From October 2 -7, I attended STARWEST, the largest and one of the longest-running software testing and quality assurance conferences in the US, sponsored by TECHWELL. It is one of the most respected conferences by QA leaders, as well as individual contributors, as there is something there for everyone in the QA field.
The weeklong conference featured many learning and networking opportunities on new and high demand topics. The conference allowed me to discuss with other QA practitioners not only high-level topics, such as the future of the QA profession, but also deep dive, technical discussions, such as automation strategies, BI and Big Data topics. The conference also featured excellent keynote speakers, training sessions, and a leadership summit.
An additional benefit is that STARWEST has a large vendor expo which allowed the attendees to explore the latest solutions in testing technologies, tools, and software. The expo allowed me to have face to face conversations with vendors in a short amount of time. Most vendors demonstrated their solutions, and some even had hour long talks scheduled to dive deeper into their solutions. It is quite a time saver.
What’s new you ask? The software industry is moving towards digital transformation and what that means to QA.
More than ever before, QA professionals have the responsibility to stay current on technology and tools. It’s not just a developer’s responsibility anymore. Technology changes so fast and it sometimes becomes difficult to stay abreast of all the new changes, but it is something that must be addressed to stay competitive in the QA space.
The transition to digital applications requires a different skill-set than was typically used to test GUI-based applications. It no longer requires QA to write a test cases and execute manual test. Maturing digital businesses are focused on integrating digital technologies, such as social, mobile, analytics, Internet of Things, as well as transitioning applications to the Cloud. These changes in technology, as well as the underlying architectures that support business solutions are radically changing the way software gets developed and how businesses work.
Companies are requiring changes to be implemented faster, frequently and with high quality. In order for QA to support these requirements, they must change their focus to:
- Shifting to the left – It’s not only about testing, it’s about full lifecycle QA, from governance and requirements to production support.
- Shifting to the right – Delivering to production is no longer the end of the road. The DevOps movement has made it clear that not only do you have to consider operational requirements in your design, such as installation, back out, performance, monitoring, etc., but you also have to consider rapid and frequent deployments. Many organizations push to production several, if not many times a day. For this type of speed, automation is an absolute requirement.
- Focusing on the middle – As technology evolves, there is much more focus on the middle-tier. Web Services, SOA architectures, Rules Engines, ETL tools, etc. are the way architectures are going. Why you ask? With so much user interaction happening on mobile devices these days, the computing power on a mobile device does not compare to the computing power of a laptop or desktop. Therefore, much of the processing needs to happen in the middle-tier. QA must get comfortable testing without a user interface, which means QA professionals must become more technical to remain relevant.
- Working with data – there is a significant amount of work in Business Intelligence and Big Data. Being able to work with data from many sources and transforming it in to large sets of usable data, such that businesses have ready access to real-time reports, dashboards and predictive analytics requires a new set of skills that QA resources must embrace.
As is normally the case, the IT industry is moving towards better, cheaper, faster. It was nice to see that there wasn’t anything radically different that was presented at the conference, which means that the Solutions QA team at Pyramid Consulting is aligned with the industry trends and we are doing the right things to support our customers. One interesting takeaway is that most of the vendors are headed in the same direction, which is to:
- Embrace open-source tools – licensed tools are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Tools such as Selenium and Appium are garnering a significant amount of market share these days. The tool vendors that provide an integrated open-source solution that supports custom framework development and maintenance will have a significant advantage over those that don’t.
- Integrate with Continuous Integration (CI) tools – to be able to push software to production several times a day requires a complete automated solution. CI tools are a required component of a complete automated solution.
- Integrate with Test Management tools – clients want to be able to manage all of their automated scripts in a single repository. Tool solutions must be able to pull scripts from a test management repository, execute the scripts and return execution results to the same repository.
- Provide public and private Cloud solutions – in order to provide a complete solution, mobile vendors will need to provide both public and private Cloud solution
- Provide better access to real devices in the public Cloud – in the past, several vendors catered to the development testing space, which primarily uses emulators. Most of these vendors are adding real devices to their solution to attract more usage by QA.