Faster, Higher, Stronger – Has Testing Become an Olympic Challenge?

Has testing become an Olympic challenge? The complexity of software testing explored

I didn’t realise until this year, but there are actually only 15 sports at the Winter Olympics, compared to 42 in the summer.

That means that, as PyeongChang 2018 took place a few months back, you heard a lot about a tiny handful of sports, such as skiing, ice skating and snowboarding.

But I’ve had an idea for how to liven things up.

How about introducing a 16th sport – Software Testing?

It can, admittedly, be done in any climate. But every testing department will recognise the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.

Most companies are pushing for testing to be made faster and stronger, and if not higher, then certainly more comprehensive.

As people expect more from their software, and reject websites that are slow-loading or buggy….

As companies feel compelled to bring mobile apps and software to market ever faster….

As systems become increasingly integrated with others, both internal and external…

As many more of the systems testers work on are customer-facing and business-critical…

It would be fair to say that most testers have never been under so much pressure to test quickly, ensure that the apps they work on are robust - and bring home the gold.

How, then, should test managers and heads of testing departments respond to this challenge?

Where should you concentrate your efforts, so that you can meet constantly higher expectations?

In the words of wrestler Daniel Cormier, a former Olympic champion, “You don’t get to the highest levels of sport without getting the basics in order.”

Should You Ignore the Big Trends For 2018?

Unfortunately, it is a lesson that is easy to forget in our industry, where much of the attention and excitement surrounds trends and tools which are very far from basic.

Reading some of the recent predictions about the trends which are going to dominate testing over 2018 gave me a profound sense of Deja Vu. It’s a bit of a paradox, but not only have so many of these trends been touted as ‘the next big thing’ for many years, they are at the same time still lightyears ahead of what many companies are ready for.

Key predictions include:

  • Digital transformation
  • Agile
  • DevOps

Not only does this create unrealistic expectations of what companies should be focusing on, it makes test managers worry that they are falling behind their peers in the industry – completely unnecessarily.

Yes, all these things are happening, however, they are still the preserve of the few, not the many. I recall a presentation I was involved in making to a technology forum back in 2003 where we said:

  • Past – Waterfall and risk-based testing
  • Present – Agile
  • Future – more automation

Browsing through some articles on the subject today, one might think that Agile development was quickly becoming standard.

In reality, Agile used to be like teenage sex: Everyone was talking about it, but few were doing it. Nowadays, more are doing it…. But few are doing it exclusively, or right. In most cases, they are really interested in being agile (that is, test quicker) rather than pure Agile. Waterfall still exists!

Or one might think that every testing department on the planet was busy moving from Performance Testing – that is, looking at performance before the application is launched – to Performance Engineering (looking at its performance during development, testing and once live). Yes, some are, but the majority lag far behind and dare I say that some have yet to start performance testing business critical software.

Now, don’t get me wrong. These are all welcome and necessary developments, but the companies that have implemented (or are currently capable of implementing) these trends resemble a comet streaking through the sky, with everyone else trailing far behind.

They are only worth looking at, provided that your testing department has already mastered the basics.

Master The Basics

So what are these basics I keep on mentioning?

  • Identify what testing you need to do. This should be aligned to the business strategy. Ensure you look over the horizon up to 3 years out.
  • Build a plan to get you there.
  • Identify the tools that will improve quality and save time, as well as the skills and people you will need.
  • Build a business case, get stakeholder buy-in and budget.
  • Implement the tools early and over a sensible timeframe.
  • Look up frequently to see you are heading in the right direction, and adjust course as needed

The Tools You Need

First, you must focus on test management. Planning and tracking your testing efficiently is key to success. If you are still relying on Excel and Word for this or a free tool that is just not good enough, then you need a good test management tool. 

A decent tool will provide greater visibility of your testing not only for the testers, but also for stakeholders.

And second, automate regression and performance testing wherever possible and appropriate.

Automation improves the quality, repeatability and consistency of your testing, at a time when it is more important than ever that apps are robust.

This will help you work faster, helping you offset the pressure to bring systems to market at greater speed.

With automation over the long term, you can work with fewer people and at a lower cost – crucial as budgets everywhere are being stripped.

You don’t necessarily need the biggest and best tools – just the right ones. I frequently sell the same tools to companies turning over £15 million and those turning over £15 billion. But getting the basics right and putting the right automation tools in place is the fastest way to improve your productivity and remain competitive, given all the pressures I spoke about earlier.

Much of the discussion in the industry may have moved on to newer and more exciting issues and trends than automation. But reality is that for most companies, automation is still a basic issue they are grappling with.

Sort that, and Faster, Higher, Stronger will no longer feel like an Olympic challenge.

Stephen Davis
by Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis is the founder of Calleo Software, a Micro Focus (formerly HPE Software) Gold Partner. His passion is to help test professionals improve the efficiency and effectiveness of software testing.

To view Stephen's LinkedIn profile and connect 

Stephen Davis LinkedIn profile

2nd February 2018

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