This editorial was originally published on Jul 31, 2013. It is being re-run as Steve is out of the office.
Throughout most of my career, people have complained that software is never tested enough, not tested well, and certainly not enough time is allocated in project plans. I’d also argue that all too often we don’t have people building software with experience in how to perform extensive testing. Most developers only have a rudimentary knowledge of software testing and that part of their skill set doesn’t receive constant training. However I’ve found plenty of QA people that were in the same situation. Some educate themselves and learn how to test better, but many go through the motions. They don’t take pride in their role as a software tester.
There have been lots of advances in automated testing and TDD methodologies over the years, which means that developers have been taking more of the responsibility, and effort, for testing code. It’s hard to know if this has resulted in higher quality code, lower quality, or a mix. Overall I think that the latter is likely. Code quality is all over the board, probably based more on the skill and talent of the individual developer than on any process.
That’s good for the companies that have hired strong developers, but not so great for our industry as a whole. We still produce lots of software that takes too long to develope, costs too much, and often has too many bugs. Overall we are sloppy and inconsistent in how we build software. Some of that is the nature of our business, one with such a low bar of entry that anyone can give software development a try.
I don’t know how we improve the quality of software, though I do think continuing to educate and train people on what works well is a good start. However I also think that we still need QA groups. We need people that will use software in ways that automated tests won’t. People that will press buttons, enter values, and push software in ways that developers would never consider using it. Most of all, we need QA and testing to be treated as a valuable part of our industry. We need QA people that view testing as a valid career path, not a stepping stone for junior developers that look to move on as soon as possible.