Theresa Lanowitz Talks Extreme Test Automation at STAREAST 2014
Hundreds of people sat in on Theresa Lanowitz's STAREAST keynote Extreme Automation: Software Quality for the Next Generation Enterprise. Lanowitz is the founder of voke inc., a software industry analyst firm. Her keynote covered the global trends in testing, emerging technologies, and (of course) extreme automation.
Lanowitz started by covering how important it is for software to work anywhere. People's expectations are high when it comes to software always working just how it's supposed to, and there is little tolerance for errors. Defects that get to the customer can break a company, even if it's not strictly a software company—today, every industry relies on software.
A self-described optimist, Lanowitz put a positive spin on what's universally been considered a failure: healthcare.gov. She said that disaster of a website actually gave software testers the greatest gift ever: global recognition. After the rollout of healthcare.gov, everyone was talking about software and the need to test it—even the president of the United States. Today, Lanowitz says, people understand what software testers are and what they do, and everyone has an opinion on it.
One big reason for software failures, Lanowitz said, has to do with the line of business. Her firm did some research and found that 59 percent of software organizations said they had no involvement at the business level. That can lead to misunderstandings about expectations for what the finished, working software should be like. The business relationship, she said, should begin with testers.
Once you understand the business goals of the product, testers have to find the best techniques to deliver that product. Here's where extreme automation comes in. Extreme automation, Lanowitz said, is not just about automating performance—it's automation throughout the entire lifecycle to prevent defects from going into production. We have to deliver on more devices than ever before, so automation can help with the workload and with the quality. Extreme automation is about more than just testing functional requirements, too; it's about testing nonfunctional requirements for security and quality as well.
Lanowitz said she found that only 42 percent of organizations she surveyed do automated performance testing. She has heard the excuses against automation: it's expensive, it takes too much training, it doesn't make that much difference to quality. It does make a difference, she said, and cost and training are no longer barriers. Today, extreme automation is not an option; it's essential.
So, how do you get to extreme automation? It comes down to people, process, and technology. On the people side, you need to build relationships with coworkers on your team, professional service providers, vendors, and above the line of business. From the process perspective, select projects you know will be successful. Start small and then expand, and figure out if a center of excellence would be right for your organization. The final piece of the puzzle is technology, which ensures that you can deliver high-quality software on time.
Testers, Lanowitz said, are the ultimate customer advocates and brand protectors. It's up to you to make sure the work you're doing is the best it can be. And if there's room for improvement, it's your responsibility to find the tool or process to make that happen.