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The future of software testing: It's a brave new world

It's a brave new world software testers. Expert Gerie Owen begins an 11-part series on everything you need to know about the future of software testing today.

Software testers, it's a brave new world. Never has there been a time in the relatively short history of our profession that we have faced so much change and so many new challenges. And we have faced them in an incredibly short period of time. Technology is advancing at the speed of light, creating whole new worlds we never imagined just 10 years ago. Our new worlds include new devices, infrastructure models and new software delivery models, and this is just the beginning. The new worlds of technology have brought with them the need for new development, testing and deployment approaches. Within these new methodologies, testing, as a profession, is challenged to find its place -- even as we know testing has a more important place than ever. 

Along with the new worlds of technology, the challenges that we have always faced as testers have not gone away. The world of testing is rapidly evolving into its own brave new world. And testers, in our new world, we have to be brave. We must embrace change, as well as the challenges and opportunities the future of software testing brings, because testing is an integral part of virtually all the new worlds of technology. The new worlds of technology have gone from the palm of our hand to the cloud, and to agility and beyond. Let's take a look at some of those new worlds.

In the palm of our hand

With the advent of smartphones, tablets and wearables, the new world of mobile devices has put technology in the palms of our hands. This has expanded the future of software testing in many directions. We now test native, Web and hybrid applications on many types of devices, platforms and browsers. The mobile devices themselves must be tested, and this offers new opportunities in embedded testing. Performance testing becomes even more critical because mobile users are impatient. We must get to know our users more intimately and, therefore, user experience testing takes on a whole new meaning, moving into the field and testing the human experience. 

Into the cloud

Cloud computing has challenged traditional infrastructure because organizations now have the option to store their data in a shared remote location, accessing it over the Internet. From this new infrastructure model, we have witnessed the birth of software as a service (SaaS). The cloud also has enabled the new world of big data. All of these new worlds require a focus on security. As testers, we have the opportunity not only to learn a whole new technological vocabulary, but also to expand our skill sets or even become specialists if we choose.

To agility and beyond

The new worlds of technology and the need for speed have spawned new approaches to software development. Agile methodologies, including Scrum, Kanban and Extreme Programming, are now becoming best practices in response to the need for speed. Today's competitive climate dictates that organizations strive to deliver higher-quality software more quickly. Many organizations, especially those that provide SaaS, are taking this approach even further by moving into DevOps, continuous integration, continuous development and continuous delivery. As testers, we are challenged to find our place in this new world, whether we assume the role of quality assurance as managers of the testing process or develop our more technical skills in performance or automation testing.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

As we enter the brave new world of testing, our existing challenges not only remain, but also become increasingly more complex. Risk-based testing now becomes critical. As the mobile world becomes a part of almost all software projects, there is so much more to test. And as organizations adopt Agile and continuous delivery models, we have even less time. Communication also becomes more challenging. We have new stakeholders and we are challenged to work in nontraditional teams, where all members may be called developers and where everyone is responsible for quality. We must learn to think outside the box, and we must manage and challenge our own biases and mind-sets. Needless to say, all of these new worlds challenge us to remain relevant by embracing new approaches and learning new skill sets.

In this series of articles, I'll provide testers with what they need to know about the new worlds of technology and provide suggestions for dealing with our existing challenges in the context of these new worlds. In 1931, Aldous Huxley envisioned a Brave New World that would be irrevocably transformed by technology in a negative way. Our world of testing is a brave new world, but it is negative only if we allow it to be. It is an exciting time to be tester; our new world brings not only new challenges, but also new opportunities. So let's be brave and embrace the future of software testing. 

Next Steps

Face the future of software testing

Brush up on software testing best practices

Get creative with risk-based testing

What wisdom should veteran testers pass on?

This was last published in October 2015

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What are you most worried about when it comes to the future of software testing?
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To be honest, there's nothing I'm particularly worried about. Technology trends may be changing, but that's been true throughout the history of software development. I don't consider it as affecting my job or my career prospects in any significant way.
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I like the article as a high level overview.

It might be not so much as worries as the points I suggest to consider.

- Testers are critical thinkers. They may provide valuable input throughout the process, from User Story design to Retrospectives.
- Formal education and certifications matter less because of rapid changes - so we must emphasize self-organization, rapid learning, and problem-solving skills.
- The change is poorly reflected on the hiring side, and something should be done to improve collaboration with HR and recruiters for faster employment of better testers.
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I like the article as a high level overview.

It might be not so much as worries as the points I suggest to consider.
- Testers are critical thinkers. They may provide valuable input throughout the process, from User Story design to Retrospectives.
- Formal education and certifications matter less because of rapid changes - so we must emphasize self-organization, rapid learning, and problem-solving skills.
- The change is poorly reflected on the hiring side, and something should be done to improve collaboration with HR and recruiters for faster employment of better testers.
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I think that some testing jobs will not change for a very long time. There will still be waterfall based code-then-test approaches used even 10 years from now. However, testing in forward thinking teams will be in a state of constant change.
I agree that emerging technologies in testing are interesting, but only to the degree that they enable emerging processes and approaches. One of the more interesting approaches for me right now would be testing as part of an agile team, providing quality advocacy rather than quality assurance. It is not the change in technology, but the change in paradigm that makes this type of testing interesting and challenging.
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The one thing I am always worried about is the commoditization, and the tendency of some in the industry to treat testing as just another way to use programmers, ie that by programming we must always test first.

Well, I'm not biased necessarily against checks via code, I find they actually support a faster delivery model, the problem is when people at the high end of management chains start thinking it will cover everything, and humans need not have hands in the application vetting process. 
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My concern is need for good testers to keep learning and continue to change as technology changes.

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My concern is with the speed that systems are growing there will not be enough time dedicated to proper testing.
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I like the article as a high level overview.
My additions (on the high level) would be:
- Testers are critical thinkers. They may provide valuable input throughout the process, from User Story design to Retrospectives.
- Formal education and certifications matter less because of rapid changes - so we must emphasize self-organization, rapid learning, and problem-solving skills.
- The change is poorly reflected on the hiring side, and something should be done to improve collaboration with HR and recruiters for faster employment of better testers.
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The article mentions mobile and embedded testing together.  While there might be similarities in some of the problems you might expect, they are not necessarily a same thing.  Mobile implies a certain subset of problems including limited screen size, responsive design, power concerns, tricky connectivity, etc.  Embedded might have parts of that, but generally are not necessarily in mobile devices.


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I like this article. And I suggest we need to update our self as per the changes in the technology aspect.
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As a newbie to manual testing, I wonder about my timing in having gotten into the game two years ago; and, if I need to step-up my automated testing skills -- which I am not overly interested in doing.
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