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18 July, 2023

Is Software Testing a Dying Profession?

Is Testing Dying

In the dynamic world of information technology, change is the only constant. Every technological innovation causes ripples in the existing status quo. These ripples often lead to profound transformations in how people and projects work and can even wipe out entire professions.

There can be no doubt that automation, DevOps, Agile methodologies, and AI-based testing have caused ripples in the software testing world – the combined wake of these changes presents an existential threat to the traditional professional software tester.

Software testers are adapting to the changing paradigms and technologies – but will metamorphosis be enough to guarantee their survival?

This insight delves into the evolving landscape of software testing, explores the long-term viability of the profession, and answers the question, Is software testing a dying profession?

The Threats Facing Software Testing

Software testing is integral to the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Its function is to ensure that software behaves as intended, identify and rectify bugs, and facilitate a smooth and satisfactory user experience.

However, the traditional form of software testing that we know and love is facing significant disruption. In particular, three advancements have combined to spark discussions and debates about the longevity of the profession.

1.      The Rise of Codeless Automation in Software Testing

Automation has revolutionised many sectors, and software testing hasn’t been immune to this transformation.

Automated testing tools execute repetitive tasks far more efficiently and accurately than humans, which becomes a considerable advantage in modern software projects where delivery speed is increasingly important.

On its own, the advent of automation doesn’t spell the end for software testing. It signifies an evolution in the field. Instead of manual, labour-intensive tasks, the emphasis has shifted towards designing, creating, and maintaining automated test scripts.

The potential impact of codeless automation does, however, present a new challenge. Codeless testing allows non-technical resources to effortlessly and quickly create effective and efficient automated scripts without a single line of code.

2.      DevOps and Agile Development: Changing the Game

Another major game-changer in the software development and testing landscape is the rise of DevOps and Agile methodologies.

With DevOps, testing is no longer a separate, isolated phase but an integral part of the development process. Agile methods, on the other hand, advocate for ‘testing early and often,’ transforming it into a continuous process rather than a discrete event.

This shift in methodologies has given rise to the role of the SDET (software development engineer in test), Developer-Tester, or DevTester, who is responsible for writing and testing code.  Arguably, this blending of roles diminishes the need for a dedicated software tester.

3.      AI and Machine Learning in Testing

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is another significant trend affecting software testing.

AI-driven testing tools can learn from past test results, adapt, and improve testing procedures over time. This evolution raises concerns about the displacement of human testers.

How close are we to telling an AI to “run a level 1 diagnostic”?

At least for now, these technologies still require supervision and guidance from human experts. But does this guidance need to come from professional testers, or instead, from AI experts who know how to extract the best from the technology?

Do These Combined Factors Form an Extinction-Level Event?

The changes we are witnessing are a genuine threat to software testing’s existence as a valued profession, at least in the form we currently know it.

However, I am confident that we can address these challenges and that professional software testers can thrive by embracing these advancements

All we professional testers need to do is:

  • Understand CI/CD pipelines
  • Be well-versed in Agile and DevOps practices
  • Be adept at using automation tools
  • Maybe even develop programming knowledge
  • Learn how to leverage AI technologies effectively

I mean, how hard can it be?

Software Testers Already Do More Than Just Test

Professional Software Testers do much more than keyboard rattling, marking passes or fails, and raising defects.

Testers interpret business risks, negotiate with stakeholders, protect and defend software quality, and understand the long-term impacts of quality-related decisions.

The emphasis on quality assurance in the digital era has never been more crucial, and even with the most advanced technological innovations, human testers’ value to software development is irreplaceable.

As software systems become more complex and multifaceted, the importance of human insight and the unique analytical abilities of software testers becomes more crucial than ever.

High-level, exploratory, and usability testing, which require human intervention and understanding, are as relevant today as ever.

Humans can understand and replicate complex user behaviours, spot usability issues, and suggest improvements from an end-user perspective.

They can interpret, analyse, and provide context-specific solutions, capabilities that AI, despite its impressive learning capabilities, is still far from achieving.

Software Testing Is Not Dying – It Is Evolving Into Quality Engineering

The future of software testing is in transformation rather than Extinction.

Software testing is already evolving and adapting to the new technologies and methodologies reshaping the software development landscape.

Even though software testing is not a dying profession – those who fall behind will be left behind.

As the industry progresses, there will be a growing demand for resources who can don multiple hats. Rather than using the term software testers, it is more accurate to call these quality engineers.

These highly skilled will need to be the voice of quality throughout a project, and they will likely need to code, understand and use the new breed of tools available to testers, including AI tools, and conduct manual testing when necessary.

Quality engineers will need to ensure businesses factor quality into every aspect of the SDLC and, increasingly, the Value Stream Management process.

The role of the professional software tester is morphing into a more interesting and comprehensive one; it would be more appropriate to use the term quality engineer.

In the face of this rapid evolution, it is incumbent on software testers to upskill, reskill, and reinvent themselves. By doing so, they can ensure that they remain relevant and invaluable, safeguarding their future.

Ultimately, the evolution from software testing to quality engineering is a testament to the indispensable role that professional testers play in technology.

Stephen Davis
by Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis is the founder of Calleo Software, a OpenText (formerly Micro Focus) 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

18th July 2023
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