“Don’t be afraid of new arenas” – Elon Musk
The man whose name has become synonymous with driverless or self-driving cars has a view on the unexplored that talks to my heart, specifically in the context of testing and testing tools: don’t be afraid to explore new and alternative solutions to the tools you currently use for testing.
Before we actually select our testing tools, however, we need to take a step back and examine the cognitive and analytical processes that occur before a testing tool is chosen or purchased.
Ten years ago, testers didn’t have the multitude of choices that are now available. The decision was both quicker and easier. Today, the tester has a range of testing tools and features from which to choose. The testing arena has expanded and evolved, much akin to the evolution of ‘horseless carriages’ – automobiles that were built prior to 1 January 1916 – into self-driving cars that will become the next revolution in automotive technology. Along the way, thousands of types of motor vehicles have been developed with different functionality, safety features, maximum speeds, engine capacity and price tags.
Similarly, a testing tool will have specific functionality and should meet the tester’s requirements for the job at hand. It also needs to be appropriate for the client’s budget, which in many instances is the most challenging requirement. Its capability and features have to be understood. It needs to solve a problem, and provide a solution. Do we require a 1.0-litre small family car for pottering between villages, or are we wanting the racetrack performance of a 5.0-litre V8?
This is where the tester with an enquiring mind comes into his or her own. Asking the right questions will lead to the right answers – and to the right testing tools.
What testing techniques am I using? Is my focus on automation testing or does my client require high-level security? Will I require regression testing? What level of testing detail is necessary to ensure the functionality of an application is free from defects?
Am I testing third party products, custom software or in-house products? If I’m testing third party products, I’ll be testing the integration between them. Custom software and in-house software will require detailed testing of every individual module and component. Will my testing tool give me what I need to do the job?
What is my business sector? If it’s retail, your testing tool will need to ensure that the point of sale system is stable and functional. If it’s banking, security will be a priority and so will the capability to handle thousands of transactions concurrently.
Do I see new technology as threatening or exciting? The advantage of today’s testing tools is that they come complete with technological advancements such as self-remediation scripts and data management. While such advancements are exciting, they can also be overwhelming or even threatening. When making your testing tools selection, be aware of your own bias and strive to keep your choices based on objective criteria.
Is our quest for speed going to impact on our quality? How perfect does your product need to be before you go live? Testing an innovation where speed to market is more important than ensuring every single bug is detected will require a different approach to launching a new banking app.
Is research part of our pre-decision investigation? While research plays an important role in furthering our knowledge, perhaps a sensible approach would be to limit your research time and approach it with a particular goal in mind. I know a company that appointed a tester to conduct research and development into their own test automation tool. After 12 months, the tester was unable to present a working product. Your research should enable you to present your findings to your team, project manager or CEO as a faster, better or more cost-effective solution.
Am I using a tool because of a legacy relationship? What will be the cost of moving away from the existing relationship and can I get a better solution elsewhere? The thought of moving away from an existing tool that has been in use for some years can be daunting for both tester and financial director. The good news is that the investment is not lost, as many of the new tools include the capability to migrate your existing scripts from a current system to a new system.
Like choosing a new car, your testing tools have to meet your specific requirements. The analysis and evaluation process leading up to the final decision is as important as the actual testing tools you choose. Today’s testing world is opening up and presenting new options. Like the automotive industry evolving into the self-driving car, testing – and by association, how we choose testing tools - is going into uncharted territory. It remains to be seen who are the early adopters and who will be left behind.
Mario Matthee is the Head of SQA Architecture and R&D at DVT and has been instrumental in building the biggest test automation centre in South Africa, the DVT Global Testing Centre. His client-centric approach is underpinned by combining the experience of older warhorses with the talent of bright youngsters, to provide quality test automation solutions for clients globally.
This article was first published in the November edition of Test magazine.