The technologies we work with, the products we build, the users we cater to, their requirements, our processes, and the roles testers play—literally everything changes over the course of time.
One thing that is constant is the fact that change is inevitable. Going by this mantra, the tester’s role has also been subjected to a lot of change in the recent times.
Understanding the need for the change, the exact change, its impact, and how one should align himself with the call of the hour are all very important in ensuring positive outcomes. In this article, we discuss how exactly the tester’s role has changed and what could we predict based on this trend for the future.
If we consider in objective terms how the tester’s role has undergone change in the past, we can see that it has not really changed much, for instance, it is still and will continue to be important for us to understand that the product should be tested for its functionality, user interface, usability, performance, security and interoperability, etc. These attributes that validate and verify a product continue to be time tested and proven.
However, what has undergone a change is the way a tester tests for these attributes, the way he gets the job done, the way he interacts with the rest of the team and his strategy on how to achieve quality within the constraints that he operates within.
Some changing facets in Software Quality that will define the role of the tester in coming years include-
Independent Testing-The understanding as to why conscious independent quality is important, along with how to collaborate to bring in productivity and efficiency in operations, will together define a tester’s role moving forward.
Automation Testing will become mainstream-Automation will play a very important role in moving forward in assuring quality. While some very seasoned and mature testers can still thrive without being involved in test automation, the bulk of testers will have to train in this area to redefine our role moving forward.
Manual Testing will become a niche-A tester needs to redefine his role with the right balance of manual and automated testing to bring in the required quality coverage in the available time and cost on hand. Manual testing will lean more toward exploratory and out-of-box test scenarios in the coming years, while the more predictable ones will be candidates for test automation, among other variables to consider.
What should a Tester not do?
1. Completely giving away documentation and test artefact creation: With the Agile testing in full swing, a common misconception people have is documentation should be completely given up. Documentation is indeed important, but what to cut down on is what one needs to look at.
For example, ‘Do we need to have detailed test strategies that are often not referred to later on?’ and ‘Do we need to create detailed step-by-step tests?’ are all questions testers need to ask themselves. This is also the place where smart processes can be adopted. For example, technologies such as augmented reality can be leveraged to make a tester’s life simpler and more productive. It can help process test results and log them into test case management tools saving time for the tester.
2. Pure script-based testing approach: This includes both manual and automated test scripts. The basic idea here is that once a tester hooks himself to just script-based testing, his out of box thinking and creativity soon recedes. The combination of a scripted approach and a free flow or guided exploratory testing effort is definitely well worth and is indeed the right balance that testers need to work toward
3. Obsession on age-old test metrics that don’t add any value: In many cases today, even numbers such as return on investment on test automation are being questioned. Metrics have long helped bring in objectivity into a test effort. However, what gets often forgotten is that metrics age over time (sometimes even in short windows) and will need to be periodically revisited for their worth and updated as needed. Sticking on to age-old metrics is more of an overhead than any value they bring in.
The following are the tasks that could be easily handed over by the tester to others-
- Build verification test execution can be handed off to a developer.
- Sanity test suites can again be handed off to the developer, to help take up periodic quality checks and verify bug fixes effectively.
- Early troubleshooting tests to the operations and support team, to handle field issues with a faster turnaround.
- Accountability for quality to everyone on the team to step into a more advocating and practitioner role.
Giving these away to another person on the product team does not mean the tester washes off his responsibilities. He is still responsible to enable them to use these tests effectively, help resolve any queries they may have, maintain the tests on a periodic basis, etc., to empower them to derive the true value of handling these test suites.
What should a Tester do?
If the tester had shed off so much from his plate, what can he take on, in line with the needs of the current testing discipline? He should certainly explore to take on bigger and better things, including more extrinsic focused testing, such as more end-user analysis and competitive analysis to bring in more expectation-driven requirements that are built into the product up front.
- Ownership to building a professional culture for quality
- Controlled freedom with responsibility
- Competing product quality evaluation
- Triage representation
- End-user issue analysis
- Role of quality consultant/ambassador
While these points are easier prescribed than followed, it is important for the team at large, including the management, to understand the importance of this changing role in the new times. They will have to step in to ensure they are implemented well and customized to the needs of the organization. If they do not step in, a lot of anxiety, insecurity, and resentment among the product team will prevail, which will further adversely impact team morale.