The growth of Software Testing as an industry over the last 20 years is a clear indication of the importance that large and small businesses place on having workable, easy to use software. It is no coincidence that this growth has accelerated as we now use software in everything we do – surfing the internet, in our cars, on our tablets and mobile devices, even typing this blog! So we, as users, should know what good looks like, and what bad looks like…..
We have all had moments when a programme crashes mid-use, data goes missing or when you’re trying to book a holiday and the web site illogically asks you to re-enter all your details again! So, by using these programmes - does this make you a software tester?
Being a software tester is like being a food critic really – I, personally, have no idea how to make a chocolate soufflé or a fricassee of mung beans and samphire, but I do know whether or not I like the taste. However, food critics have an advanced knowledge of food combinations, an objective and consistent opinion and tend to advocate high quality food. Software Testers are similar – they may not necessarily know how to develop the next Windows or Mac operating system but they will definitely know whether it’s good or not, and their opinion in the market place affects the view of whether it is a successful and popular product or not. It can make or break a version, product or even a company.
However, even software testing skills are changing. Testers are becoming even more highly skilled and are bridging the gap between development and testing by learning coding techniques. This allows for more automated testing and makes the testing even more efficient and effective. With software becoming ever more sophisticated, the number of test scenarios that can arise from a seemingly simple piece of functionality can be mind boggling and reach the millions - it would take a human tester years to cover every scenario, and even a risk based approach would eat resource and not cover every possible outcome. As a consequence the work of software testers is becoming much more about using clever programmes and a variety of tools to cover as much ground as possible.
We know that we can never test every possible variable - it’s impossible, why else do Microsoft and Apple need updates? Things change and change needs testing. We can however, reduce risk – recent high profile cases in the press like Amazon, highlight the fact that even the slightest mistake can cost a company millions. Data is now one of the main currencies in the world and the Data Protection Act and privacy laws mean that breaches caused by software errors are treated with the highest level of severity and mistakes are not tolerated. Cloud computing, multiple access points and internet forums are all threats to a company’s reputation and balance sheet.
So back to the question – why do we need software testing? The answer is to reduce the risk of external failure. Internal failure such as a defect is fine as we can fix it and deal with it, however if software has an external failure then the world knows and it’s too late. Testers are a different breed, some say pedantic (and they are right) but without them who will check that a button on a website does what it should do and that it doesn’t do what it shouldn’t to the nth degree?
Here at TDX Group we strive to ensure that all our software is tested following industry best practice, the tools we use are cutting edge and the testers we hire are multi-skilled. We reduce risk and think of our customers – they don’t want 300 buttons when one will do! And we will continue to do so because we build our reputation on quality. We strive to reach the impossible goal and dream of the day we can say – you know what? We have managed to test everything. So next time you use a website and you click the submit button think of how much data has been validated, stored, organised, processed and actioned to get that button to work. And of the thousands of tests that will have checked that your date of birth entered is valid and correct, your password and username combination satisfies the criteria and everything just works – that’s because we checked it all.
By Paul Sibley, Software Testing Manager, TDX Group