision on testing and automation in the near future. First stop will be: the role of the tester in 2020.

What is the role of the tester in 2020?

You can feel the change in the air. Many companies are starting with Agile, Scrum, DevOps and Continuous Delivery. Everyone is focused on delivering new business value faster. Software can be built and released a lot quicker than before. This has huge impact on old school testing strategies and professions. I often hear testing professionals asking their managers: Is my role as a tester still relevant? Do I need to become more technical? Is my job going to disappear?
The Xebia team took some time to collect thoughts and started several open discussions with Alan Richardson. One question we tried to answer was: “What the role of the tester is in 2020?”.

Quality comes from quality minded people

We came to the conclusion that testers will stay around in 2020. Yet, testers should become aware that testing is a task that can be picked up by anyone. Not only by designated testers with quality informing or gatekeeping power. If you really care about your work, company, end product and end users, well… you test! Quality comes from quality minded people. Having a shared responsibility in the development team towards quality and doing testing well (together) will make a difference in 2020. We haven’t been able to define the tester role (or resource) since the sixties; why would we do that now? And, we don’t particularly like the word “tester”, because it is treated as a resource type. We should think about people that have skillsets / qualities instead of being a mere (tester) resource.
Quality is in the eye of the beholder, so it is important that testing is done from different point of views. Development is getting more specialised in new technologies and frameworks . So, if we were to pick one skill testers should develop or possess, it would be being able to catch up and learn how to test these new technologies as soon as possible
We also discussed that the developers will never become good testers and testers will never become good coders. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Besides delving into requirements and ensuring common understanding between stakeholders and development teams, testers will need to become more technical to understand the risks sooner rather than later. Otherwise, they will have a hard time in 2020.
The TestWorks Conf was a perfect example of (200) testers getting their hands dirty with test automation frameworks like Cucumber, FitNesse, Robot Framework, Serenity, Protractor, Mox, Gatling, Axini and Galen Framework.
Testing can be taught and can result in a cultural change. So developers too can learn to understand the risk in technical implementations. Being critical about your own code and issues that can come out of it is crucial for effective test automation. We also expect developers to reach out to stakeholders and validate that their implementation actually solves the problem.

Fast feedback

Testing should really add value and deliver fast feedback to the team. Everything else delaying the feedback loop needs to be taken seriously and improved; delay holds back the required speed in the continuous delivery pipeline. We think that testing should occur alongside development to keep the feedback loops in testing as short as possible. Testing should not become the bottleneck for continuous delivery teams. It should help the teams decrease bugs in production and increase releases to production.
The activity of the tester in 2020 will focus more on continuous monitoring and reporting deviations in production. Monitoring the impact a code change has made is one of the most important activities in testing. It will help the organisation in visualising the real value of the solution. Like more users or sales, all depending on what quality attribute you want to measure and is valuable to measure.

Fix the root cause

Besides visualising the quality, testers should steer quality by actually solving the root cause of problems instead of informing about the symptoms. That can be either solving ambiguity in specifications or technical implementations like code complexity or redundancy. Making sure those problems will not happen again.

Conclusion

So what is the role of the tester 2020? The tester role has not been defined yet. Perhaps that would be a waste of effort. Yet, here are some guidelines for the tester to remain relevant and to gear up for the world in 2020:

  • Steering continuous delivery teams towards quality instead of being a quality gatekeeper
  • Delving into requirements and creating common understanding between stakeholders and development teams
  • Monitoring impact of code changes in production
  • Catching up and learning about new technology being used to understand technical risk
  • Eliminating testing bottlenecks, improve slow feedback loops in continuous delivery pipelines
  • Steering the team in solving root causes instead of fixing symptoms

And, perhaps most importantly, testing should become a social activity which involves each and everyone in the development team.
Stay tuned for another blogpost about the future of testing and automation. Next topic will be: The biggest problems in test automation.

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Jim Hazen
Jim Hazen
6 years ago

“Yet, testers should become aware that testing is a task that can be picked up by anyone.”
– Totally disagree. Even people who have studied and work in testing for a while may not be the best one doing it. And there are some people who just don’t get it.
“Quality comes from quality minded people. Having a shared responsibility in the development team towards quality and doing testing well (together) will make a difference in 2020.”
– This has been true for years. It takes the proper mindset and commitment to do this. I worked with teams 20 years ago who were “quality minded”, and we produced some great software. But they were rare, and today we need to make it more of a common event.
“We haven’t been able to define the tester role (or resource) since the sixties; why would we do that now? And, we don’t particularly like the word “tester”, because it is treated as a resource type. We should think about people that have skillsets / qualities instead of being a mere (tester) resource.”
– Really? I think it has been defined, but not understood because other groups have so many misconceptions and false expectations. Now they are finally starting to understand and get the value & purpose of testing. And that is because they have to because users are less forgiving for crappy software releases.
“Quality is in the eye of the beholder, so it is important that testing is done from different point of views.”
– True. It all adds value to the overall process and product. But again the whole team has to agree upon what is “quality” and how best to evaluate it and monitor it. Otherwise it is just running around in circles.
“So, if we were to pick one skill testers should develop or possess, it would be being able to catch up and learn how to test these new technologies as soon as possible.”
– We do that anyway for any new project we engage on. We are always playing catch up, but the trick is to realize this and be a good “learner” and not be afraid to learn something new. Any tester worth their salt knows this and does it.
“Testing should really add value and deliver fast feedback to the team.”
– This requires involvement by testers from the beginning of the project and having the other members of the project team helping to implement the mechanisms to build the feedback loop. In regards to automation there are multiple things to be done. Not enough room here to elaborate at this time, good idea for another post later on.
“It will help the organisation in visualising the real value of the solution. Like more users or sales, all depending on what quality attribute you want to measure and is valuable to measure.”
– These are what is known as “Soft Dollar” impacts, which also include reputation and marketability. Without them the “Hard Dollar” metrics (revenue due to new sales and renewals) can be severely impacted.
Fix the Root Cause section
– Testers cannot fix the problem, only point out where the problems exist. It is the whole team that will determine how to resolve problems and implement those changes. Testing is not the Gate Keeper. That is the constant problem with software development, certain people think that 1 part of the group can fix the whole projects woes. Everyone has to be involved and “buying in” to the solution. Otherwise you go nowhere fast.
Conclusion section
– Some good points. Main thing though is that Testing “is” a social activity. Always has been, and that is because in order for a tester to be effective they have to communicate and work with other people on the project in order to be able to do their own work. Testing is a collaborative task and not an isolated adversarial one. Break those barriers down and things go smoother. The impetus is upon us to go and “just do it”.
Regards,
Jim Hazen

GBA
GBA
5 years ago

Well, there will be tester role in 2020. But will be lesser or none for senior level testing positions such as Test managers or Test Delivery Managers as they will be more closer to the Dev Team and can be thus managed by a Dev or Product manager. Junior testing roles will be available in plenty, ofcourse through automation and agile and DevOps !!

Praveen Kumar Dola
Praveen Kumar Dola
4 years ago

nice article

shweta
4 years ago

I think there is good future of testing and automation. Software testing is one the best profession decision in India.

Ramakrishnan
4 years ago

Great post. The tips given in this article are very useful. Thanks for sharing it. Keep sharing such articles.

Nicholas Ferguson
3 years ago

Great post. I like your post. In this post you done a great job about future of testing and automation the role of the tester in 2020. Thanks for such a great information to us.

meryanlucas
2 years ago

Suppose any software has received new versions and bugfixes, so how will you ensure that the new software released with bug fixes has not introduced any new bug in the previous job functionality? Therefore, it is better to test the software with older features as well. It is difficult to manually test all software functions each time with the addition of some bug fixes or new features. Therefore, it is better to test the software each time by the automation test technique using the Automation Tool efficiently and effectively. Xebia you have really well described about future of automation testing .Thank you for sharing.

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