Demystifying Testing

What keeps you up at night?

For some it might be gloomy economic news or worrying if you can make next month’s payroll. It could be anxiety about flat or declining sales, or finding and keeping the right talent. For others it could be stress about a recent expansion, or the pressures from increased competition or cheap imports. Much of what stresses us is simply a feature of the familiar day-to-day dynamics of running a business.

We live in a brave new world dominated by software technology. It has made our businesses more competitive, more efficient and more productive. It has also made our businesses more vulnerable. A software failure could suddenly shut down your company, or cost overruns for a new automated systems upgrade could come in six months late and millions of dollars over estimate and no one knows if it will actually ever work. A completely unexpected product fail could put your company’s brand in the bull’s-eye of a nuclear-strike online campaign by an angry and frustrated customer who feels cheated. You might be uncertain about the security of the customer data stored in your company files or wonder if your products are a target for ransomware, hacking or cyber extortion.

Businesses are more vulnerable today than ever before and in ways most of us cannot even imagine. Are we prepared? Experts say no. The world runs on software, which means that many of the threats that will face our businesses haven’t even been invented yet.

It has been said – and it’s probably true – that the only thing standing between your business and a massive digital security breach is incentive. If hackers want to sabotage your product via a software attack, they will find a way in, and investing in the technology equivalents of higher walls or better locks will not help. In fact, it might actually contribute to harm by exposing unexplored or hidden vulnerabilities – that might be hidden from you as much as from criminals. Investing in protocols you are convinced will protect your system (when criminals know it won’t) can create false confidence and complacency.

 

“What gets us into trouble,” wrote Mark Twain, “it is not what we don’t know but rather what we know for certain that just ain’t so.”

 

 

 

From rather humble and modest beginnings, software testing has emerged as a critical but uniquely creative and intuitive profession that does not – and increasingly will no longer – resemble anything like what we know today as conventional testing. It’s out of the box. It is its own brave new world within the broader innovative technology industry. Software will do more in the years ahead for a simple reason: it will have to do more because we will expect more from our software. Testing will have to be increasingly creative and able to think around corners (to be intuitive) in order to ensure that software technology can do more.

At the moment, the information technology sector resembles a lawless frontier where might makes right. This isn’t how it should be and we can – and we must – do better. After all, the digital innovation we are investing in depends on it.

This series is about that new frontier of software technology and the role of testing on that frontier. And that means it is also about you and your business. After all, it’s your business on the firing line. When software fails, it’s your business in the crosshairs.

Along the way these conversations will digress down paths that don’t seem connected directly to software testing. The connection is there but it might not always be obvious, just as developments in software technology don’t always follow a direct line from A to B.

While none of us knows what’s around the next innovative technology corner, more than likely it will not be what we expect.

(It will probably be even better, and it will always be exciting.)

It’s also cause for caution and even concern. Exploring technology unknowns creates huge margins for error and it is not always clear if the pace is sustainable. How fast is too fast? How do we know all this innovation will work? What is our template? Whom can we trust?

Innovation, of course, does not operate within a vacuum. Every new “thing” stands on the shoulders of its own past. The same is true of processes and procedures. How something was done in the past cannot be the protocol for how it will be done in the future. Software testing is and will become ever more creative and intuitive as it continues to learn from its past and innovates in response to new challenges. It will evolve to meet new and unexpected demands and obligations. It has to; the stakes are simply too high to conform to narrow or defined methodological orthodoxies.

Our goal is to see our profession move toward lasting partnerships more than services provided. We are in the software reassurance business and we hope this series will help you worry less about your software and sleep better at night.

You have enough to worry about already. Do you really want to worry about your software, too?

The next blog post will take a more exploratory look at the role of testing. We are less concerned with the how of testing than the why. What intrigues us is the question of consequences. What does all this software innovation mean for us, for business, and for society? If software is so revolutionary, why does so much of it fail?

Please reach out to me by email (arodov at qaconsultants.com) or via LinkedIn.

 

Alex Rodov is the Managing Partner at QA Consultants.