Digital transformation in software testing

Senior Manager for Enterprise Software Quality Assurance at Nedbank, Johan Steyn, shares the first chapter of his book ‘The Business of Software Testing’, a “must read for software quality and testing practitioners”. Will we find you swimming or sinking as the DevOps Tsunami hits?

Software quality management and testing is an exciting career. Our peers in software development often see it as a secondary career choice, but the New World cliff that we are careening towards is forcing change at a pace that few appreciate.

Technological advances such as test automation, cognitive and artificial intelligence, DevOps, the digitalisation of industries that were previously slow to adopt new technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are forcing changes that are breathing new life into the notion of testing as a career choice.

Many test professionals are not equipped with the technical know-how to embrace New World tools and frameworks, and few are ready to grow in a career where the lines between business, development, and testing are continually blurring.

Few test professionals have been trained or exposed to skills that are needed to navigate the map of the New World. We are required to be able to work with our peers in business, speak their language, and explain the process and benefits of testing with business acumen.

Fewer in number still are the test professionals who effectively plan their career paths and who are enabling themselves for the next step in their careers.

Over time, many land in leadership positions where they find themselves doing less testing, and dealing more with team issues, recruiting for and building their teams, budgeting, forecasting, working with external vendors, and navigating the various pitfalls of politics in corporate life.

Most test professionals have never learned how to “sell themselves”. How do you build your brand and promote yourself? Are you seen as a thought leader? Have you been able to establish a network among your peers in the industry?

Many testers dream about launching a test consultancy firm of their own. But, many who do so fail within the first year, as they had no clue about the difficulties this choice will introduce. So, how do you start and manage a business? How do you secure funding and control your cash flow? How do you propose your firm’s offerings to new customers?

The Business of Software Testing is a book that introduces these concepts to test professionals. Whether you plan to start your own company, or whether you want to climb the corporate ladder, this book will enable you with the knowledge that is essential to prepare yourself for the next step.

We are racing toward the New World cliff. You can be ready to jump with confidence and to fly to new heights.

The business of software testing

There is a momentous shift-taking place in the world of digital technology. Industries and careers that offered sanctuary to many professionals for many decades are disrupted in ways that we may never be able to grasp. Although the news media and industry forums have been shouting this news into our ears for a long time, many of us are oblivious to the dramatic impact and speed at which we are approaching the cliff of innovation.

We are entering a new technological world, a world where only the brave will survive. Who are those brave souls? They have the foresight to understand the massive impact of what is already happening to our world, and have taken the needed steps to survive the coming tsunami. Tsunami is the right word to use here. When a tsunami approaches, we cannot do much to stop the destruction about to hit our homes. But we can heed the warnings from scientists and prepare accordingly. A tsunami moves with great speed and is usually unexpected. As meteorological technology advances, we will have more time to organise when the warning bell sounds. But we will never have enough time. A tsunami wave moves faster than we can imagine.

The DevOps tsunami

Tsunami is the word I have been using for a long time to describe the changes in our digital world and technical careers. Some months back, I published an article on LinkedIn called The DevOps Tsunami, which caused quite a stir among my peers. The article was also picked up by an influential British Software Testing publication. Resultantly, many software quality professionals from a global spectrum contacted me to express their views.

My sincere belief was that my description of the tsunami would echo what many others in our industry already knew and experienced. But I was surprised by the amount of resistance and criticism that filled by Inbox. Many who made contact expressed a belief that DevOps and the resultant impact on Software Quality Management were just a fad – another buzzword like agile or scrum – and that it would soon disappear like the sound of a jet plane passing by. They expressed a “been there – done that” view: they have seen the many changes hitting our technological world but have experienced little change in their daily lives as testing practitioners. There are always new tools at our disposal, new buzzwords and new trends. But many are still conducting software testing in a manual way, and they seem to be quite happy with that.

The status-quo

This comfort zone of the status quo was built on personality cults and empires that were carefully manufactured in our corporate environments over the years. These cult leaders may have been good testing professionals in their hay-day. But over time, have they climbed the corporate ladder, nestled in a comfortable career where change and innovation was the enemy, and where like-minded minions filled the ranks of the teams they managed.

They have managed to become the go-to software guys in their corporate divisions and are the holders of the keys to quality. But to justify their existence, they keep their stakeholders – especially those with the funding on which their kingdoms depend – at ransom. Concepts like automotive innovation, cognitive technology and even the expertise of vendor partners are avoided at all costs. Innovation, the reuse of assets and the employment of disruptive thinkers are not welcomed. These things will make their houses built on sand to crumble.

 The testers of tomorrow (today)

The clarion call goes out to the Software Quality and Testing community. What we desperately need TODAY is an army of the “Testers of Tomorrow”. The call goes out to those testing professionals who embrace the coming tsunami with all the change and uncertainty it brings. Nothing would have prepared you for this.

What does the Tester of Tomorrow look like? First of all, it is a testing professional with good technical skills. This is not someone who is bound to a specific tool, framework or methodology. This adaptable tester allowed himself to be exposed to a variety of the tools of his trade. Exploration, hunger for growth and innovation is the name of his game.

The Tester of Tomorrow is a real leader. Where many in her trade like to work in the shadows, she operates in the trenches with her team. She drives by her example of commitment and dedication and she sees the strengths in her team not as threats, but as those essential elements that will make her successful, too. She is always keen to promote others and to give praise where it is due.

The Tester of Tomorrow is a commercially savvy leader. He understands that Software Quality Management and Testing is a means to an end. He always and foremost takes into account the business objectives of his customers and stakeholders. He spends time and effort with his team to ensure all are aligned with the business goals of their organisation, and aligns their testing approach and planning to these. He is measured and measures his team on the successful realization of business goals through software quality management.

The Tester of Tomorrow is a shrewd political navigator. She knows that both her and her team’s success rely on her political capital within her organisation. She makes sure that she is connected to the relevant influencers and that she has their ear. She knows that gossip and second-hand information within the corridors of the workplace can scuttle her success. She knows how to promote herself with skilled manoeuvring, and she always ensures that the achievements of her team and the credit due to them are visible to her stakeholders. She recovers from failures gracefully, knowing how to dust herself off and tackle the failure with ownership to exceed expectations.

The Tester of Tomorrow is a reader and a learner. Learning never stops for this leader. He is on the cutting-edge with technological advances and innovation because he attends conferences, participates in webinars and spends time reading. He is not a lazy information gatherer. He is also well connected with his peers in the world of Software Quality. He is a voice worth listening to, a thought-leader. The Tester of Tomorrow lives and breathes Software Quality Management. She is not merely a tester at the end of the cycle. She is not seen as the “stepchild of the SDLC”. Her voice and influence are heard from the very outset of a new project or feature being planned. Her peers welcome her opinion and shape their planning around her guidance. She embodies “shift left” as she skillfully practices her craft throughout the software development and release process.

The impossible dream?

What I have just described may seem like a far cry from the reality that most quality professionals experience. Its environment restricts the growth of a plant growing in a pot. Most organisations – whether end-users of software services such as banks, or even the supposed experts like global vendors – are not aware of and prepared for the tsunami. Your career ambitions as a Tester of Tomorrow may not realise where you currently work. Many organisations still see software testing as a necessary evil to be avoided at all costs, or at least as a grudge purchase like short-term insurance.

Traditionally, our peers in the software world looked at testers as second-hand citizens. Testing was seen for those who did not “make the cut” to become developers. One would never be able to entice a hard-core developer into a career in software testing. The tsunami will force a change here. As we wake up to the tsunami-hit world around us, and as the actual role of software quality is recognised in a world moving at a fast pace that introduces massive risk, the Tester of Tomorrow will find her real place.

I see a world where those hardcore, weirdo ponytail developers can be enticed to focus on a career in software quality management. In this world, their technical and development skills will make them the ideal candidates to test software.

Written by Senior Manager for Enterprise Software Quality Assurance at Nedbank, Johan Steyn