test conference

Test Conference North: thoughts from day one and the closing Q&A

Towards the close of a brilliant first-day at Software Testing Conference North 2017 I had the pleasure of chairing the final Q&A session, which itself captured many of the most interesting and controversial issues of the day, writes Laurence Pisani, Head of Testing at Scott Logic.

There was a real mix of people on the panel, from consultants to heads of QA, to software delivery types, as well as FS testers with massive regulatory burdens that drive their test plans.

The first issue to split opinion from the panel regarded the validity of traditional testing metrics, given the cultural shift towards user-centric testing. In particular I was interested in the panel’s thoughts around the move away from technical measurement to satisfaction/value driven measurement, and a concentration on the “done-ness” of software.

Opinions varied massively, as they had throughout the day, from “Metrics? What are they? (haha)” to “We must measure everything in minute detail to be able to prove ourselves”, and of course some folk sat on the shelf in between! Overall, it is obvious how disparate the testing industry still is in its approach to what we consider to be “valuable information.”

It was generally agreed, however, that whether driving out metrics, or determining user-centric MI, we should always consider what insights we are drawing from the information at hand. This drew the question “What do we mean by quality?” and highlighted that in a room full of test professionals there are still some very differing opinions on this. No real surprise I guess.

As with all good panel debates, discussion deviated from topic somewhat and led to an interesting consideration of what it means to be a tester, versus an engineer. Again some differing schools of thoughts, but the general consensus was that an engineer’s role is more intrinsically involved with understanding code and tech but no less about measuring value; testers however may be more focused on the value and impact of information derived from testing; both applying their insights back to improve on the quality of the application under test.

All in all the Q&A session highlighted the fact that, in some senses, many people are still working with “old” thinking around testing, even though they consider themselves agile. This fits with a key observation of the day, that many people are still only now getting on the path to transformation and it’s not all plain sailing. The drive towards proper agile methods is still a relatively slow uptake and one that most people are having trouble negotiating, as is witnessed by the mix of old and new that is prevalent in their setups.

I look forward to Day Two, and to sharing our thoughts on key learnings from the conference as a whole.