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Among all the headlines generated by major tech layoffs, there has been relatively little discussion on where these redundancies are landing or what it means for the people left behind.
Yet, when we consider that more than a quarter of a million tech workers have been laid off worldwide since January 2022, it's apparent that there will be a major evolution in how tech teams operate within companies.
The Trends Shaping Testing's Future
Nowhere is this more apparent than in testing. This might surprise those who have often seen testing as the poor cousin, not just of software development, but of the entire tech organization. Why would something often so poorly valued be undergoing such a shift?
To answer that, three trends need to be considered:
The readjustment of testing teams: as highlighted, headcount is already dropping, and testing is no different. Testing teams are going to be resized to reflect this new readjusted reality.
The increase in testing automation: as with any reduction in headcount, there is always the question of how the work will be completed. Whereas in the tech recession of the dot com bubble or the global crash post-2008, the answer was for fewer people to do the same amount of work - this time is different. The availability of effective automation and no/low-code tools means that smaller teams can effectively carry out the same amount of work. What's more, they can do it better.
Evolving testing personas: linked to this readjustment is a reassessment of the types of personas needed in a testing team. Historically, highly technical tools have required highly technical specialists to handle them. With the introduction of automation and low/no-code, this means that tester roles are evolving. We still need quality assurance (QA) and testing teams, but they can focus more on checking and managing multiple tests rather than spending time on low-value testing.
And that's part of the challenge with testing. A lot of what testing teams get stuck doing is seen as low-value work, either through coverage regression or smoke testing, smashing buttons to see if a piece of software breaks. Plus, it's always seen as a task at the end of the development lifecycle, just before products are shipped.
The Problems with Testing
This creates a bottleneck as teams struggle to test effectively manually. They're then stuck between shipping something with bugs, diminishing any perceived quality in the testing process, or holding up the time-to-market.
And this is a problem that worsens as development speeds accelerate.
At the same time, testing teams are beginning to realize that they need to demonstrate a return on investment. These new tools are helping them to do that, capturing data on quality and speed to show the wider organization the benefits QA and testing can bring.
An Opportunity to Add Value
So, while it may seem odd to say so in the context of headcount reduction, it could well be that cutting the size of testing teams will lead to an overall boost in the perception of testing.
That's if companies invest in the right automation and low/no-code tools and don't cut their testing teams to the bones. It's important to reiterate that testers are still required — we've seen in the past when people have assumed that automating processes is all that's needed. But when those processes veer off course, all that happens is the wrong things are tested, and no one is around to redirect them.
How Humans and Automation Can Join Forces
What's needed is human-in-the-loop, combining knowledge QA and testing professionals with tools that can do most of the low-value work. Part of the role of the team can be overseeing multiple tests and rapidly scaling how many tests can be run at any one time while ensuring that quality remains high.
But that's just one part of what these teams could do, and there are swathes of potential to be unlocked. With this extra capacity, they could be involved earlier in the design and development process. So, rather than products reaching testing already full of bugs, QA teams could be part of the early stages of the lifecycle and help catch problems before they become embedded into the app or service.
This would mean less time spent fixing issues later on and also reduce the time needed for testing, helping accelerate testing speeds.
From Low-Value to Critical Process
It is never good when someone loses a job, and the scale of job cuts we've seen over the last fourteen months is particularly worrying. Yet there is an opportunity— a silver lining, if you like, as testing teams become more focused. There is a chance for testing to demonstrate its value to organizations. In doing so, testers can move away from the low-value testing of the past and towards an environment where it is rightly seen as a critical part of the entire development process and, therefore, intrinsic to organizational success.