Extending Quality Across the Pipeline: Tricentis Accelerate Speakers Highlight Agile Testing’s Critical Role in Modern Software Delivery

Testers today face more pressure than ever to do their jobs faster. According to Ryan Yackel, who spoke Oct. 8 at Tricentis Accelerate in Vienna, QA teams shifting to an agile approach often focus too much on speed, rather than prioritizing speed and quality equally and truly embracing an agile testing approach.

The importance — and difficulty — of embedding quality into the software delivery pipeline was a key theme this year at Tricentis Accelerate. BP’s Head of Modernise IT Transformation Andy Sturrock summed it up well during the CIO panel: “You can write code as fast as you want, but if you can’t test it, you’re not going to get into production quickly, so transforming testing is the only answer.”

Increasing test automation coverage is a common tactic teams employ to speed up testing. But “it’s dangerous to quickly automate things without thinking about strategy,” cautioned Yackel, who is Director of Product Marketing at QASymphony. “What you should be doing instead is taking an automated approach first,” before development begins.

Yackel took the main stage in one of five lightning talks that were part of this week’s keynote sessions at Tricentis Accelerate, the two-day continuous testing conference in Vienna, Austria. His talk focused on how organizations’ intentions to speed up testing timelines can ultimately hurt agile and DevOps initiatives.

Truly transforming testing requires including QA in product strategy and sprint planning, which allows testers to begin outlining test strategies early and helps all stakeholders in the software delivery process embrace quality as a shared goal. More involvement earlier will help keep teams on track, automating testing where it makes the most sense and saving time in the long run.

Testing Shifts Left…and Right

The theme of this year’s conference is “Continuous testing is required for digital transformation.” But as Yackel and others pointed out, getting there requires a significant shift in thinking. Too often, agile is associated with speed only, and testing remains an afterthought. But the QA teams that successfully embrace agile are including shifting testing left and including quality as a core element of the software delivery pipeline. In other words, DevOps = speed + quality.

In a session on the basics of agile test management, Elise Carmichael stressed the importance of modernizing QA for DevOps, asking the audience why integrating testing into agile development processes is so critical. “The answer is visibility,” said Carmichael, who is VP of Product Strategy for qTest, the agile test management tool that is now part of the Tricentis portfolio. “Without visibility you can’t have traceability; you can’t have governance; you can’t have compliance.”

Without a synchronized approach, agile transformation will fail. When testers don’t have the opportunity to test code as it is written, QA inevitably becomes a bottleneck, and the likelihood that you’ll release software with critical production defects increases, because testers have fewer opportunities to identify and address bugs in the code.

But that doesn’t mean testing as a last step before deployment into production should go away, or that it’s always a bottleneck, as Tricentis founder and Chief Strategy Officer Wolfgang Platz pointed out in his Wednesday morning keynote.

“Testing is shifting left; we are all aware of that… [but] testing will also shift right,” Platz said. He explained that DevOps environments, where most test cases are automated, will require quality to take on a broader role — not only on the left side of the development timeline, writing test cases during sprint planning and testing software as it is coded, but also on the right, just before it is handed over to operations. Quality engineering will become increasingly responsible for analyzing the results of automated testing, assessing risk and determining release readiness.

Quality Extends Across the DevOps Pipeline

According to Platz, most teams focus automated test cases on unit testing. Regression, integration and end-to-end testing are equally critical in ensuring release readiness. “If you don’t do it, your software is going to hit production with bugs,” Platz said.

He shared a cautionary tale to illustrate the point. British Airways minimized testing’s role in the software development lifecycle after transitioning to DevOps, opting instead to test its new IT system only in production. A problem with the system resulted in five system crashes in 2016 and a sixth in May 2017, affecting flights around the world and grounding all planes out of London’s major airports, leaving passengers stuck inside terminal buildings as well as on planes. The failure also caused the British Airways website to crash, leaving travelers researching alternate arrangements in the dark.

To avoid a similar embarrassment, Platz said, “What we need to do is establish a staging area in between delivery at the end of CI/CD.” Most testing will still occur during the agile development process, but this quality gate will serve as a final check just before a release hits production. Ultimately, determining release readiness is a business decision. DevOps, and its requirement to extend continuous quality across the pipeline, will afford testers a wealth of opportunity to extend their skill-sets and their roles.

Didn’t make it to Accelerate? Visit the highlights page to watch recordings of selected sessions.

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