EuroSTAR: Putting Tradition to the Test – The Evolving Role of the Tester

During the EuroSTAR conference Anthony Marcano spoke about the on-going evolution of the testers’ role in the overall game of software development.

Antony Marcano told three different stories about one common theme. The first story was about Mr. & Mrs. Anderson-Williams and tradition. Mr. and Mrs. Andersson-Williams attended a family lunch. The topic of children was raised at this family event. Since the family was educated traditionally, the topic about the youngest daughter getting children was discussed quite controversially. Marcano explained that traditional roles change over time. Technology gives us many choices in this regard. Marcano questioned when other traditional roles like the mother staying at home, or the wife going to work can change over time, can it change in other fields as well, like software testing.

Marcano wondered whether current roles are merely a picture of decades of waterfall process adoption. These roles do not necessarily help on Agile teams with their focus on team-based decisions, and collaboration. If now each team has dedicated testers, what does the test manager have to do? Instead of dealing with scheduling and politics, a test manager can learn about testing. He can attend conferences, and bring the knowledge of the latest testing knowledge back to their workplace.

Marcano’s second story was about Raymond, a CQB officer who was taught about clearing hostile situations. THe traditional approach was about going into a house, opening the door room by room, and clearing it up. Traditional teachings had five different roles for doing the situation. Later in his career Raymond met a new teacher who had a new approach. The new technique allowed the team to proceed much more quickly through the building by having everyone know about each other’s role a bit. They could go from room to room in a single step rather than taking a multiple-step technique that was taught in the past. Only when the expert foot is needed to open the door is the extra time for the expert actually needed.

Marcano said that he learned from this that roles can become dynamic. He saw on Agile teams, that testers prefer to pick up tasks from the board just from the testing column. Though Agile testers need to pick a task as well from the other columns, in order to automate the build, configure the build-script. Sometimes our job means that our roles need to become dynamic.

Marcano’s final story was about Nicole, a software tester. Nicole started in the departments witin documention, ISO, IEEE everywhere. Nicole was interested in moving on, and she attended conferences to learn about the new stuff. She heard about this thing of Agile development, and finally found a job position in an Agile shop. During her first iteration she finished her work within a few, and when considering that the next stand-up meeting was the next day, she started to write a test plan for the iteration. She was used to write an email out once she finished. When she finally got to talk to a team member about this, the other person got her on the whiteboard to discuss her ideas in the test plan, and they had a meaningful conversation about how to improve the quality of the product. Stapled on index cards, they build their test plan within 20 minutes rather than several hours. The team had access to the relevant information. They placed them on the wall, so everyone could see them.

Marcano explained with this story that collaboration is key. Rather than spending weeks on coming up with a document whose value is diminished even at the point of being written and released, collaborating with other team members is a key practice. Documents though might be useful, but in terms of a test plan, the team needs to know what it is going to test. On a small team, this can be achieved very easily without such a test plan document.

Marcano summed up his three points. He said that traditional roles change. When he started in software in the 90s there were analysts and programers, but no analyst programmers. At that time Rapid Application Development raised, which tried to combine these two roles. Marcano described that roles became dynamic at that time. They even now continue to be dynamic. We though still need experts in testing, but in order to adapt to the dynamic skills demand of user stories we have to become dynamic on our own as well. Whatever the thing that adds the most value to the team today might not be in your job title. Last, the more we collaborate to prevent defects rather than try to get them out in the end of products, helps to develop successful software.

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7 thoughts on “EuroSTAR: Putting Tradition to the Test – The Evolving Role of the Tester”

  1. Wow, that was fast — the speaker had not really left the stage when the minutes were on the blog. …

  2. I said before I started in software in the 90s, I had not heard of analyst-programmers. In my studies I only knew of system analysts and programmers in separate roles. Merging the roles made a lot of sense to me. Now, we generally call analyst-programmers “developers”.

  3. Thanks, Markus, for this great writeup of what sounds like a great preso.

    By the way, my title in the early to mid 80s was “Programmer-Analyst” (I was even promoted to “Programmer-Analyst II”!) And that is really what I did. We hadn’t heard of waterfall, so we just sat down with our customers and asked them what they wanted, prototyped it, showed it to them, kept tweaking it until they were happy, then we released it. We were blissfully ignorant of any other way to do it (also ignorant of testing, but we released high quality code anyway).

  4. Thanks for such an awesome writeup of great and insightful ideas. I completely agree on the job vs title idea. But what is the solution for getting this understanding to the teams and testers?

  5. Thanks for putting this wonderful post! The best part of agile testing is the flexibility it gives. And here the role of managers become very important because she knows how to move around her resources to make the whole process agile.

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