Why enterprises need a new approach to testing

Organisations adopting a “DevOps” approach to delivery of change must address the need for a new role that combines traditional quality assurance (QA) skills with operational expertise in the shape of a so-say 'Test Automation Engineer.'

That's the view at least from Lee Cheetham, Development Manager at IT services firm Spargonet Consulting, who argues that, otherwise, the trend for teams to release updates to users without adequate testing in order to hit frequent delivery timescales, often leaving the end user to act as the tester, will only get worse.

Traditional QA roles rely heavily on a fixed, 'black-box' approach to testing, where the focus is on testing an end-to-end process in static test environments.

The problem is, with the move to cloud-based deployment, this approach is no longer effective and so the enterprise needs to apply a white-box approach to testing using integrated testing frameworks and automated deployment methods.

“In order to achieve ‘true’ Agile development and delivery, testing must be automated. This requires a new set of skills from the QA team, in particular coding the scripts using tools such as Mocha, Jasmine, and Selenium, leading to a much faster and repeatable testing process.

"Similarly, there is a lead-on requirement from IT operations to improve the support for development and QA by setting up and configuring those automated test environments. Without this crucial step, projects never really run at 100 per cent Agile.”

By contrast, the Test Automation Engineer, in coordination with Devops, could help build a scalable and trusted environment designed to continually deliver software in an automated way.

Cheetham claims that test automation also bridges the gap between the development team, QA, and IT operations, rather than having them operate in traditional silo mode, allowing department to become better at supporting each other, by leveraging a new set of technical skills for QA, and IT operations.

“Agile development and Devops have historically been the reserve of smaller organisations with the flexibility and supporting business model to adopt them.

"However, it has been demonstrated to work in large development houses. The likes of Google, flickr, Netflix and Facebook are demonstrating their successes, ensuring that they are able to regularly provide consumers with the latest developments on regular timescales – even several times daily.

“However, quicker delivery cycles must not mean that quality is scrimped on, so investment must come in both the additional automation role and re-shaping the role of the QA manager into a more development focused role, and IT operations into a much more ‘software development sympathetic’ team.

"The close relationships between departments required by Devops in order to meet the tight deadlines for continuous delivery, mean that a new role needs to be added and the traditional roles need to change and skills gaps need plugging with investment – whether that’s an outside source working alongside QA, or with training and qualifications.”

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