By Rajesh Mathur

When I first saw that the theme for February was Challenges & Threats to our profession, it reminded me of two things that I read:

  1. A research paper by Dr. Cem Kaner: Fundamental Challenges in Software Testing published in 2003
  2. A book by William Perry & Randy Rice: Surviving the Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing, published in 1997

Years have passed since both of the above were published and a lot has changed in terms of technology, technical trends, development methodologies, testing models etc; however, sadly we still face similar challenges. As a senior manager, there are six challenges I face everyday:

Skill, Outsourcing, Lack of Innovation,  Acceptance by Management, Ethics, The ‘Prediction’ & ‘Future’ Problems.

  1. Skill: We still get a high influx of unskilled people in testing every year. The basic assumption by these people is that testing is not a skill. If one fails in coding, s/he can still be a tester. I interviewed three Test Leads for life critical program this month and none of them has learned a new technique in years because they considered updating their skills a waste of time simply because ‘testing is easy and not a skill’. Lack of skill is not only a challenge but also a threat to our profession.
  2. Outsourcing: Now, this is sort of a mandate by the management because it affects direct costs. It is a sad truth that while outsourcing seems to save some direct costs, it adds some indirect costs which come in terms of poor delivery due to schedule pressure, unskilled & untrained testers, somewhat language barrier, somewhat culture issues, in some cases difference in time, etc. I am not saying that outsourcing is bad, but, it is a challenge to get what we want through this means.
  3. Lack of innovation: This is in fact associated with both the points above. Business pressures and skill issues restrict a tester’s ability to innovate. I am sure there are not many testers beyond AST community who actually think about innovating their work or deliveries. For 2013, it is a challenge for our testing service providers to tell us what better can be done, not other way round. If they can’t tell us BWOW (better ways of working) or NWOW (New ways of Working), we will find those who can!
  4. Lack of acceptance or importance by management: An Age old issue! Still one of the challenges.
  5. Ethics in testing: It is a threat. We have talked a lot in blogs & in conferences about ethics & ethical testers. Any unethical act by a tester affects all others as generalization about testing is a common problem.
  6. The ‘Prediction’ & the ‘Future’ problems: Matt Heusser wrote the main newsletter article about the prediction problem for Jan 2013. The pundits have assumed that ‘testing will converge onto one right way of doing things’, but context does not say that. Testing has been and will always be context-driven. As Matt said, ‘a million test methodologies will bloom, and we’ll pick the ones that are right for this team, this project, at this point in time.’ The challenge for us will be to keep our sanity going and deliver testing the way it should be.

AST is one good example of how we can overcome many of these challenges. As long as we are dedicated to advance the science & practice of testing and strive to build the testing community that believes in AST’s mission & purpose, we will be alright.