What’s the software testing industry yet to see?

Software Testing News Journalist, Leah Alger, speaks to three assets from the software testing field to find out how the scope of software testing is changing

Tell me about yourself: 

Dan Ashby: I’m Dan Ashby, the Head of Software Testing within eBay’s B2C product area. I am also Co-Creator of the Software Testing Clinic, which is a safe, free space for people to learn about testing and for more experienced testers to get into mentoring, and co-host the ‘Testing In The Pub’ podcast, regularly speak at conferences, and blog about my thoughts on software testing.

Anil Pande: I am an IT professional with 25 years’ experience, who has worked in various verticals (in various countries!) such as telecoms, financial services and insurance. Currently I am the Head of Testing on a large data migration programme.

Lesley Walkinshaw: I’m Lesley Walkinshaw, a mum of two, a massive Formula 1 fan and a science fiction junkie. I’ve been in the testing industry for around 12 years. In my current role, I am the Test Manager at Sky Betting and Gaming, Leeds. We have a strong DevOps culture which means daily releases, lone testers and all the challenges that make software testing fun and interesting.

How has the industry changed since you began testing? 

Dan Ashby: I began testing just after the millennium. Initially, I worked on hardware, firmware and software products, so it wasn’t like a typical software development house. At that time, it seemed like a lot of testing appeared to be driven by test cases – asserting expectations of how the software SHOULD work. Over the years, I’ve seen dramatic changes – not just in software testing, but relating to the industry driving towards a much more effective investigative testing approach through exploration, as well as the rise of automation for replacing those assertive test cases. Also, there have been huge changes in the software world as a whole, with more and more people taking on an agile methodology. It’s very exciting to see; it drives the focus to be on agility and collaboration.

Anil Pande: The increased use of agile development, large teams of testers, and testing everything has changed into small multi-skilled teams testing critical features. This, in turn, has meant there is much more focus on automation and regression these days, reducing time to market and fixing forward, which is very different from when I first started testing.

Lesley Walkinshaw: Testers are now more embedded in software development teams than ever. We have moved away from centralised testing teams to cross-skilled, cross-functional agile squads; delivering software change at a faster and faster pace. What this means to test managers is that there’s a shift away from the scheduling and resourcing of testing projects. The role is moving towards who works with agile teams to guide them on good testing practice, advocating the value of testing. For a tester, there is a great requirement to understand how technology works, working closely with agile teams throughout the system development lifecycle, bringing a strong testing voice and applying the testing mindset; moving away from testers being responsible for planning and executing all the testing and acting as a quality gate. The tester’s role is to help the team create a robust test approach, which includes unit, integration, system, automation, security, and performance.

What testing trends are likely to be neglected? 

Dan Ashby: I hope that people will neglect the trend of aiming for automating 100% of all the testing. That’s a big misconception that a lot of companies have, which drives some testers and developers to believe it. It’s impossible to automate investigative testing through an exploratory approach. I’m hoping this year is the year of realisation for a lot of companies and people – neglecting that trend would be amazing for the software industry as a whole.

Anil Pande: Manual testing will start taking a back seat, but I am not sure if it will ever ‘disappear’, there will just be less of it. The defined testing scope will become less rigid and therefore the need to write hundreds of test cases will become less important.

Lesley Walkinshaw: Moving away from centralised testing teams and adopting a DevOps culture will change how testing is carried out. Traditional testing techniques won’t be sustainable. Big test plans, detailed requirements analysis and step-by-step scripted test cases will be replaced by more lightweight exploratory testing, supported by automation. As cycle times reduce, batch size decrease and the size of the changes become smaller so testing becomes more pragmatic – based heavily on analytics targeted to the nature of the changes in progress.

What is your biggest challenge when testing? 

Dan Ashby: I’m currently trying to write a book based on software testing. Writing a book is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done (the first hardest thing being a parent). For me, this will continue to be a big challenge. Within the wider testing community, I think there may be a revolution regarding automation and exploratory testing, where people hit a realisation of these things – I think some people will really struggle with changes made within organisations when this realisation happens.

Anil Pande: My biggest challenge will be to keep progressing strategic initiatives. There is always a fire to put out, from a delivery perspective, which always leaves little time to actually put building blocks in place to do testing faster, cheaper, better.

Lesley Walkinshaw: As a test manager, one of the biggest challenges is managing a distributed team. As we scale and grow as a business we are constantly adding new teams to the organisation. How we support agile teams and maintain performance while hiring new testers, training them up and offering career opportunities to existing testers is complex. Being able to create an environment where learning and development enable us to keep abreast of emerging technologies, test tooling, techniques and ways of working across teams is integral.

What ‘innovations’ are you most interested in? 

Dan Ashby: I’m becoming more interested in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Mark Winteringham has put me on to some good articles about it, and some of them are terrifying, but I feel that for some of the “narrow” AI applications that we see currently, we all have similar misconceptions about what it can do in the same way that we did have with automation. I read a great article about these narrow AI apps being like zombie technology, which is a good analogy for the readers to research. I think “narrow” AI will become more and more prominent. As long as people don’t start misunderstanding that it can replace testing, then I think it will be fun to see.

Anil Pande: Outside of testing, the driverless car. I was in Silicon Valley recently and got talking to an employee of Google. They said it was 3 to 5-years away, which would be amazing. With respect to testing, I would love to see the following: A developer checks in their code, triggering deployment into a test environment; an automated test pack executed; analysed test results in combination with the changes made to the code; and a report sent to the developer telling them the part of the code which has an issue – not a tester in sight.

Lesley Walkinshaw: I’m really looking forward to the emerging IoT market, looking at how our products and technology stack will change, and to adapt to the increasing number of devices we can connect to. I’m also, of course, looking forward to figuring out how we will test them too!

What testing techniques are yet to merge? 

Dan Ashby: I think if we were to focus our thinking on risks we would see much, much more techniques come through naturally for testing for those specific risks than if we just try to think about techniques on their own.

Anil Pande: With more and more organisations moving towards agile and DevOps ways of working, it is inevitable that automation techniques and automated testing will continue to grow. With some high profile cyber attacks in the news in 2017, I am sure we will see more focus and investment in security/penetration testing and ethical hacking. Another trend, I believe, is a move away from structured testing is a set of scripts testing a function to exploratory testing i.e. no scripts, just “play” with the system and raise defects. A very powerful way to test – as long as it can be controlled.

Lesley Walkinshaw: Technology will continue to change at an ever-increasing rate and software testing will not only need to adapt to the rate of change in delivery but also to new and emerging technologies. IoT, AR, VR, machine learning, big data and everything ‘On Demand’. Strategies for testing these new technologies will be different to traditional testing techniques, what we test and how we test, and tooling to support will become integral to respond to change.

Written by Leah Alger