Tester Roles and Responsibilities
As a tester, today, it is important to live and breathe quality outside of core work hours too. One needs to be a keen market watcher to see how competition is faring—simple things such as what is the competition in the news for.
Connecting external events to Internal processes
As we further empower ourselves for the coming years, it is important to really get out of the 9–5 working day mindset. Granted, in the IT industry, this does not happen very often and we are typically working long hours, taking calls and accessing e-mails from home, etc. However, this point is more than such out of office premises hours that we clock in.
Quality has to be ingrained in the tester’s mind— today’s test scenarios are all around us; users are all around us. You could, for instance, take a cab ride to the airport and how the driver uses specific mobile applications may give you ideas for your own application.
News items—what you hear, see and read—can give you ideas. Stay curious and work on connecting external events to internal processes, practices, and scenarios.
Perform Customized functions
Quality is increasingly becoming a customized function. Software development itself has become a very customized area of work. While organizations want to learn from industry best practices and adopt trends, they understand the value of customizations.
For example, a survey shows 92% of the respondents leveraging agile development practices. But these are all not “one size fits all” adoption.
A lot of customization is taken up to align with the organization’s requirements, user needs, specific market parameters, a domain under consideration, etc.
As a tester, similarly, it is becoming increasingly important to think customizations, whether it be in testing processes, tools, or frameworks to ensure you are effective and productive on an ongoing basis.
2. Be ever ready:
Whether it is a one-day pass, one-hour pass, a customer interaction, or a partner collaboration, testers will have to increasingly be ever ready on the job. It is also not just about being instructed on what needs to be done.
As testers, we need to be ever ready to consume things around us and see how they can be translated into actionable items to improve what we do and the quality of the product under test.
Such diligence, watchfulness, and attention to detail will differentiate the best testers from the rest and also prepare the fraternity as a whole for the coming years.
As we question our empowerment for the present and readiness for the future, a key thing to remember is that all of this readiness is not necessarily sought externally.
A tester has to internally look for and prepare himself too, as a lot depends on the tester’s mental readiness and subsequent efforts to align with the required change.
Question one’s capabilities for ongoing continuous improvement: A tester's role today is certainly at a complex crossroad. The user expectations are changing, test matrices are expanding, timelines are shrinking, and budgets are being cut—all of which are forcing the tester to reinvent himself.
Some of the veterans of the software testing industry formulated a course on rapid software testing, to address exactly this scenario.
What if someone were to give you just an hour to test a product—while everyone understands it as an impossible feat to accomplish—how smart a tester you are in optimizing the resources available on hand to achieve the best possible coverage.
This is increasingly becoming the need of the day and is covered well in topics such as rapid software testing.
As a tester, it is absolutely important to constantly question one’s skill set and see whether they are up to date with the need of the hour and if not seek opportunities to bring in ongoing continuous improvement.
Today’s tester needs to resell himself—we are at a stage where on one hand, testers are stepped up to be quality leaders, while on the other, their role is questioned in some cases.
The tester has to be able to speak up for himself, explain what his role exactly is, and what would happen if he did not exist. The list that I outline in the following will help him do this and in some sense also help him chalk his own role depending on the needs of his organization and product:
1. A representative of the end user on the product team, translating their requirements into suggestions and enhancements to build into the product.
2. True evaluator of competitor offerings in comparison with the richness of one’s own solution.
3. Automation enabler (whether he does the automation himself or is taken up by someone else such as a developer) to bring in repeatability, consistency, and precision into the quality process.
4. Strategy designer and implementer to align the quality goals with other business goals in true belief that quality is an important and inevitable ingredient in the mix to successful market launch.
5. Constructive destructor to catch as many issues as possible before the user notices them.
6. Enabler to quickly and effectively fix issues caught both in testing and live environments and help the team understand the user impact of reported issues to ascertain the defect fix priorities.
7. An optimizer that balances varied testing scenarios against available time and budget to maximize test coverage.
8. Help the team understand the quality risks associated with the changes they make, in an Agile environment.
9. Collaborate with the programmer to catch issues as they get into the product, rather than catching them days later, in the current compressed development cycles.
10. An unbiased entity that can bring in conscious, collaborative, and continuous quality into the product under test.
11. Explain that collaboration with the developer will happen—you will understand system internals and contribute to a quality development effort, but why your unbiased test cycles are important for the larger emphasis on continuous quality.
Savvy team member:
The tester has always been the one with most touch points for communication in the product team. Now, with a role where a tester is a quality advocate on the team, he needs to be increasingly savvy in his role. He will have to deal with a lot of sensitivities, along the way, as he helps his team members own quality.
Herein, a tester’s role calls for maturity to be able to handle all team members in a savvy manner, not losing focus of the larger quality goal.
Especially in areas where he walks a thin line, such as the role delineation between a developer and a tester, there is room for conflict if the situation is not managed well. The tester has an important role to play to empower team bonding.
At QA InfoTech, we publish a quarterly magazine dedicated to quality. We have external contributors also sharing their thoughts herein on the latest and greatest in quality. In a recent edition, we had a quality leader Rahul Vishwaroop from Adobe to share his insights on what 2016 may look like for a tester.
As a tester works on his skills to be a savvy team member, it is important to understand he will also have to part with some of his tasks on hand and be ready to take on new tasks. A give-and-take approach thus becomes important.
This was very well received and the full presentation is available online. The crux of this message is about how a tester today has to increasingly revisit his role on a more frequent basis to give away tasks that don’t make any more business sense in the current day and instead take on tasks that are more relevant.
Also, some of these are tasks that the team gives away completely, while some are tasks that you swap with another member of the product team. The presentation talks about how to give away the following in totality from a tester’s plate:
1. Detailed documentation and test artifact creation: With the Agile wave 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 in 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 some 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.
These are all things that no one is going to direct a tester to take on. These need to be self-driven and those who do these are able to clearly set themselves apart.
Innovation has become the key to thrive in any discipline and testers are no exceptions. We are seeing testers do amazingly different things to enhance their productivity and also add to the quality of the product whether it be newer tools and frameworks, bringing in newer concepts such as games into software testing, keeping track of new technologies, etc.
Innovation need not be something very big to get noticed—testers are even taking on small steps and are eventually seeing a difference in what they do. Management teams are also more receptive to such continuous improvement strategies than ever before, creating a very conducive environment overall for the quality landscape.
Quality Empowering Collaborator
A tester is often seen helping the rest of the product team take on quality in possible spaces of their work. For example, he is helping a developer with unit test case creation and execution of sanity automated tests to ensure the build released to test is more reliable.
Similarly, he is seen working with the operations teams with a sanity suite of tests to ensure live issues from the field are better responded to with a tighter service-level agreement (SLA).
When he takes on such tasks to empower others on the team own quality, he is indirectly creating a stronger base for himself to take on bigger and better tasks since the core and tactical tasks are now handled across the team rather than just by himself.
Doubling on One’s Role
Typically, as testers, we tend to specialize in a core area—for instance, functional testing, performance testing, and security testing. While the core specialization still remains, in today’s scenario the ones who are able to take on more as a value-add to their core tasks are able to do even better in their role as software testers.
For instance, at QA InfoTech, we recently introduced a couple of frameworks based on open-source tools—one is a framework where a functional tester is able to double on his open-source selenium scripts to take on not just functional testing ;
but also security testing based on Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) standards although he may not be a security expert and the other where a functional tester is able to take on accessibility testing.
It is a good idea, in general, to get across perspective of the product and branch into other test types too in addition to your niche that you may be specializing in.
For instance, given how the mobile application market is skyrocketing and how users react adversely to poor usability experience, an area to consider is how non-usability testers can take on usability testing too.
This need not be very complex—it could be simple ones such as evaluating the product from an end-user experience, error scenarios, and overall application simplicity and workflow standpoints. When we do this as a tester, we are able to bring in better customer appreciation.
While all of the newer tasks we take on outside our traditional role of a tester are indeed exciting, there is one glitch that needs to be carefully evaluated. All of these require close collaboration with the rest of the team and sometimes even delegation of responsibilities from a tester’s plate to another.
When these are done without careful and insightful planning, mindful of the other entities involved we may appear to be trespassing into another team’s area of operations. If and when such a thought process creeps into the team, the overall collaboration tends to be more destructive than constructive.
Thus, a tester is required not just to excel in his own zone of operations but really look for opportunities to bond with the team and excel as a group, savvy for team’s sensitivities that need to be balanced with quality goals and market requirements.
We Are at the Crossroads
With all of this multifold responsibility on a tester’s plate today, he is really at a crossroad. A well-respected tester in the fraternity, James Bach, calls out seven different types of testers:
an administrative tester who is very process oriented, the technical tester who is very tools and frameworks driven, an analytical tester who is very logical and statistical in his test approach, a social tester who is very embracing of his team and other entities in his test efforts;
a developer tester who is very detail oriented at a programming level, a user expert who is keen to track user feedback, and finally an empathetic tester who again empathizes not just with users but is mindful of all entities at stake.
What is important though is for testers to see which of these profiles best defines who they are today and whether that is sufficient for them to be in, in the coming days for their market and their own career aspirations. Accordingly, they need to look for diversification opportunities to branch into newer tester types.
As someone who is doing over and above what has traditionally been expected of them, a tester should not lose focus on certain core elements.
These are elements that will help both him and his product succeed—and cover the need to accommodate context, collaboration, customer, competition, and company in whatever we do.
We need to continuously evaluate and align our actions with these five “Cs” to ensure there is an overall return on investments in our efforts.
As for the kinds of tests we run as a tester today, at the very core not much has changed since the past. What is changing is how we run the tests and how we prioritize them.
While functional testing continues to be important, nonfunctional test areas such as performance, security, usability, and accessibility are becoming increasingly important today.
End users are paying equal importance to these areas. An application, despite how rich it may be in its functionality, if lacking in its performance, for example, its responsiveness, will lose ground to its competition.
This wasn’t as prominent in the past when the market was limited to a few large enterprise players. Given that the situation has changed now, where users have ample options to go with, organizations are placing heavy emphasis on nonfunctional test areas as well.
A scalable and equipped test lab has become inevitable to support test execution across a range of devices. In specific scenarios, not all devices can be stocked in the house due to constraints around device cost, availability, usage, etc.
In such cases, additionally, where there is value in bringing in the end-user context in the test effort, testers are leveraging crowd users to test applications.
These are often freelance testers who are brought in to test given their domain expertise, end-user experience, or niche value addition in areas such as localization, accessibility, and usability.
Also as testers, we are changing strategies on how we test. For example, we are increasingly moving toward test automation. Newer emphasis is placed on techniques such as exploratory testing and bug bashes to enable teams to bring out their creative best within the shortest possible test cycles.
Test cases that are designed are more in a human-readable (behavior-driven) format. For example, they all may consistently have a format such as “GWT—Given When Then.”
When such consistent formats are used, it also becomes easier to bring in modular test automation that is more understandable even among non-programmers.
In terms of evaluation, test teams are getting more objective in measuring outcomes. Outcomes are mapped to overall coverage and traceability to the defined requirements.
Connecting tests run to user stories, the coverage obtained in terms of code coverage, the kind of defects reported, percentages of valid defects, how defects were found, who found the defects and when they were found, feedback coming in from end users, and team’s adherence to defined SLAs for quality and performance are all becoming increasingly used.
While it has been important in the past to keep track of tests run by the tester to understand how productive he was, today, productivity is measured by other parameters.
What kind of new utilities did someone bring in to the team, any new practices that made the team’s work smarter, and how a tester has been contributing to doing things differently are all used as gauges to understand his performance and productivity?
This is all a welcome change and a much-needed facelift to truly map test metrics to understand the quality of the product, the quality of the test effort, and the performance of a tester.
This is a big change from how things were done in the past. So, organizations and testers alike will need to understand and implement these metrics in the true spirit to derive ongoing value, and when such a mature state is reached, it will certainly be an exciting time for the testing fraternity as a whole.
How Do We Thrive in Today’s Environment?
When drastic changes roll out in any discipline, the players often feel threatened. The sense of insecurity due to fear of the unknown is very high.
With the evolution of DevOps and the focus on greater automation, testers in the recent years have been sailing a similar boat—a boat where they are unsure if their role is still valuable and whether their position will continue to prevail.
So, more than a question of thriving, for several of them it has even been a question of surviving.
Having been in the independent software testing business for over 12 years now and having worked with a range of clients, Fortune and start-ups alike, the reassurance I want to give to the community is that testing is here to stay—quality assurance and confirmation have a bright future. That said, like in any other discipline, complacency will get an individual only so far.
This is sometimes called the Fat, Dumb, and Happy syndrome, especially in large organizations where employees get very comfortable with what they do, jeopardizing both their own careers and the company’s external positioning in a few years.
To ensure a healthy, competitive environment and to continue to thrive at a fraternity level, it is important for the testers to keep a few things in mind. These are fairly self-explanatory, so I will list them as points:
Look for newer challenges to solve either initiated by your team or at a self-inflicted level.
Leverage technology not just in what you test but also how you test. For instance, use the cloud to empower your test processes and analytics to help sift through the volumes of test data and draw meaningful inferences.
Ensure you along with people from other teams review your own work. Similarly, be closely involved in reviewing the work of other teams. This not only ensures all grounds are covered but also creates strong team bonding.
Be in close communication with the management to translate your tactical actions into strategic quality decisions.
Focus on strengthening your test environment and toolkit to ensure you are empowered to be productive.
Build an ongoing learning plan on a range of topics—testing processes, tools, trends, technologies, etc.—and have a custom list of feeds that you use for each of these.
Have trust in yourself and inspire such trust among people around you.
How Is a Tester’s Career Shaping Today?
A tester’s career today is more exciting than ever in the past. I say this as opportunities abound. However, these are not always easy and straightforward opportunities. Gone are the days when a tester could afford to sit reactively and wait for opportunities to come along his way.
Today, he has to chalk his own career path and go beyond the bounds of what his manager may define for him. When he does this, the industry is ready to welcome him with open arms in varied areas of niche specialization that align with his interests and capabilities.
Outside of his core test team, the other entities from whom he can take in inputs include his product team, stakeholders, end users, and market entities—be it forums, conferences, end users, discussion groups, social media, etc.
With such vital sources of information, a tester’s career today has become one that he can shape or destroy himself— both are in his own hands and now is the opportune moment for those with the zeal to make the best use of what the opportunities have got to offer.
Management is also very receptive to suggestions and inputs coming in from all entities. A tester’s career today is not merely dependent on what he does but also how he represents it to the relevant people.
He thus needs to both be able to “walk the talk” and “talk the walk” to ensure he has an edge in the market and is able to truly deliver on products of exceptional quality.
When all of these falls in place, automatically his career progression would have been taken care of along the way. Additionally, all of what we have discussed in this blog—be it “how to thrive” or “what trends are we seeing”— are all actionable inputs for the tester to work on toward giving his career a positive facelift.
Testers Will Coexist with Crowd Users
As we move ahead in the world of software development and testing, the lines the tester holds with varied entities will blur and one such group is that of the end users. Increasingly, testers will collaborate and communicate with end users not just to get their feedback but also to leverage them as crowd users.
Gone past is the days when testers felt threatened with such external entities coming in raising a sense of insecurity about their own job.
Testers now understand the value crowd users bring in and how that will help them further improve the quality of the product under test. They will increasingly understand that with unique value propositions that each of the groups brings in, they will together be able to ship the product sooner and with the desired levels of quality.
Even if this crowd tester base is not directly the end-user base, there will be crowd testers who are domain specialists and other testers themselves from across the world who will help bring in additional test coverage through their efforts.
Testing Fraternity Will Work to Seek Balance in a Number of Areas
Gone are the days when you as a tester will take on everything on your plate and work in an isolated manner.
Today, the need of the day is the act of balancing—balancing efforts between several groups of people, balancing practices, processes, tools, etc., all with the common goal of product quality.
This will further get intensified in the coming days where the tester will have to work smart in striking balance across multiple variables. For example, testers will increasingly take on the balancing act between the following:
What they do and what the crowd testers do including what, when, and how to engage crowd testers.
What coverage to achieve on real devices and what should be done on emulators and simulators.
When to use commercial tools and when to use open source tools—Herein, while the debate goes on at an industry level as to which one is better than the other, the new trend is for each of these groups to acknowledge, embrace the other, and coexist.
For example, at a panel discussion, we were part of, in the UNICOM conference in India in 2015, the topic under debate was exactly this.
It was welcoming to see the commercial tool group talk about their contributions to the open source world, and the open source world acknowledges that sometimes they build their solutions on commercial tools.
Today, both sides understand their strengths and weaknesses and such awareness is great for the industry at large to benefit from. When to merge and collaborate with the rest of the team members and when to work in isolation to retain their independence.
Quality assurance and confirmation
In all of this coexistence, the act of balancing will make testing, not just an act of quality assurance and confirmation but an act of collaboration. We will increasingly become social testers who collaborate well with varied entities helping us cross share responsibilities, ownership, and tasks.
Testers and the rest of the product teams will become increasingly mature to understand and see such collaboration in a positive light rather than being intimidated as being trespassed by other entities.
Manual Testing Will Not Disappear but Will Become Completely Niche
As testers, the one other question we often hear today is whether manual testing will disappear in the coming days. While it is true that a lot more automation will become mainstream given the world of DevOps we are moving into, manual testing will not cease to exist.
With the changes in technology and newer applications of such technology, for example, wearable computing, a lot of field testings will be necessitated in the coming days. Such testings will require more manual testing.
Exploratory testing will become increasingly valuable that will largely be done manually. What is important to understand is that manual testing will be limited to the core minimum, while the rest will move into an automated mode. A manual tester will have to elevate himself to learn the art of automation, too.
Those remaining in the manual testing field will be the more experienced, select few that can take on very-high-end manual tasks of connecting their efforts with the larger business goals, test strategy, and planning.
The lower-end manual test tasks are what will cease to exist. Thus, it is important to accept what will go away and what will remain so testers can train themselves accordingly for the coming days.
As for quality, this will mean on-demand work. The automation suite has to be robust, scalable, of high quality, and maintainable that tests can be run anytime and can be invoked from anywhere. Customizations and changes will happen even between releases within the same product to get the teams more ready to meet the market needs.
Agility will become a norm in the team’s operations, people’s mindset, and for that matter anything that is done that teams are in a state of ever readiness to tackle any situation. This will make them both proactive and effectively reactive, to cut an edge for themselves in the market.
Testing Will Not Be Confined to Just Your Core Hours of Work in Office Premises
Everyone wants a work-life balance, right? Who doesn’t? However, with the way software development and quality is shaping, it will soon become very difficult to confine testing to just 8 hours of work in the office premises.
In a lot of testing, use case scenarios will happen on mobile devices, which is integral to all of our daily lives today. That being said, a tester will increasingly see connections between his or her core work and his or her life outside work, in the future.
For instance, the tester may have several touch points to the app’s social presence even when he is outside work. At a social event, for instance, he may meet users of the product.
The tester has to be ever ready to seek and take feedback for the product even when he is not at the office, and the touch points he will have, to do this will only continue to rise in the coming years.
Will Metrics Still Be Used? How Do We Connect the Dots with the Past?
These are valid questions the testing community will face. Given how short the release cycles are, the testers hardly have any time to take on the test effort. If so, where do they have time to analyze the data, draw inferences, and make meaningful decisions? This is where the testing community has to get smarter.
We need to pick and choose only the most relevant metrics and again automate them to make the process easy and less cumbersome for everyone to adopt, given the time constraint on hand.
Independent Testing’s Future
As testers, we have gone through a lot of ordeals in the last two decades to establish a status of independent testing.
The last decade has been especially challenging as we try to understand and create awareness on what independent testing is all about and how to achieve it in the world of collaborative software development.
Testers have had to tread a very fine line to maintain the role delineation between them and the developers.
This will get increasingly challenging in the coming years given the kind of development efforts that are coming into the mainstream mode. For instance, with a lot of app development, we see a lot of freelance developers across the globe.
These are often people who wear multiple hats including that of the ideator, designer, developer, tester, operations, and support. In all of this mix, the sanctity of independent testing is bound to be lost.
As a fraternity, we need to be aware of this risk and watch out to ensure independent testing is applied in areas we are involved in. This is a much larger responsibility that extends beyond just the testing fraternity.
The software development community at large will need to understand the risk and potential repercussions involved to ensure independent testing is given the positioning it deserves. A very detailed section on the state of independent testing is discussed in the next blog on the state of a tester’s readiness.
The Merge between Development Testing and Software Testing
Elaborating on the previous point, given how testers are collaborating with the rest of the members of the product teams, the ones with whom they will collaborate the most is that of the developers. The collaboration will extend beyond discussing user scenarios, test coverage, defects, etc., but to possible areas of overlap in the work as well.
For example, small issues, defects in areas such as localization, and content may easily be fixed by the tester himself rather than having to go through the full loop with the team.
Testers will work with developers and operations team to enable them to take on automated test runs to help build quality much earlier into the development lifecycle.
In cases such as these, there is a clear and cognizant overlap that the cross teams buy into, to help each other for the benefit of the overall product under development.
Testing Centers of Excellence (TCoE)
Traditionally, the term TCoE is not new. As testers, we know that TCoE, especially in large organizations with a huge quality effort, helps bring in testers to load balance their efforts, share resources, and take up knowledge transfer to bring in economies of scale and operations.
Specialized testers were cross shared, buffer testers would reside in a pool to be leveraged as and when a team needs them, cross training would happen, etc.
However, in the current day, teams are so busy and occupied on an ongoing basis, in which it has become important for all of these to be resident to specific teams rather than common to a TCoE.
While the model of TCoE itself will only further grow in the coming years, the reasons why TCoE will be leveraged will be quite different from the past.
Given how testers are busy in collaborating and working with the rest of the team, TCoE will be more of a springboard for them to fall back on, huddle together with fellow testers, and exchange best practices and lessons learned.
It will almost become a parent’s home to a kid that has branched out to go meet and work with the rest of the entities—it will be both a learning place and a feel good, morale boost abode for them to come back to, at periodic intervals.
If the team at large understands the goal of such TCoEs, which may even exist virtually and remotely, there is a tremendous value to be reaped from such an implementation, in the coming years especially to standardize testing efforts at an organization and industry level.
In summary, testing will move into a faster pace roller-coaster mode, much faster than it has ever been in the past. If we talk about releases that are going to be as short as one day, how do we as testers decide what kinds of tests need to be run?
We are also talking about the importance of nonfunctional areas, the need to automate, the need to think beyond user stories, and stretching to be a tester beyond core work hours.
What Can a Tester Give away to Another Team Member?
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.
This list outlines an easy set of tasks that the tester can give away to another member, not necessarily to create more bandwidth on his plate, but to help everyone own quality better.
For example, handing off the build verification tests to the developer will enhance the chances of getting a good build to test, sooner, than if the tester took on these tests himself.
Also, 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 derives the true value of handling these test suites.
What Can a Tester Take on His Plate Instead?
At the end of the day, it is all a give and takes. 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 of building a professional culture for quality
Controlled freedom with responsibility
Competing product quality evaluation
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.
The word “fluid” or “dynamic” probably best describes the change in the role of a tester. A tester has to be as dynamic as possible today in shaping his role on the go.
In conferences that I have been to, the task that is often asked is to clearly list out a tester’s role. I don’t think there is a concrete answer to this, as this changes depending on the organization, product, and user base that the tester is dealing with.
At a high level, we can say the tester’s role is to enable product quality, strategize, and implement tests to inject quality into the product from the early stages and represent the end users in engineering both system requirements and user expectations into the product under test.
He should take on all these, with the best possible collaboration with the rest of the team, and objectivity through the use of metrics and service-level agreements, to bring in continuous and conscious quality.
However, what is becoming important is an element of context. Given the global product base, context-driven testers are very important.
These are testers that are aware of the market requirements of the product, the sensitivities of the global markets, and the compliances that are important to adhere to and accordingly bring in a mix of scripted and unscripted test scenarios to work within the time and cost constraints on hand.
Such testers are increasingly becoming indispensable, and to be able to achieve such a contextual and creative state, the tester has to mold his role to be fluid enough. He should be able to chalk his role himself under the guidance of his team and managers rather than wait to be told what his role needs to be.
Changing Facets in Software Quality That Will Additionally Define a Tester’s Role in the Coming Years
1. Need to resurrect the core value of independent testing: I had discussed this in detail in the previous blog on whether we are ready to handle the changes as a fraternity.
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. This is precisely why testers need to resell themselves as discussed earlier.
Automation testing will become mainstream:
Automation will play a very important role in moving forward in assuring quality. Today, automation is very feasible even for non-programmers. Test frameworks enable behavior and context-driven automation, which is easily understood and implemented by one and all.
While some very seasoned and mature testers can still thrive without being involved in test automation, the bulk of us will have to train in this area to redefine our role moving forward.
Manual testing will become a niche:
To reiterate here, 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.
4. Mobile first initiative:
This will increasingly play an important role in the tester’s profile and tasks. Mobile first is a global initiative today with leading app makers looking to offer app-only solutions.
The way we test on a mobile device is quite different—while the scenarios may be in common, the tools we use and the matrix we choose are all drastically different.
The testers of today’s generation are more exposed to mobile computing and scenarios and have a better mindset alignment to mobile testing, whereas those of us with longer testing experience have to unlearn and relearn a few concepts to train to think along mobile testing. This will play an important part in defining a tester’s role in the coming years.
A Constant Innovator
A tester in his new role needs to be a constant innovator. He is someone who is always looking to enhance test processes, product quality, team bonding, collective thinking, embracing new technologies, etc. A tester who incorporates these in his role today will be better able to differentiate himself from the rest, in the coming times.
As we wrap up this blog on the changing role of a software tester, I want to leave you all with an interesting and relevant story that truly sums the message I want you all to think about.
There are three other sequels to this story that fits very aptly to our needs here. In sequel two, the hare does some soul searching and finds out why he lost the race, so he invites the tortoise to race again. He is fast and steady this time, winning the race hands down.
Our takeaway here is “slow and steady is good, but fast and steady is even better.” So, someone who is faster and equally consistent in an organization will be able to shine better than the others.
In the third sequel to this story, the tortoise does his soul-searching. He knows what his capabilities are and tries to see if there is a way for him to win. He finds new playing fields that are dynamic and provide better potential for him to excel. So, he invites the hare to the race again, incorporating a river along the racetrack this time.
The hare is fast in this race too, until he reaches the river. He freezes, not knowing how to proceed, while the slow and steady tortoise gets there and swims his way to the finishing line. The moral of this sequel is to “identify and leverage core competencies and explore new playing fields for growth and advancement.”
In the final sequel, by which time the hare and tortoise have become good buddies, the two decide to run together to the finish line as a team. They understand that doing this together will be more fun, effective, and successful for both of them.
The person with relevant core competency in a situation should take the lead to the group can shine together. A give-and-take approach lets the team win together with much less overall effort but much more fun and collaboration.
This approach also adds the element of fluidity, continuous learning, savviness and collective effort, and situational leadership, all of which shape a tester’s role to success and enhance the acceptance of a quality product in the marketplace.
At the end of the day, quoting Shakespeare, it is not in the stars that hold our destiny, but in ourselves. Let’s take control of such destiny, be cognizant of the changes required in the current times, and ride the wave smooth and high to emerge as successful testers and hold up our profession’s brand.