From Tester Sapiens to Tester Optimus: The evolution of testers in the Agile & DevOps era

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Darwin stated in 1859 the Evolution Theory as a process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioral traits in order to better adapt to its environment, with the aim to survive and compete. Following this theory, some philosophers also foresee that humans will derive from Homo Sapiens to Homo Optimus (human-machine).

In the era of Agile and DevOps, testers also need to adapt to new work environments, so new skills and abilities are required to provide more value from the point of view of quality in modern IT delivery approaches. Two main drivers characterize the new role of testing and quality professionals as Quality/Test Engineers in the Agile & DevOps era: (1) The need for T-Shaped quality profiles aimed at pushing continuous testing and quality-driven co-creation in agile teams, and (2) An engineering approach for quality assurance with special focus on Automation (test automation, CI/CD, RPA…) and Advanced Analytics as main accelerators for DevOps environments.

This “natural evolution” adapted to new environments reminds the Evolution Theory. Testing roles are shifting from the Tester Sapiensspecie (traditional functional testers) to Tester Optimus specie (Quality Engineers with focus on quality, automation, optimization and even AI assistance). In other words, the challenge of intelligent (optimus) testing and quality assurance is a must to be addressed, since not everything can be tested with limited resources. The only way to address it is the combination of smart testing to optimize what to test, and technical focus for improving how we test.  This evolution, in our context, is not just a forecast, but a nowadays reality. 

Software quality needs to be conceived with a wide vision: every aspect that is positively perceived by users implies better quality. For sure, the satisfaction of expected functionalities at different levels means quality, but it also implies performance, security, usability, UX,… Therefore, in the context of agile teams, based on co-creation taking the most of different points of view, quality engineers are required to be facilitators (no more controllers) from the very beginning, as key roles in the generation of quality value. This objective require T-Shaped quality profiles. A T-shaped engineer is a professional who has deep knowledge and skills in a particular area of specialization (the vertical part of the T), along with general knowledge and connections across disciplines (the horizontal part of the T). In the context of quality, it means a professional who has a plan to develop deep technical expertise in an specialization (performance, security, usability, UX, automation, analytics,…) and the ability to have an agile minsdet to be a continuous promoter of quality within teams working in DevOps approaches, connecting and facilitating the different pillars of quality by engaging the other roles and taking the most of existing resources. 

The technical component is also important, as testing won’t rely only on functional manual testing anymore. Being an Optimus testermeans pushing testing and quality assurance to the next level by implementing accelerators to push automation, the integration of quality activities in CI/CD pipelines, the automation of other tasks with RPA and the continuous measurement of quality in IT delivery through advanced analytics, which in turn may evolve to artificial intelligence systems to enable anticipation and to support smart automation. Clearly, this requires engineering mindset, skills and abilities. 

No doubt the context evolves, no doubt testing profiles change. So, let’s adapt, evolve, and make the most of the key role of testers and quality engineers in the era of Agile and DevOps.

Albert Tort

About

Albert Tort is CTO of Sogeti Spain. He is a software engineering and testing & quality assurance specialist.

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