From the late 1870s when a system flaw was detected through a conscious action of testing and termed as a bug by Thomas Alva Edison to the age of robotic arm based human simulators for testing mobile devices, software testing has come a long way. One often wonders what would be next in QA? From the day Weinberg first proposed a QA team for US Human Space Flight program in 1958, QA as a skill, profession, science and focus has morphed continuously. What trends if any drive this metamorphosis? Whats next in the QA world? Is it possible for us to predict and therefore get prepared to assure quality of the next wave of technology platforms?
The answers to these questions can be derived by firstly looking at what quality assurance basically is as a need, function, skill and science. Quality assurance basically seeks to re-assure consumers of a commodity of its fit for use and dependability in operation. Going by that definition, in the software development world of today, the commodity (read software/hardware), consumption needs (requirements) and operational profiles have changed and continue to change at breakneck speed. Therefore, not just the need for quality assurance but the way quality assurance is done will change drastically. Some somewhat obvious trends that come to mind that may shape the future of software quality assurance in the days to come are -
Context driven Testing or at least context aware testing Increased adoption of context driven school of testing Prominent thinkers in testing like James Bach, Cem Kaner, Bret Pettichord and Brian Marick professed this school that basically underscores the need to bring in reality into the testing process through situational or contextual application of judgment, right skills and intellect to test and assure quality of solutions and not products. While the adoption of this is already in-built in certain models of software development like Agile, acceptance of non structured, lean and lower process overhead testing will gain acceptance in hitherto taboo areas like Healthcare, Finance and Scientific application testing which so far has been very regulation or standards driven. This is not to say that FDA, IEEE and other similar compliance guidance will fade away, but test strategies will increasingly focus on context driven means to detect flaws and measure quality. More on the context driven school at http://context-driven-testing.com/
The age of the super human tester - New Platforms, Ubiquity of end consumer devices across platforms and multi-channel access will push the need for a new breed of testers- With the emergence of disruptive technology platforms for information management such as mobile, cloud and a complex matrix of options on these platforms for consumers; and the need to maintain ubiquity seamlessly across these testing will no longer be localized affairs. This in turn will necessitate mile wide and mile broad skills for testers who will need to think across these platforms to ensure that the newly spawned possibilities of new use cases get tested well. Combined with a context driven school that relies lesser on documented requirements a compounded need for Right Brain Directed testers will emerge. Situational smartness applied to testing will become the rule.
Content was king but now is the emperor - Data Explosion, Storage, management and platforms Shifting gears to the way technology platforms are emerging – with the advent of rapid data generation based platforms and communication needs, data related testing will increasingly become the focus of almost every testers focus. The older paradigms of database, content and data warehouse testing will need a sea change with emergence of No-SQL platforms and big/fast data tools. On the consumer side, rich analytics with extended functionality will add a layer of complexity to this testing. The myriad devices and hardware on which the data will proliferate will add another dimension to the testing complexity.
Another shift that will become pronounced is the need for the tester to don the hat of a content curator of sorts. Content Curating in laymans terms is the act of collating content from different sources and delivering it in an organized fashion with or without modifying the curated content. As focus shifts to content, testing will increasingly focus on the content lifecycle, gathering, observing, measuring and computing the right content to decipher, indicate and test products. As the I in IT becomes the focus than the T, so will the focus of testing.
Test Automation The black art becomes white - A renewed focus on test automation will drive up demand for tool and highly sophisticated testing - Test automation caught serious attention only in the last decade of so mostly due to the advent of reliable tools that could deliver a tangible and predictable ROI for the effort in automation testing. The result of this increased confidence in automation and the ever present need for pushing down cost testing will cause the demand for automated testing to increase exponentially. In addition, with open source tools in the space giving serious completion to commercial ones, cost will no longer be a constraint to embark upon this journey for even small and mid-sized enterprises. Additionally testers will start looking at new areas beyond the test execution focus to test management focus for automation. Areas like automated test data management, automated test design and highly integrated automation frameworks that connect to code and build management systems will gain acceptance.
Driving Testing Simplicity in complexity – Application Sprawl in enterprises and continued reliance on legacy applications – will force system integration and migration efforts. However, adoption of disruptive and new technologies will no longer be a good to have for business. The new with the old blend will call for new holistic approaches to test the whole humongous system that delivers to business in a coordinated way. The key to this approach will be domain expertise, integration knowledge and an unrelenting business backwards approach to testing the system as a whole as opposed to the localized one. It will also put a pressure on testers to develop, manage and optimize test data management as the approach will actually be more of a data or information flow based test than a pure functionality testing one. Test data content is king will again prevail. From a business domain standpoint, mile wide and inch deep as far as this approach goes will become the new mantra.
The candles get cheaper than the cake – Drastically declining costs of hardware and cheaper storage/computing platforms like cloud will lead to re-thinking and consequent optimization of several areas in testing that would have been academic interests so far. For instance in the areas of test data management that probably forms up to a third of the typical testing cost, a massive effort based upon inexpensive computing and storage platforms, more reliable data creation and management tools and quickly deployable and computing frameworks will shave off much of this cost in the long run. Another area that would morph is test automation labs on hire in the cloud, tools that seamless connect to these labs and metered automation services would emerge disrupting the need for in-house automation efforts.
In summary, the technological and integration complexity with the side effects of information explosion will drive the need for new thinking and practices in testing. Are there more trends, especially mega trends that we are not seeing now but may impact the way we look at quality assurance and software/hardware testing? More importantly, beyond the technology and operational impacts of these trends on testing, is there a people related impact that will touch the testing fraternity? – We will discuss in my next one
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