The latest Osterman Research on the state of test processes and automation revealed what those of us pursuing Agile engineering practices have known for nearly a decade… that the manner in which Test and QA are typically executed in most companies is appalling and worse, dishonors the QA and Test professionals who aspire to add real strategic value to software products and solutions. The fact that our colleagues continue to labor under the burden of poorly integrated Test Engineering Practices and often lack the modern automation tooling needed to do their jobs well is a travesty. Shame on all of us.
Consider these key takeaways form the Osterman survey:
- Completely automated software testing environments are still rare, with just 12 percent of software development organizations using fully automated test systems. Almost 10 percent reported that all testing was done manually.
- Forty-six percent of software developers said they do not have time to test as much as they should.
- More than a third of developers, 36 percent, said they do not believe their companies perform enough pre-release testing.
- Fifty-three percent said their testing is limited by compute resources.
Despite the well documented and understood economic impact of software bugs, the practices and lack of tooling that contribute to poor outcomes still persist. Why? Simple, the lack of engaged executive sponsorship. QA and Testing is one of the classic organizational “silos” within IT. This silo, like all the others in IT, begs for a lean/holistic approach to enable an engaged, highly adaptive, high quality software & product development lifecycle (ie Agile-Lean). This kind of systemic change won’t happen unless someone senior enough in the organization is willing to do the hard work of renegotiating, if not entirely eliminating arbitrary stakeholder boundaries that exist between business leaders, product management, BA’s, PM’s, Developers, QA and Release Management.
Unfortunately enterprise executives still frequently misunderstand “the Agile thing” as something having to do with writing code fast and working closely with the business. While these themes are part of the Agile tool kit, they are not the whole story. The Agile and Lean transformation agenda is about reworking the entire end-to-end value stream. This approach is focused ruthlessly on optimizing the entire organization around how we operationally translate compelling ideas and opportunities into working products and solutions that maximize the outcomes for the business, shareholders, and customers. It’s about how we re-imagine where and how value is created and how we challenge the status quo of “how we’ve always done things around here”…
If Agile is about optimizing business value in a chaotic, unpredictable world, I can’t think of a more important hygiene factor than the predictability of product quality and the reduction of software defects. Ironically, while current test practices are suffering in the mainstream, the Agile community has pioneered new innovations to Test Engineering that elevate the importance of product quality by placing it where it belongs – at the beginning of the development process. As the Agile community has worked to pioneer new approaches to integrating Test Engineering into the front end of the software development lifecycle (Test First / TDD / BDD) a critical foundation is established on which highly automated, predictable and effective software quality process and tooling can flourish.
For those of you who are QA/Test professionals and who may have felt leery or even alienated by the Agile community, please know that we are your friends and we need you fully engaged in our battle to revitalize and transform enterprise software and product development practices. We believe that QA and Test should NEVER be compromised. We also believe new approaches, practices, and tools are required and that product quality will never happen (no matter how “Agile” a process becomes) without thoughtful and engaged involvement from passionate QA and Test colleagues.