Wednesday, October 14, 2020

PNSQC 2020 Live Blog: Let’s Focus More On Quality Engineering And Less About Testing with Joel Montvelisky


Joel starts out with a very blunt question... what value do you provide to your company? Not in an abstract sense but in a cash sense. Does your being there benefit the company in a bottom-line manner? It's a tough question in many ways because software testing is a cost center. No matter how we want to look at it, we are a cost of doing business. Granted, that cost may very well prove to be justified, especially if we find something that could be disastrous if it were to get out but it's hard to define how much money software testing earns for the company. truth is, unless our company is in the business of selling testing services, we are not really earning money for the company by doing testing.

this means that many testers often do something other than "just test". that has been the case with me many times, in that I put on a variety of hats when needed. sometimes that hat is tech support, sometimes it's systems builder, sometimes it's build manager, accessibility advocate, fill in the blank. In short, we do our best to add value in a variety of places but unless we are directly connected to the health of the organization and the generating of revenue, we are one step removed from the process and our value is less obvious and sometimes not recognized at all.
Joel makes the case that changing models of software development are applying pressures to the traditional role of a software tester. In the process, many testers are morphing into Quality Engineers. That's cool and all but what does that involve? Ultimately, it's that we work with developers to test and deliver products quickly, get feedback from the field, and continue to help develop software quickly and with high quality. Notice Joel is not saying "stop testing" but focus on additional areas that go beyond traditional testing. 

As I was listening to this, I kept thinking "oooh, this sounds so much like the A/B Testing podcast. and sure enough, that's EXACTLY where Joel was going with this (LOL!). For those not familiar, Alan Page and Brent Jensen host the A/B Testing podcast and they are also champions of Modern Testing (MT). In many ways, the move to DevOps is helping to emphasize the need and focus of testers to move into a more MT paradigm. There is still testing but the testing is less tied to individual testers and testing teams. I've witnessed this in my own organization. We have a testing team but all of us are individually embedded into separate teams. Our focus is less that of a testing team that reports to a manager and is the center for quality. Rather, we are often one or two people embedded in a specific team and while we test, we often work with developers to help them focus on quality and quality aspects. 

As we focus on quality and less on testing, we will find that we may be doing less rote testing but a lot more quality initiatives. We can be there early in focusing on developing quality requirements, we can get involved early and help programmers with questions and considerations as they are writing the code, we can get involved with automation and infrastructure so that much of the rote and humdrum steps can be codified and taken out of our front line attention. We can be involved in the build management and CI/CD pipeline and make sure it is working cleanly. I appreciate Joel including advocating for Usability and Accessibility. He also emphasizes having testers be part of bringing customers into the process, whether that be directly or indirectly. the better we understand the business cases and real-world uses, the more effective we can be at addressing the real quality issues. We also have the ability to teach developers about testing and test principles. I have myself had a number of situations where I've shared testing ideas and the developers have said "oh, that's cool, I've never looked at it that way." Be aware, though, that some developers simply do not want to test. That's OK, but it also needs to be clear that we are moving into other avenues and that if they don't test, there's no guarantee that we will either.

One thing's for sure, the future is going to be fluid, and to borrow from Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it."

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