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Ask any seasoned tester about the state of testing today, and you will get an earful of opinions. That certainly was the case during my recent panel discussion on the state of testing in 2021 with James Bach and Michael Bolton.
We discussed a wide range of issues that are affecting testing in 2021, from AI and other tooling to the shifting role of the tester. These important topics are top of mind in the world of testing today, and it was exciting to speak about these critical issues with two pioneers in the industry.
Yet through all the arguments made and anecdotes shared, the discussion kept going back to three main factors that really shape testing in 2021. Here are those three points, and what they mean.
The first key element of testing in 2021 is the realization that testers are caught between two technological extremes.
Bach pointed out that, on one hand, there is a lot of talk about AI in testing, robotic process automation, and other technologies that can play an extremely helpful role in speeding up the testing process. On the other hand, he said, organizations have also begun to focus increasingly on security, data privacy, and protecting personal customer data.
The fact that both AI and data privacy are increasing in importance simultaneously presents a paradox. While testers are under pressure to turn their testing skills into algorithms, they also see these algorithms fail because they are not being applied properly.
Instead of working to meet quality criteria, testers are often compelled to do whatever it takes to meet the next sprint deadline. While deadlines are important, meeting them should not compromise product quality.
To navigate this paradox, testers need to be strategic and test responsibly. While testers can benefit greatly from AI and other automation technology, they should not rely on the output of AI blindly.
Bolton noted that analyzing AI-based results has other benefits aside from a more bug-free sprint. Looking closely at the output of AI instead of merely depending on it presents an opportunity for testers to learn both about themselves and the products that they created. This will help them think more critically about the tests they are running and whether they are in fact meeting quality criteria.
Another key element of modern testing is that testers must advocate fiercely for testing in their organizations. This is a major shift in the role of a tester from previous years, but it is also a required part of sufficient application testing within organizations always looking to meet the next deadline.
Many testers are often instructed to turn their work into algorithms that show that their product works. But we argued in the panel that testers in 2021 need to do the exact opposite: They must look at their product critically by understanding how a user engages with the application to focus on possible issues. Only by doing that can testers test strategically by mapping the product and its relationship to quality criteria.
In fact, Bolton asserted that testers must distance themselves from the developer mindset as much as possible to better analyze the product. By getting rid of assumptions that are associated with the dev team’s goals, testers can then create a sound testing strategy.
Both Bolton and Bach stressed the need to advocate for testing. In fact, Bolton compared a dev team without testers to newspapers without editors (among other metaphors).
To be a better testing advocate in 2021, Bach recommended that testers tell stories to make their case. They must watch carefully what is happening with the product in the field and make sure that management is fully aware of the various pains their customers are suffering.
There are many ways to make these advocacy stories more compelling, from analysis reports of risks in the product to maps and other visual aids. If you can find users on social media complaining about your product, that should also be shown to management to make your case.
The last key element of testing in 2021 is to approach your tooling with the right mindset. Tools should meet the objectives of testers, not vice versa. Automated testing tools are great for helping testers be more productive. Tools can help testers accomplish tasks more quickly and give testers more agility. Testing platforms can also help give testers everything they need in one place, from integrations to devices to comprehensive reporting.
Yet tools should not be considered a substitute for testers. Rather, tools are a great resource to support various testing goals.
To better make use of tools, testers should consider how their tech stack helps them tell the story of testing. As Bach aptly put it, testers should not be trying to make testing easy; they should be making testing powerful.
Teams need to understand exactly how a testing tool is helping them and factor that into their overall testing strategy. They also must realize the limitations of each tool that they are using. Using tools distorts a tester’s experience of a product, so recognizing the limitations will keep the tester as objective as possible. Plus, this will help testers avoid using their tools to test things that the platforms do not actually support.
There is a lot of work that goes into achieving testing in 2021. As a tester you must continue to focus on your own goals while being pulled in multiple directions that threaten to take you off course.
To navigate these obstacles, continue to think critically, advocate fiercely, analyze your products from the end user’s perspective, and choose the right tools that help them achieve their objectives. You must hone these skills to not only improve as a tester, but also to achieve better testing during the rest of the year and beyond.
For more from Michael Bolton and James Bach listen to the roundtable discussion.
Keep up with QA’s evolution with the World Quality Report 2020-21.
Put performance engineering into practice with these top 10 performance engineering techniques that work.
Find to tools you need with TechBeacon’s Buyer’s Guide for Selecting Software Test Automation Tools.
Discover best practices for reducing software defects with TechBeacon’s Guide
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