7 Critical Software Testing Skills

Most software engineers join the workforce right after graduation. Historically, software test engineers have found themselves at the bottom of the pyramid– arguably so. Manual testers, especially, fail to acquire significant hardcore programming skills early in their careers. They normally do not get considerable latitude to learn these skills. At this point, and onward, many tend to become complacent with time and end up sticking to QA & testing as a career choice. For most QA professionals, their learning curve starts dwindling, especially with new and continuous technological advancements. The current scenario, however, does not allow this at all and offers ample opportunity for those willing to step up their game.

Agile testing is the new buzzword, as faster deployment is becoming the key to stay ahead of the curve. Automation, lean processes, and rapid turnarounds with the minimal possible post release defect percentage are crucial for success in the current competitive environment. With many companies developing similar products and offering similar services, quality has become a major differentiator. The role of the tester has transformed dramatically with the need to work with and among developers, designers, product managers, customers, and clients.

Software Testing has evolved from ‘no need for’ technical know-how to ‘need for’ an in depth knowledge of software testing development life-cycle, out-of-box thinking, and a fair amount of programming skills. Hence, continuously learning new things to keep up with the latest trends has become inevitable.

Here are seven critical software testing skills that a tester should have or should learn to remain competent and relevant in the contemporary dynamic landscape.

1. Networking and Communication

Whether connecting with experts, exchanging ideas, or sharing subject related pertinent information, social networking help testers to remain up-to-date with the latest testing trends and techniques. And communication skills especially soft skills play a vital role in this.

Additionally, communicating effectively with professionals, with stakeholders, and with team members assists in better comprehension of the business requirements and testing needs, resulting in a robust test plan.

Some other significant deliverables of good communication skills are – structured test cases, apt bug reporting, and clear and concise management reports forming a solid basis for a viable end product. Further, these skills also help in adopting the latest approaches, like DevOps, successfully.

2. Agile and DevOps Methodologies

Testers must be adept at Agile and DevOps methodologies for continuous releases and collaborative teamwork. These approaches form the basis for software development in the current dynamic environments, eliminating role rigidity and silos.

3. Automation

Manual QA testing cannot entirely cope up with the increasingly complex frameworks and testing scenarios. Hence, automation testing skills are must for higher accuracy and faster delivery. Testers need sound knowledge to figure out the tests that need to be automated, the tools required for the purpose, and the execution methodology. They should also be well aware of various bug tracking tools, GUI testing tools and more.

Some of the sought-after tools testers should be aware of include– Selenium, including Selenium Remote Control, QTP, LoadRunner, xUnit frameworks, JMeter, Soap UI, Appium, and Calabash among others.

4. Latest Web and Mobile Technologies

To deliver better QA solutions, testers must be aware of the web and mobile technology advancements. It assists them to better understand the coding architecture, frameworks needed, and the technical aspects. This will help them to better understand the app built and scalability issues for testing purposes.

Some technologies that are frequently used include XML, HTML, Javascript, and CSS. Similarly, testers must be aware of the protocols like HTTP and HTTPS.

5. Testing Techniques and Basic Programming Skills

Every tester must be aware of the various testing techniques and tool usage. The knowledge of black box testing, penetration testing, unit testing etc. help testers work effectively on the different type of projects.

Learning some core programming skills can further assist testers to work in a variety of environments. Python, Java, Ruby, and SQL are some of the popular and in-demand programming languages. If testers are aware of the fundamentals of these languages, it can help them to understand the basic app functioning, to figure out the coding errors, and hence, to create effective tests.

6. Understanding Priorities

Time management skills are crucial for testers. Understanding what should be tested first and foremost, and what can be left for later is critical. Similarly, a tester must be able to figure out what can be automated and what needs to be tested manually in the given timeframe and as per the need of the project. With continuous releases, delineating prioritized features and testing them aptly for a defect-free timely release is critical.

7.  Logical Thinking, Curiosity, and Problem Solving Skills

A tester with a curious and analytical mind is able to better understand the changing business requirements and associated testing needs. These skills are crucial to get the requisite clarity on the project by continuously communicating with the different stakeholders.

Additionally, an out of box thinker, with a logical and analytical bent of mind, is more capable of finding bugs, understanding the complexities of the app, choosing the right tools and techniques, comprehending different testing environments and frameworks, and accordingly testing the app. Experience, no doubt, also plays a major role in this.

Similarly, with problem-solving skills, a tester is able to question unusual app behavior, analyze it well, identify defects and defect probabilities and look for possible solutions, or prepare an effective bug report to deliver a robust end product.

Conclusion

These are some of the software testing skills a tester must possess to ensure that the project is running smoothly. Software delays are costly for a company and so are defective releases. Hence, a tester must keep up with the latest technology, and continuously learn and update testing skills and knowledge to remain competitive and relevant.

So, keep learning and improving yourselves testers, you are doing a great job!!

 

What is Scrum, and Why You Should Adopt It

Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka introduced the term ‘Scrum’ in the context of product development in their article, ‘The New New Product Development Game’. By definition, Scrum is a project development framework that highlights teamwork, collective accountability, transparency and iterative progress towards a defined goal.

In the contemporary competitive environment, stakeholders are vying for speed to market, excellent product quality, and a quicker ROI. In addition, frequently changing business requirements need to be addressed continuously. This is where Scrum fits in. In Scrum, tasks are divided into shorter fixed timeframes of release cycles with adjustable scope to address frequently changing development needs. Scrum is unlike the traditional Waterfall Model that follows a step by step process to get a full featured product– a major drawback to which is that any changes added later in the SDLC would involve revisiting the earlier phases, and redoing the changes. Scrum saves this effort.

The Scrum approach is open to changes and welcomes change as long as they enhance customer experience. The Scrum dev team starts working with the product owner from early on to determine the minimum viable product or MVP, from which point on the incremental development proceeds till the full set of requirements is delivered. Scrum teams normally consist of five to seven members, and work is done in ‘Sprints’ with predefined timelines, resulting in a fully tested product with additional functionality.

The three key roles in any Scrum Team are:

Product Owner: The key stakeholder who is actively engaged with the Scrum team, and is business savvy with a clear understanding of what the product functionality should be. The product owner ensures that the expectations for the end product have been communicated and agreed upon, and can prioritize user stories for the product as required, along with making sure that any new requirements are not assigned during the Sprint.

The Scrum Master: The Champion of the Scrum ensuring that the Scrum team is productive and progressive. They may take up any role in the team to finish the task required to move the Sprint forward, and in case of any obstructions, Scrum Master follows up and resolves the issue. They also organize sprint planning and stand-up meetings, reviews, retrospectives to keep the sprint moving.

Developer/Tester:  Sprint teams consist of a mix of competencies working together, and the roles may rotate Sprint by Sprint. Testers, Developers, Database people, Support- all work in close collaboration to develop and implement the defined features and there are no set rules or defined job descriptions, rather it depends on what the team agrees upon. Overall, it’s a ‘whole-team’ responsibility to deliver the working software at the end of the sprint.

Let’s understand the entire Scrum Process in brief along with where the above roles come into the picture.

The Scrum Process

  • The Product Owner creates a Product Backlog.
  • Sprint Planning takes place and based on the priority, the team imports items from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog, and brainstorms on how to implement it.
  • Daily Scrum meetings are conducted to assess the progress and share the impediments.
  • At the end of each Sprint, delivery teams ensure the work is in a potentially shippable state.
  • Scrum Master ensures that Sprint is moving forward, tasks are being completed in time, and impediments removed.
  • Sprint ends with a Sprint Review, and a Sprint Retrospective to identify what went wrong and what went right.
  • For the next Sprint, the team pulls another prioritized chunk from the Product Backlog and begins working.

The cycle is iterative and whenever the project ends, Scrum ensures that the most significant work has been completed. So you get a viable product at a lower cost in a short time span.

Let us check the benefits that Scrum offers to businesses.

Benefits of Scrum

Overall, the Scrum Framework offers the following benefits:

Quick Deliverables: The involvement of the Product Owner to progressively elaborate the requirements and to set priorities along with providing real time clarification reduces the time to market. ‘High value and risk’ requirements can be delivered before the ‘low value and risk’ requirements, with every Sprint resulting in a working product that is potentially shippable.
Increased ROI: Daily meetings, regular monitoring, continuously imbibing market changes, and shorter predefined release cycles- all lead to increased ROI. Regular stakeholder feedback enables early corrections sparing a lot of time and money. Additionally, automation and up-front testing results in lower wastage and faster deployment, and thus a better ROI. Finally, if the product has to fail, it fails faster.
Superior Quality: Regular inspection of the working product, with daily testing and Product Owner feedback in the development process, allows for early visibility of the quality issues and necessary adjustments. Sprint reviews and retrospectives allow for continuous improvement and thus a superior end product.
Increased Collaboration and Ownership:The complete team works together on the entire project, and decisions are made in consensus. Sprint  Planning meetings help self-organizing cross-functional teams to set their pace and organize their work around the given business priorities, and further, daily Scrum meetings, Sprint reviews and retrospectives enhance team spirit and collaboration.
Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: Scrum enables organizations to change the project and the deliverables at any point in time, resulting in the most apt release. Scrum thus embraces changing customer requirements leading to increased customer satisfaction.
Better Project Control:  Regular feedback, the ability to address changing market demands, Sprint reviews and daily meetings offer ample opportunities to keep the project under control, and make timely amends.
Transparency: Expectations are effectively met with Scrum as the key stakeholders are actively involved throughout the project. Continuous inspection and adaptation, and total transparency are the real benefits of Scrum.

Given these benefits, it would not be an overstatement to say that if an organization adopts Scrum in its true sense, everyone involved will be able to discover the real benefits Scrum brings along.

At Astegic, we have developed a Scrum framework specifically crafted for QA and Testing stages of product development- SDEFT (Scrum Driven Engagement Framework for Testing).  SDEFT introduces a set of best practices that create a flexible framework allowing consistent and predictable result delivery, resolving the critical client concerns of quality, agility, cost effectiveness, quicker ROI and speed to market.

Exploring the Business Value of QA

Transformative technologies are disrupting businesses as usual. Companies that fail to adapt and transform are likely to go out of business soon. Changes in regulatory policies and the technology landscape, globalization, rapidly evolving business needs, and dynamic customer demands have all necessitated the inclusion of robust testing programs across the application development ecosystem. As such, QA and testing services providers must offer software testing services that can scale to support diverse application portfolios, and can quickly adapt to changing business needs. This has lead to a big shift in the testing realm, and in the role of QA.

The criticality of QA in ensuring the readiness of a product to go LIVE is well recognized by IT organizations. Traditionally, the role of QA was merely restricted to serve as a safety net that catches bugs at the bottom of the waterfall; but the introduction of Agile methodologies completely changed the scenario, whereby QA teams are involved throughout the SDLC process. Now, QA gets involved early on in the project, and largely influences the business metrics.

The value that QA brings to businesses can be summarized as follows:

Articulating Business Value in the Entire Software QA Testing Process

QA teams comprehend business objectives by involving all the stakeholders in the process. They play a vital role by asking relevant questions and getting the requisite clarity about the project requirements. They then map these project objectives to the business metrics or KPIs. These KPIs are then standardized and stakeholder feedback is imbibed by means of constant dialogue with the stakeholders. Based on the KPIs, a guideline for business process data is established. This lays a solid foundation for the work to be done in future, against which data captured from the actual project is reviewed and measured.

Overall, this ensures that KPIs are oriented towards the business goals, and business goals are tied to the testing process all the time.

Delivering Fast Business Value

Speed to market, high quality and reliability are mandatory to meet the expectations of a digitally empowered consumer.

To fulfill this objective, business driven QA teams work towards achieving maximum test coverage in optimal time with risk-based testing. Wherever feasible, the test artifacts from a previous release are reused. Additionally, historical data and pattern analysis is done to precisely and timely predict defects. Finally, with the adoption of Agile testing methodologies, CI, CD and DevOps; the overall delivery time has reduced, leading to a competitive edge for businesses.

Reduced Cost and Faster ROI

Businesses look for fast and scalable solutions while trying to keep cost to a minimum. Early Lifecycle Validation or Shift Left testing performed by the QA team focuses on validation of the deliverables of upstream life cycle processes. This results in reduced effort and cost of fixing the bugs as compared to doing it at a later stage, ultimately leading to reduced time to market and a good quality end-product. Moreover,  progressive automation is assisting in further streamlining the release processes by initiating automation at an early stage, thus optimizing QA efforts, and leading to a faster end-product and hence quicker ROI.

Incorporating changing Business Priorities

The role of QA is critical in dealing with changing business priorities because the business impact of releasing a buggy or obsolete software is immense. Continuous Improvement in a timely demeanor is vital for responding to business changes, and QA is responsible to ensure these changes are imbibed via continuous communication with the stakeholders. QA also verifies that significant quality parameters are analyzed precisely to measure the outcome of key business strategies.

This provides us with an overview of the value that QA bring to the businesses. This value can be further increased when a company employs high-quality skilled testers who are also risk-aware. The future-businesses need testers that can help fuel innovation, are open to learning new techniques and believe in customer-centric testing.

Investing in strong QA teams will ultimately strengthen business’ credibility in the market, as they are able to deliver high-quality reliable products with lower costs and faster time to market. According to World Quality Report, there is an overall prediction that QA and testing budgets will soar to 40% of development costs by 2019,  and 52% of IT teams site higher amounts of releases as the reason for higher QA budgets.

Strategically investing in building a team of skilled testers will definitely help set high-performing companies apart from the competition by enhancing user experience and engagement. Companies that neglect the role of QA will likely perish.

A Journey to the IoT World-II

This is a three part series

Testing Challenges in an IoT Framework

In connect to our previous blog, we may rightly define Internet of Things (IoT) or our ‘Cobweb’ as the new gigantic ‘tech-wave’ disruptive to the existing technologies with no apparent parallels, at present, or in near future. But what’s so unique about it?

It’s not an ordinary cobweb which is superficially connected, rather each thread of the cobweb can sense the activities of each and every other thread, and can communicate with it in real time. Stating differently, IoT implies- flawless communication of devices among the internal and external environments in real time through the exchange of data and split-second information, enabling intelligent decision- making. Sounds fascinating? It certainly is exciting for the users, however, not so appealing for the testing world. Let us comprehend the reasons.

Dealing with an Avalanche of Internet-Enabled Devices

IoT framework implies further increase in the existing heap of devices, making testing on all real devices a sheer impossibility. A wide range of traffic patterns, big data, different types of interfaces, numerous OS, networks, locations, and device specific features, poses a complex matrix of possible testing scenarios, making the software QA testing task highly sophisticated and challenging.

Difficulties in Ensuring Hyper-connectivity Across the Multi-Layered IoT architecture

With the multitude of sensors and actuators collecting huge chunks of data through multiple networks, the task of dynamically collating and displaying streams of data in real-time may cause storage-analysis paralysis. Therefore, Quality Assurance software testing for ensuring device interoperability for perfect user interaction will require numerous tests to run for longer time span to ensure reliability, compatibility, and security, in turn, hitting the time to market the product. Besides, can security be ensured even after that?

Security and Compatibility Concerns

The inflow of constant stream of data will make it crucial to ensure data safety. Scrutinizing that data does not leak when being transmitted from one device to another,  and is properly encrypted, will require comprehensive testing solutions. Moreover, resolving the compatibility issues for integrating various controller devices in the existing systems for data generation is another challenge.This will not be a straightforward task and a lot of knowledge and understanding will be required along with time considerations.

Hence, security issues and testing for backward compatibility with upgraded versions will be major areas of unrest for the testers, especially when speed to market matters, and when trade-off is not an acceptable option.

HP study reveals that 70 percent of IoT devices are vulnerable to attack, and IoT devices averaged 25 vulnerabilities per product, indicating expanding attack surface for adversaries.

Source: Android Authority

This reiterates the need for thorough end-to-end agile testing solutions. Is it easy? Let’s see.

No Substitute for Agility

The need for faster releases will pull agility to the mainstream. Though both QA Automation and Manual testing may be required for the IoT apps; however, testers and organizations stuck with slow traditional waterfall models will not be able to survive without updating themselves.

Speed to market will be the key, and automation and better communication will need radical changes in the current testing approaches along with the organizational set-up. What does it imply?

Challenges in Adopting DevOps

DevOps will become a norm as teams will be required to work more effortlessly and converse quickly to mitigate the higher technological risks. This will be a major bottleneck for traditional organizations who will need a complete turnaround, not just in technological terms but also in terms of dealing with the change. The need for Agility and DevOps will further imply increased dependency on Open Source Frameworks that can enable faster and thorough testing across multiple platforms and devices.

Challenges of the Current Open Source Frameworks

The current Open Source Networks may not be able to cope up with the enhanced platform fragmentation, and future testing needs. The current frameworks require tester’s to do more work around test automation development, and around setting up the frameworks, which will be a mismatch to the sprawling network requirements in the rapidly growing IoT sector.

Setting up the suitable test framework for agile testing requires fast and incessant testing with an enhanced pace of development and quick release patterns. With IoT, it will get even more complex leading to longer test cycles, defeating the need for agility. Further, this can consume a huge chunk of the testing budget set aside by companies, posing a challenge, particularly for the small testing companies.

Can Testing Companies Manage their Budgets?

Accessing the next-gen QA automation tools to ensure faster and shortened SDLCs along with the need for elaborate testing in the IoT context could mean extensive cost to the company especially on hardware and test infrastructure.

In addition, companies shifting to Agile and DevOps approaches from the old traditional approaches will need to spend expansively. Finally, if the testers are not well trained, they shall not be able to decide the right tools or use them wisely, thus adding further cost to the company.

Companies Will Need Skilled Testers

Lack of skills can lead to a big hole in the testing budget of the testing companies. Emerging technologies like IoT will need new skill-sets, and this may require changing the current workforce or extensive training, both of which implies higher costs.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the adoption of IoT-platform and device fragmentation will increase the software QA testing complexities in multifold. Let’s make an attempt to highlight the major problem areas:

  • Security will be a big challenge and despite the need for longer test runs, the speed to market will remain a priority, posing a tradeoff.
  • Companies will be compelled to adopt Agile and DevOps and manual testers will not be able to survive without updating their skills.
  • The current Open Source Frameworks will not be sufficient. With the increase in a number of internet enabled devices, platform and device fragmentation problems will increase.
  • The changing landscape and increased budgetary requirements, with a need for radical change in the management mindset, will be a matter of great concern especially for mid-sized and small testing companies who may be forced to go out of business.

Let us try to comprehend if testing companies can prepare themselves before the IoT storm hits them in the face. Let us sneak into probable solutions to the testing challenges in our third and final part- Managing the IoT Storm- Probable Solutions to the Testing Ordeals.