Interview with Thomas Karl 

 June 28, 2022

Thomas Karl is Head of Quality Transformation Services and Thought Leadership Portfolio Lead of Software Engineering for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. He is an Organizational Change Manager, LSS Master Black Belt, SAFe® SPC5, IC-Agile Enterprise Agile and Transformation Coach, ISTQB Full Advanced Level certified, Kanban Trainer and Systemic Coach. The focus of his work is on quality management and the development of lean-agile organizations from the team to the strategy and portfolio level. In doing so, he can look back on more than ten years of experience in lean-agile transformations and process improvements of complex international large-scale projects. He is an author and speaker at international conferences and advises boards and executives on digital transformation using agile methods.

What challenges will software testing have to face in the future?

I think it's very difficult to give a general answer to this question, because the situation depends very much on the particular context and company. In general, I think that software has become an integral part of our lives. Quality has become the central requirement. However, this importance of software quality is not yet reflected in the prioritization in companies and also in the heads of many, which must change in the future. In my view, the quality mindset must become more widespread and more important.

In general, I think that software testing is still partly looking for its place in the agile world and that the focus for software quality assurance in the future must necessarily take the topic of process quality into account as standard.

While testing faces many new challenges, it also offers new opportunities for the business side in its contemporary version as quality engineering.

More information about the different levels of testing can be found in the HoaQ Blog:
Lean Quality Management as Hidden Champion - Testing on the way to a "new level" | by Thomas Karl | NEW IT Engineering | Mar, 2022 | Medium

What ideas or solutions could address these challenges?

Together with Nico Liedl and the expertise of many other colleagues, I wrote the book "The House of agile Quality". Based on our many years of practical experience, we have described a structured approach to successfully designing software quality assurance in an agile environment and what needs to be taken into account during an agile transformation. The field-tested, pragmatic HoaQ framework has already helped many companies to master the challenges of large solution development projects. HoaQ fills the gap between agile frameworks and test frameworks on the one hand and bridges the strategic and tactical levels of lean quality management on the other.

The concept is composed of five areas:

The basis is the test foundation. Without the working methods it contains and the methodological approaches required for it, the results desired in quality assurance cannot be achieved.

Three pillars build on this:

Roles: Answers questions regarding roles needed in the future, technical knowledge and understanding of staff, and the establishment and evolution of organizational structures.

Approach: Covers the selection of the agile scaling framework and the testing approach, i.e. which content needs to be tested within an iteration (in-sprint) and which parts of the software need to be tested downstream (cross-sprint). In addition, the area of change management is considered to ensure that the changes are implemented sustainably.

Tools and supporting measures: Includes the technical and process issues of tool selection. At the same time, it highlights the factors that need to be considered when defining the test environments, test data management, and building an end-to-end tool pipeline.

The Lean Agile Quality Engineering Methods umbrella completes the house and includes more complex methods and techniques.

The five components are broken down into further sub-areas to make the transformation manageable and thus iteratively develop a Lean QM strategy.

What does Future Testing look like? How will we test?

Predictive is the key term here that will change the industry in my view. From the original reactive testing approach to the current proactive approach, the trend is clearly moving towards predictive quality engineering. That is, the mix of Big Data analytics, AI systems, robotic process automation approaches and the ability to generate test environments on demand via cloud solutions will take software quality assurance to a whole new level. AI-based test coverage optimization, self-healing test automation, etc. is already being used successfully and I am convinced that this is just the beginning. However, from my point of view, the consistent use of these technologies is also indispensable, because high-quality software is one of the crucial cornerstones of Digitalization. Software has become a part of our lives and will become even more important in the future. It doesn't matter whether it's a smartphone, fitness wristband, navigation system, car, ticket machine, the checkout at the supermarket, the computer at work or other everyday things. All of these things only function as they should if the associated software works without errors. Errors are no longer simply forgiven and quality has become the central requirement for software.

For more information on the relevance of quality engineering, see the HoaQ blog:
Quality Engineering is everyone's business | by Thomas Karl | NEW IT Engineering | Mar, 2022 | Medium

How can testers and test managers prepare for this today?

Continuous learning and education is the key to success, in my opinion. I see three very important strands here:

  1. Knowledge related to the different software development models and agile scaling models (Scrum, SAFe(R), etc.).
  2. Knowledge in terms of technologies. This is important both to understand the applications to be tested and to understand and be able to use the test automation solutions in a targeted manner.
  3. Process knowledge and technical understanding of business processes are becoming increasingly important in times of digital networking and E2EDigitalization . In addition, in my view, continuous "thinking outside the box" is an important success factor for quality engineers.