Is Shifting Left Forcing Developers to Become Testers?
Even if it’s the testers who are asked to make some of the biggest changes when it comes to the concept of shifting left, they’re rarely the ones who are calling the shots. When it comes to testing earlier and more often during a project, it’s management making the big decisions.
And because of that, the way software is being tested is often at odds with everyone’s major goal—to increase quality. Management can read every article and listen to every web seminar detailing how testing should be done, but without real input from the people doing the testing, the results are rarely good.
Angie Jones, a consulting automation engineer, recently spoke to StickyMinds about the many issues associated with management-decreed changes to testing and development. Even if shifting left is a smart direction for most modern software teams, what that often leads to is the misuse of talent and overall confusion.
“Management’s idea of shifting left is usually having developers do all the testing themselves, or possibly have testers become automation engineers instead,” Jones said. “They don’t believe they need testers as defined in the traditional sense because what they know to do happens on the right, and we’re not doing much of that anymore. They are correct in the notion that testing is more effective when it’s shifted left, but I believe they are misguided on how to truly achieve that.”
So while we always discuss how testers are being forced into new roles because of agile, DevOps, and shift left, it’s also true that developers are being asked to do things they’re uncomfortable with—like testing. People are being asked to change roles on the fly, but the reality is, the developers and testers already have the skills they need to thrive in these new environments.
“From management’s point of view, they’d like testing done earlier, faster, and much more frequently. Their solution to this is to automate the tests. To do that, they need programmers,” Jones continued. “This much is true; however, it’s dangerous to assume that is all you need for testing. Automated scripts are checking known paths for expected results. That’s not truly testing. Testers discover the unknown, and this skill is still very much so needed, whether there’s automation or not. Without human intuitive exploration, a team may be blind to their most expensive bugs.”
Developers have the skills required (without transforming into testers) to succeed in a world where testing is shifted left. And testers don’t need to pick up a handful of new skills to survive, they just need to test earlier in the lifecycle. It can be difficult to make your voice heard, but developers and testers can’t let management sacrifice quality by dictating how you shift your testing left.