Interview with the Hanser publishing house 

 16 May 2015

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Hanser-Verlag interviewed me on the topics of creativity, Agile projects, the power of the tester and future challenges. The interview originally appeared on the Hanser Update blog.

5 Questions - 5 Answers, the new professional format of our authors: this time with Richard Seidl about Software Testing!

Mr. Seidl, what are the hot topics in software testing right now?

In my environment, I currently perceive two topics that move the testers:

  • How do I make the switch as a tester from a traditional to an agile project?
  • How do I get test automation to really take off?

... can you please briefly outline both issues for our readers?

There are testers who experience the change to an agile environment effortlessly and are enthusiastic about the new possibilities. But just as agile projects are not a panacea, there are testers who have little use for this approach and feel lost in agile projects. Training courses such as the Certified Agile Tester are a recommended basis for understanding, but cannot address concrete situations and problems in everyday life. I recommend testers in this situation to take a closer look at the values, concepts and motivation of the agile approach. There is so much more than another process behind it. It can also help to ask: How can I best contribute my skills to the project in order to increase value and quality - perhaps in unconventional, new ways?

If you don't get anywhere, you can always ask yourself honestly whether this is the right path for you. There are far more than just agile projects, and frustration in a team doesn't do anyone any good.

With automation, the concept and technicality are much easier to learn and integrate into everyday life. A big pitfall is the complexity of the test object and the automation tool or framework. The devil is in the details here. I think a meaningful proof of concept and a team decision and implementation is essential. But above all, I sometimes miss having the courage to leave the chosen path in case of major obstacles and perhaps pursue other approaches to automation. If an approach is not effective, it is of little use to put even more energy into it. Likewise, several tools and frameworks may be used in parallel if one is not sufficient. In my opinion, people often react too late. One gets bogged down in the existing concept and loses valuable time instead of looking at a more suitable alternative. Instead of test coverage, frustration increases. To take off, test automation needs a lot of attention - from the planning to the maintenance of the project.

Is it true that agile gives testers more influence or more power?

Agile projects offer by their structure a stronger focus on quality - under the responsibility of all team members. A lack of quality also becomes visible much more quickly in the agile environment. The basic prerequisite that testers are heard in the team is therefore more given than perhaps in traditional project structures. What is decisive is what is done with it. There are traditionally set-up projects that live quality optimally, but there are also agile projects that fail when quality is not supported by everyone in the team.

Do creativity and testing go together?

Absolutely! Creativity is becoming more and more important for testers and that is very good. In my opinion, this shows us that some quality-enhancing measures - pushed by the agile approach in particular - are taking effect: developers are implementing more unit tests and working with TDD, for example. In many cases, this hardens the software and makes it more robust. Code reviews are performed more conscientiously. Support from development and testing frameworks gets better. Test automation becomes an integral part of development. All this makes life easier for the tester and he can focus his attention on more important things: designing good tests and questioning the product from the user's point of view. Both require more creativity and new skills.

How do you think software testing will develop in the next few years?

In my opinion, 3 movements will have a greater impact on software testing in the coming years:

  1. New "playing fields" for software testing will emerge, similar to mobile app testing right now. A plethora of new device classes are on the starting line. Whether smart home, 3D printing, self-driving cars, drones, Internet of Things - there is a lot of software that wants to be tested. For this, among other things, test methods must be adapted or test frameworks created.
  2. Quality will become an even more essential task of the entire project team. The classic tester, who is constantly asking for quality and acts as the sole "quality controller", will become less important.
  3. Software testing will have to focus even more on the needs of the user. The user experience, usability and intuitive operation will be given more weight than the formal verification of the implemented requirements.

What skills will testers need in the future?

In order to be prepared for the developments described, I would emphasize the following skills and also try to push them in my teams:

  • Creativity for the design of beneficial tests
  • Consulting skills to support other team members (developers etc.)
  • "User-understanding", who can represent the user and his behaviour
  • Technical understanding for the use of test (automation) frameworks

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