Archive for November, 2011

Observations from EuroSTAR 2011: Looking to the Future

27 November, 2011

I intend to write a few blog posts over the coming weeks following on from my experiences at EuroSTAR 2011 in Manchester. I want to start with a post addressing the general theme from the keynotes and my own thoughts on the matters raised.

The Speakers’ Views on The Future of Software Testing (with a few comments from me)

A recurring topic of conversation was the ‘death of software testing’. I do not think that software testing is dead at all – if anything it is growing in importance. Speedy information dissemination will become more important as project teams become better at agile practices.

This is where skilled Exploratory Testing comes into play. Note that word – skilled – testing is a highly skilled craft and not everyone has the mindset to apply those skills.

The first keynote on Tuesday, from Richard Sykes, told us that ‘quality assurance’ is all about giving management confidence in the product or service being produced. I dislike the term ‘quality assurance’ because I do not believe we ‘assure’ anything – that is the programmers’ job. To me testing is all about finding information and passing that on to the relevant decision makers for them to draw their own conclusions.

Gojko Adzic, in his keynote on Tuesday afternoon, made a very important point: he said that we run the risk of losing a very good tester and gaining a very poor coder if we insist on testers coding.

In his keynote on Wednesday morning, James Whittaker, from Google, disagreed and told us that at Google ‘Tester’ has disappeared from people’s job titles. People who were ‘testers’ are now ‘developers’ and are expected to code regularly. I feel this is a dangerous path to go down: developers and testers think about things differently. In my experience developers find different problems to testers and both are needed.

Wednesday afternoon’s keynote told the story of Deutsche Bank’s use of communities. Daryl Elfield explained how groups were formed in various parts of the world for the various divisions within the company. It had nothing to do with testing and was all about people making changes in a centralised way: people could not go off and build their own communities – they were joined to a community by management.

Ben Waters from Microsoft talked to us on Thursday morning about how Microsoft creates customer value through testing and it started off as a very inspirational talk. Unfortunately it degenerated into testing being a phase.

Isabel Evans talked to us about the work she has been doing at Dolphin Computer Access where she has sought to improve quality processes throughout the organisation to enable better testing. I think we need to be careful not to make testing a ‘process’. Testing is a set of skills; it should happen naturally and not be something that is seen as a nuisance that has to be got through at some stage of the project.

My View of the Future of Software Testing

I see a bright future for software testing which is centred on people, skills, adaptability and passion.

Just as there are many aspects to a project – e.g. the product owner sees some, the developers see others, the infrastructure architects see some and the business users see yet more – so testing within a project has many aspects. We should be using techniques and tools appropriate to the individual project we are working on – and that will change from company to company. We have to adapt to the changing needs of our businesses.

I see different expertise being needed to test comprehensively which is why everybody needs to be involved. Testing is a hard job, though, and requires a lot of skill which needs to be honed and practiced. We need to use those skills to shed light on areas of the project nobody else has seen the significance of. We need to use the rest of the team’s knowledge to help our investigations.

We need to keep enhancing our skills and take responsibility for our own education. Having a network of people we can learn new skills from helps in this. Outside work I have been privileged to work alongside Rosie Sherry, Rob Lambert and Phil Kirkham at the Software Testing Club and the community that has been built up there is incredible.

We need to be passionate about our craft. We should seek out the skills that we need to best serve the projects we are working on. We need to have an interest in making the projects we work on great; do not ignore something you have noticed thinking it is someone else’s problem – bring it to their attention.

I am going to discuss some of the other things I learned at the conference in future posts. Specifically I want to write about automation and performance testing. I hope this generates some comment and discussion from the community!