Why We’ll Always Need Software Testers

Are you familiar with the Modern Testing Principles, created by Alan Page and Brent Jensen? I first heard of the principles about a year ago, and I was really excited about the ideas they contained. But I was uncomfortable with Principle #7, which is “We expand testing abilities and knowhow across the team; understanding that this may reduce (or eliminate) the need for a dedicated testing specialist.” Eliminating a testing specialist? This seemed wrong to me! I thought about it over several months and realized that yes, it’s possible for a team to develop such a good testing mindset and skillset that a dedicated testing expert wouldn’t be needed. But don’t hang up your QA hat just yet! Here are three reasons we will always need software testers.

Reason One: Teams Change

Did you hear about the software team that was so good that it never changed personnel? Nope, neither did I. Life brings about changes, and even a perfect team doesn’t last forever. A member could retire, take another job, or be moved to another team. New members could join the team. I’ve heard that every time a team changes even by one person, that team is brand new. This means that there will be new opportunities to coach the team to build in quality.

Even if the team members don’t change, there can be changes that are challenging for a team, such as a new technical problem to solve, a big push towards a deadline, or a sudden increase in the number of end users. All of these changes might result in new testing strategies, which means the team will need a software tester’s expertise.

Reason Two: Times Change

When I started my first software testing job, I had never heard of the Agile model of software development. But soon it became common knowledge, and now practically no one is using the old Waterfall model. Similarly, there was a time when I didn’t know what CI/CD was, and now it’s a goal for most teams. There are pushes to shift testing to the left (unit and integration tests running against a development build), and to shift testing to the right (testing in production).

Some of these practices may prove to be long-lasting, and some will be replaced by new ideas. Whenever a new idea emerges, new ways of thinking and behaving are necessary. Software testing experts will be needed to determine the best ways to adapt to these new strategies.

Reason Three: Tech Changes

Remember when Perl was a popular scripting language? Or when Pascal was the language of choice? The tools and languages that are in use today won’t be in use forever. Someone will come along and create a newer, more efficient tool or language that will replace the previous one. For example, Cypress recently emerged as an alternative to Selenium Webdriver, which has been the tool of choice for years. And companies are frequently moving toward cloud providers such as AWS or Azure Web Services to reduce the processing load on their servers.

When a team adopts a new technology, there will always be some uncertainty. As a feature is developed, there may be changes made to the configuration or coding strategy, so it may be unclear at first how to design test automation. It can take a team a while to adapt and learn what’s best. A testing expert will be very valuable in this situation.

Change happens, and teams must adapt to change, so it is helpful to have a team member who understands the best way to write a test plan, conduct exploratory testing, or evaluate risk. So don’t go looking for a software development job! Your testing expertise is still needed.

3 thoughts on “Why We’ll Always Need Software Testers

  1. Doron

    Also, we need at least one tester that sees the system as a whole (unlike each of the teams). We also need a quality advocate, that is not a programmer, regardless of the points you raised.
    But I’ll take it to a more general point of view.
    You didn’t ask: Will we always need software testers? – If you did, I would answer: Depends on the public demand for quality. LinkedIn is doing well without (much) quality, so testers are not needed. And it is not only LinkedIn.
    Note: There is an interesting Google Talk video about it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1jWe5rOu3g&t=569s).

    1. kristinjackvony Post author

      Thanks for your comments and the video link, Doron! I agree that how many testers and quality experts are needed depends on whether the public wants quality in their software. And I think some people are willing to tolerate buggy software if they aren’t paying for it, or if there’s no risk to them. But now that crucial activities such as banking, health care, and education are being moved online, the public will demand high quality and security.

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