Future shop: How tech trends will reshape the IT department structure- Valutrics

The future is now: Test automation makes inroads

The future has already arrived in the field of software testing. Dimensional Research, a market research firm based in Sunnyvale, Calif., polled 700 software quality professionals in December 2016 and found about a third of them work in mostly or entirely automated testing environments. In the 2015 survey, a quarter of the respondents reported mostly or entirely automated testing environments. Both surveys were commissioned by Sauce Labs Inc., an automated testing vendor.

Diane HagglundDiane Hagglund

Diane Hagglund, principal researcher at Dimensional Research, said the percentage of software quality professionals using mostly or entirely manual testing remained steady at a bit more than 40% over the two surveys. This means that the rise in test automation came mostly from a third group: respondents who reported a 50/50 split of automated and manual testing in the 2015 poll.

“If you extend the trends, the people who are committing to automation are going to go all the way,” Hagglund said. “They start to see the ROI and start doing more.”

Automation’s momentum is disrupting the testing profession and creating demand for new skill sets. While demand for manual testers may decline, Hagglund suggested the need for test automation engineers is on the rise. She recalled a recent conversation with a CIO who revealed finding such engineers can prove a struggle.

“It’s hard to hire those people now,” she said.

Hagglund said test automation engineers need to do much more that write test scripts. Many of the key attributes fall into the soft skills category. For example, test engineers need to understand where the defects tend to come from in an organization’s software development process and design tests accordingly.

Hagglund said they also need to create tests with user experience in mind:

“How do you really beat up a piece of code to know if your customer experience is going to be good?”

Atilla Tinic, CIO, Level 3 Communications Atilla Tinic

Atilla Tinic, CIO at Level 3 Communications, said the company is investing in an automated testing suite. The company operates many integrated applications — quoting, ordering, fulfillment and billing systems — that support various telecommunications products. Automation aims to ease the process of testing those end-to-end systems.

“It can be pretty onerous to test things from the very beginning of the quote-to- cash process,” Tinic explained.

Automation is changing the IT department structure at Level 3. For one, automation is bringing testing closer to the development function, Tinic said. For the past couple of decades, testing has been a discrete group in an IT organization, running its own test scenarios based on its understanding of requirements, he noted. Now, the aim is to have the test team work hand-in-hand with the analysts who capture the user stories — descriptions of software features from the users’ points of view.

“We should be automating, as much as possible, the test scenarios on those user stories,” Tinic said.

Automation is changing the test team dynamic — and the IT department structure — at Level 3. With the heavy-lifting of manual testing eliminated, testers have greater flexibility to be deployed on different development teams. In parallel with that development, Tinic aims to change the mindset of following an organizational chart and maintaining strict reporting structures.

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