The testing leader, friend or foe...

Adam Auerbach, Co-Head of the Cloud and DevTestSecOps practice, Epam Systems
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Adam Auerbach, Co-Head of the Cloud and DevTestSecOps practice, Epam Systems

Adam Auerbach, Co-Head of the Cloud and DevTestSecOps practice, Epam Systems

We are in a technology revolution that is forcing companies to transform how they work and what they do, in order to stay current. Companies are doing this thru adopting agile practices, implementing DevOps, modernizing their platforms by changing the architecture and finding ways to move their infrastructure to the cloud. All of these changes require a new way of testing.  It is forcing testing to get more technical and ultimately needing to look more like developers, then business people. This is because they need to be able to keep pace with the changing landscape around them and understand more of the details in development then they had to before. Thus, the role of the Testing Leader is critical to the company, without the proper support and direction, nothing else is possible. If testing does not change first and support everyone else, it will be the emergency brake, bringing everything to a halt.

As with any transformation middle management’s support or resistance will determine if it is successful. More so in an Agile and DevOps transformation effort, because they can be misconstrued to devalue middle management. People will be moved to teams and thus the day-to-day tasks will be managed by someone else. The drive towards automation and self-service will create an inflection point.  Are they change agents and able to remove impediments for their teams and focus on flow and velocity?  Or do they hide behind walls like ‘security’ and ‘audit’ as a way to retain control and power?

  If testing does not change first and support everyone else, it will be the emergency brake, bringing everything to a halt​  

A middle manager, in general, who understands the direction of the company and can work well across their peers can help speed the process of an Agile and DevOps transformation.  They can be advocates for their team and at the same time be able to work with their counterparts to find ways to empower others and remove organizational bottlenecks.

With Testing Leaders, they need to be able to provide a direction to their team on how Agile, DevOps and the cloud will impact testing and provide a roadmap on how to embrace the new way of working. This new way of testing requires testers to be more technical and also its leaders. Everyone has to understand the architecture of the company’s applications. Leadership has to use their technical knowledge and the company’s direction to determine how the new modern ways of testing can be implemented and socialize it starting with leadership and down to front line testers.

Modern testing requires it to be integrated in the continuous integration pipeline. Therefore, the tools and approach for testing has to change. Moving to the cloud requires tests for elasticity and security, which might be different from the legacy ways of doing performance and security tests. To enable self-service and speed, testing needs to understand how the architecture works and how to build test harnesses which can be leveraged throughout the SDLC vs relying on End to End tests to validate code. To make these things happen as a leader, you have to be able to partner with Engineering, Architecture and Operations leaders. These conversations and cross department efforts will take time to identify and change, so they have to be flushed out quickest.

Once the strategy is in place and everyone is bought in, it will require changes across the team.  The testing leader will need to have a people strategy. Are you hiring new people, training existing, leveraging a vendor or some mix? Does your automation tooling have to change?  Do you have a framework that supports in-sprint automation by your testers, while the code is being developed? How do you get data in real time, which is integrated into your pipeline?  What about bottlenecks like dependent teams or systems? Do you have tools that support mocking? How do you integrate performance and security into this same pattern?  All of these things have to be thought through and part of the overall transformation approach, in order to be successful.

Middle management is the key to any organizational transformation.  Agile, DevOps and the Cloud change the way a company works across all levels. From a testing perspective, it becomes even more critical they understand the direction and how to get there vs just focusing on tactical items like increasing test automation. By not having that understanding, they are going to be a bottleneck.They are going to slow things down because they’re not focused on where the company is going. 

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