Software testers have seen their careers go through some ups and downs in recent years. In the days of Waterfall, the tester’s job was clearly defined. Like other functions of software development and delivery, testers lived in a neat and tidy universe, testing features and design, finding bugs, sending back feedback to developers for correction and eventually, passing off code to the production people to work their magic. Testers had discrete roles with strong value propositions in the software organization.
Then, Agile came along and new teams were created, lumping together developers, QA and Ops people for the sake of better collaboration and efficiencies. This began to create some confusion regarding who was responsible for what, when.
DevOps brought order to the process, adding automation to every step, speeding cycles and reducing bottlenecks in a highly standardized, streamlined approach. In the continuous delivery pipeline, each step of the process creates its own contract for software quality—and that’s good.
Development teams still value high quality, which customers demand. Yet in some DevOps circles, there’s been talk that testers aren’t needed much anymore. They bring bottlenecks to the process, forcing developers to work outside of the DevOps toolsets for code management and testing to respond to a defect ticket posted by the tester in an issue tracking tool.
Eliminating that layer of process helps developers be as efficient as possible using continuous integration (CI) tools, proponents say. As well, some developers are more than comfortable handling testing, using test-driven development (TDD) methodologies.
On the other hand, there’s faulty thinking here. Testers, whether deploying manual or automated testing methods, provide a valuable second set of technical eyes. Testers have a solid take on the user experience perspective, not just the fact that the code executes correctly.
This human behavior and design insight is critical to the ultimate success of a software application. Finally, not all developers want to spend time testing nor have the skills to do so outside of unit testing.
Moving forward into this new age of DevOps, testers play a vital role. The distribution of the tester into each phase of development (rather than at the end) is necessary to maintain both high standards of delivery and to keep communications fluid between different parties.
Here’s how testers can contribute to DevOps teams:
Testers need to be included in the continuous integration process
Developers might be automating their unit test coverage, but they don’t replace all the test activities a tester can bring to the table. There are still other types of functional and non-functional test activities that must occur to validate the health of the product. Instead of transferring more testing responsibilities to the already overworked developer, testers can integrate their processes and systems with those of developers.
Although there are version control tools (GitHub) and feature tracking systems (JIRA) to help developers, testers are often disconnected from these central tools. To connect with developer tools, testers can start creating and versioning their test cases within those development platforms. By doing so, testers can radiate feedback to the development team on issues to fix quickly through source code check-ins and in a way that won’t disrupt the normal flow of work.
If testers can learn to use the DevOps tools developers love, much of the conflict goes away.
Testers should increase their adoption of test automation, no matter their skill level
Testers can learn newer test automation driven frameworks, especially those that help with transitioning manual test cases into automated scripts that can be reused, such as Cucumber or Gauge.
For example, Gauge allows testers to write test specifications in Markdown, which provides a simple transition to automate your favorite programming language. These newer tools help testers transition to test automation despite not having experience writing tests this way—a common issue for testers working in DevOps.
A growing number of test case management providers are starting to integrate their test design and execution around these automation frameworks to make the manual to automation transition smoother.
Although developers might have automated unit test coverage, they struggle with developing functional and user acceptance automated tests. Testers can provide value by suggesting to the development team which are the best areas for test automation based on common issues and their unique knowledge of the application.
They also can recommend areas for exploratory or manual test execution, depending on application complexity. This is especially helpful when teams starting down the path of DevOps do not have a regression test suite built that can be triggered through CI.
Testers should focus on quality over finding defects
Developers often complain that when testers find defects, it slows down their development processes. On a fast-moving Agile or DevOps team, filing bugs in a defect or issue tracking system is a total waste of time and creates unnecessary clutter. Developers want instant feedback on code that’s broken and the related feature, rather than seeing another defect ticket they must open and close upon fixing.
Therefore, testers should be giving feedback directly to the features that are being developed within a branch of code. They can do this through adopting tools that facilitate “ChatOps,” such as HipChat and Slack, which can integrate with version control systems. Testers can also provide direct feedback through a commenting system on the feature itself.
With the advent of Agile and DevOps, which emphasize speed and frequent releases, testing is more important than ever in software development. By making some slight modifications to how they work and the tools they use, experienced testers can add considerable value to these teams by providing another layer of quality checks and a holistic view of an application’s performance and usability.
About the Author / Ryan Yackel
Ryan Yackel is Director of Product Marketing at QASymphony. He is responsible for all marketing activities around product releases, including development of strategic messaging. Ryan also helps to train the Sales teams on key value propositions for new products and features, and he provides customer feedback to the product team for roadmap initiatives. He can be found online at Twitter and LinkedIn.