The future of testers

Bret Pettichord wrote a thought provoking blog post today that raised some interesting questions about the future of testers in automated testing:

Will there be a role for testers in the future of automated testing? Will this role be defined by developers?

I agree with a lot that Bret has to say. With the increase of new, cheaper, more open and more integrated automated testing tools, I have noticed that developers are becoming increasingly interested in, and responsible for, automated tests. Whilst traditionally automated testing tools, especially ones that test GUIs, were the responsibility of a testing team during a testing phase, these new tools can easily be integrated into software development activities.

The benefits are quite obvious; developers start making their software more testable, and as their automated tests are run more frequently, they are more likely to be kept ‘alive’, and they find more defects early: increasing quality AND velocity.

But as Bret asks, what happens to the testers in all this? Those testers who once wrote and ran those automated tests.

Like Bret, I think that testers still will have a significant role in the future of automated testing. This is because I believe that a developer and a tester have two fundamentally different perspectives. I have found that developers often have a constructive perspective: focused on building something and making sure that it works, whereas a tester has an innate deconstructive perspective, trying to break the something or prove that it won’t work. These perspectives are shown by the fact that often testers design more comprehensive negative tests than developers.

But I don’t believe that having a different perspective will save a tester: it’s not that easy. I think, to survive, new testers need to adapt. And to adapt they need to be two things:

  • Technologically Savvy: Testers will need to be increasingly technical to keep up with developers who are also now doing automated testing. For example, a developer may write a neat XML API so that a tester can write tests more efficiently and effectively, but the tester will need to know how to do so.
  • Business Focused: With both developers and testers running automated tests, a key point of differentiation is business focus. Often developers write tests for specific functionality they have built, but a tester is often required to test multiple functions. When testing these multiple functions, the tester needs to be able to demonstrate to the business what is being tested. By focusing on business scenarios (or user stories) and using business terms, it is easier to link these tests back to the business and demonstrate value.

It’s great that so much effort has been put into deliberately making Watir user friendly. It has meant that it is easy for both developers AND testers to write tests.

One area of difference is deciding on how to implement a Watir framework, because I believe that some frameworks are developer focused (Rspec, Test::Unit) whereas others are more tester focused (Confluence & Rasta).

This is why I am looking forward to seeing future WatirCraft Watir offerings in the framework space. Because of the perspective thing I mentioned, I believe that it will be challenging to design a framework that suits these two different user groups.

Author: Alister Scott

Alister is an Excellence Wrangler for Automattic.

2 thoughts on “The future of testers”

  1. As developers have become more centric on testing, i’ve noticed that testers are becoming more centric on code/development. I for one was a developer for over 12 years and made the transition to testing about 3 years ago.. using tools like watir makes the job more enjoyable and of course! productive.. On another note, I’ve seen what a consistent framework has done to the microsoft development tools.. I favor open source now days but you have to admit haveing a consistent framework to do simple task really expanded on some of their offerings. On those lines i see this waitircraft as being something with a ton of energy that we should support. peace


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