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State of Testing 2016 – My view (Markus Gärtner)

On June 16, 2016, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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Usually I don’t write many promotions for other’s contents on this blog as I try to keep it personal and focused on my personal views. Recently I was contacted on the International 2016 State of Testing report, and whether I would like to do a write-up about it. I asked whether it would be ok to post a personal view, so here it is.

Demographics – and what do they tell me?

The top areas from the report are Europe (& Russia), USA, and India. I think these are also the biggest areas when it comes to software testing. The demographics tell me that the data according to my impressions is not very biased but well-spread.

About a third of the respondents work across four different locations. Another third work in a single location. My personal view on this is that there is a good mix of testers working in on location, and way more spread across different locations. I think this might stem from different out-sourcing companies as well as companies working across different sites for various reasons – even though this usually makes the formation of real teams hard – at least in my experience.

Most of the respondents have working experience of five years or more. I think the majority of testers new in the field usually don’t get immediately their attention on such kind of surveys. I think this is tragic, as in the long run we should be working on integrating people new to the field more easily.

There also appear many test managers in the survey data. This seems quite unusual to me, as there certainly are way more testers than test managers – I hope. This usually raises the question to me how come there are so few testers passionate about their craft. In some way this is tragic, but it resembles the state of the industry.

Interestingly on time management, most time of the testers seems to be spent on documentation (51%) and dealing with environments (49%). That’s sort of weird, but also resembles my experiences with more and more open source tools, and more and more programmers not really caring how their stuff can be tested or even brought to production. On the other hand I notice many problems with test data-centric automation approaches, where handling test data appears to be the biggest worry in many organization. I usually attribute that to bad automation, as an automated tests usually should be easy to deal with, and create its own test data set that it operates on – a problem well-addressed in the xUnit Test Patterns book in my opinion – but few people appear to know about that book.

Skills – and what you should look out for?

Which sort of transitions my picture to the skills section. Testers appear to use a couple of approaches, foremost Exploratory Testing with 87%. There are also 60% mentioning they use scripted testing. This also matches my experience since testing rarely is purely Exploratory or purely scripted. I think the majority of testers claiming they use Exploratory Testing is either a signal of the rise of context-driven testing in general, or a bias in the data. I think it’s more of the former.

I liked that test documentation gets leaner. With the former 51% of the spare time of testers spent with documentation, this is certainly a good thing. At the conferences I attend I see more and more sessions on how to use mindmaps for that. Quite a third of the respondents said they already used mindmaps. I think that’s a good signal.

Even though the authors claim that formal training is on the raise when it comes to skills of testers, and their respective education, there are still many testers trained through training on the job and mentoring, as well as learning from books and online resources. I think this is a good trend, since I doubt that formal training will be able to keep up with transferring skills in the long run. They can inspire testers to dive deeper into certain topics, but on-the-job training and mentoring, as well as active reflection from material that you read, is a good thing, and way more powerful.

Unsurprisingly communication skills are the number one necessary skills for testers (78%). The next skillset that a tester needs according to the survey is on functional testing and automation, web technologies, and general testing methodologies. That resembles sort of my past as a tester, and which skills I put efforts into. Unsurprisingly 86% of the respondents claimed that they have test automation in place.

More Agile – less concerned

It seems that waterfall approaches are on the decline, even in the testing world. In 2015 42% mentioned they used Waterfall. In 2016 it were only 39%. 82% responded they used Agile – maybe every once in a while.

Even though the testing community usually is concerned from the historic background on their job safety, this uprise of Agile methodologies didn’t lead to more testers being concerned. Compared to 2015 where 42% were not concerned about their job, in 2016 there are 53% of the folks unconcerned. Probably that might be related to more context-driven approaches being more wide-spread.

This is just a summary with certain picks from myself. I encourage to dive into the State of Testing survey report on your own to get more details.

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