David Consulting Group graciously invited me to attend the Quality Engineered Software Testing (QUEST) conference with them last week. As one of their partners, I jumped at the chance! It has been quite a while since I last attended a conference centered on software testing, and this experience was both refreshing and a little bit disappointing.
The Refreshing Moments
The refreshing part of the conference was the people! I met a lot of software testing professionals who were eager to learn how to improve their personal knowledge and skillset in software testing, while also looking to elevate the software testing strategies used within their companies.
Aside from the participants, there were many vendors (i.e. DCG) in the conference exhibit hall and speakers offering a breadth of solutions to help companies better understand their testing processes and to provide strategies for evolving them. There was a lot of interest in TMMi, Test-Driven Development (TDD) and implementing a strategy to integrate automation to build software better, faster and cheaper. There was also a lot of chatter on how Agile development methods are being used in testing, with studies suggesting in excess of a 50 percent savings in cost and schedule when employed.
I also had the opportunity to meet with some of the automation testing technology vendors and there are some pretty nifty technologies available that leverage big data analytics and crowd-sourcing paradigms to help testing as a discipline to scale the complexity power curve. Innovation abounds in testing, from process, technology and overall methodologies.
The disappointment I felt from the conference came from the unfortunate fact that software testing always seems to get the fuzzy end of the lollipop, and that really hasn’t changed over the years. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s be honest, when issues start to occur during the development schedule, engineering, not quality assurance, gets the priority, and testing becomes a “nice to have” or, at best, a “we’ll only do as much as we can afford.”
What I found from talking with the testing professionals at the conference, is that testing is still too often implemented as the last activity of the development cycle, instead of continuous integration throughout the lifecycle. Testing shouldn’t be the “hail Mary pass” at the end of the game.
I’ve said it before, but we live in a software intensive world. From the moment we wake up, to the time we go to bed at night, our lives are touched by 100(s) of millions of lines of code. Don’t believe me? Think about it for a second: your car, electric toothbrush, water heater, dishwasher, stoplights, EZPass, transit system, elevator, cell phone, tablet, computer, television, cable box, refrigerator, corporate ID badge – all of these things are driven by software. These systems are complex, and yet, in general, software testing is still considered a “nice to have” when it’s crunch time.
There are many software disasters that illustrate this point. The most recent and most visible example of this is, of course, The Affordable Care Act. I had high hopes that the congressional hearings regarding the software implementation of the ACA would yield policy on the liability that software intensive systems represent, which perhaps would have led to cascading changes throughout the testing world. However, I believe we all were sadly disappointed in the outcome. It underscores the point I’m trying to make here – that software testing is often overlooked and rarely prioritized. Our use of software is increasing, but our focus on the quality of that software is seemingly stagnant.
If you’re a software testing professional, it’s well worth your time to plug into the greater community at one of these conferences. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, you’re probably connected to tons of software testing professionals via LinkedIn or other social media platforms. However, those platforms don’t beat the experience of getting out of your lab and pressing the flesh with others in your profession.
Events such as this one allow you – and me – to gain perspective about what lies in the realm of the possible – that which perhaps you previously thought was impossible. Stretch your legs and your mind at the same time! Oh, by the way, this conference had a booze cruise one of the evenings! C’mon, you can have fun and fill your mind with new testing knowledge at the same time!
All in all, I ended up having a great time at the conference. I was happy to connect with true testing professionals that, despite my disappointment of the testing paradigm only moving perhaps inches instead of feet over the years, I was reassured by the people I met who were excited, enthusiastic and eager to carry the torch and continue to move our industry forward.
Vice President, PSC