5 Things Testers Wish Their CIOs Knew About Software Testing and Quality

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Read more about author Marcus Merrell.

Let’s start with the good news: Today more than ever, CIOs understand the importance of quality and the value of both software testing and testers. They understand consumer expectations have evolved to a point where users expect web, mobile, and gaming applications to look, function, and perform flawlessly on every browser, OS, and device, every single time – and they understand that can only happen through rigorous testing. 

That in and of itself is a great start and represents considerable progress from where we were just a few short years ago. But while most CIOs have come to understand that automated testing is critical to releasing high-quality software with both speed and confidence, a gap often still exists between C-level perceptions of how testing should work and the role it plays, and the daily realities experienced by testing practitioners and QA professionals. 

With that in mind, let’s examine five critical things testers wish their CIOs knew about software testing and quality. 

1. Achieving 100 percent test automation is not possible (and wouldn’t be a good idea even if it was)

The purpose of test automation never has been and never should be to achieve 100 percent coverage. For starters, it’s not always possible, as some code is simply too difficult to cover through automation. More importantly, though, it’s just not necessary. The reality is that some code just isn’t important enough to warrant automation. Not every single component of your application is critical to the user experience. Not every piece of functionality is critical to driving revenue. Instead of trying to cover everything (which your testers will never have time to do anyway), focus on a risk-based approach through which you provide coverage for the most important, highest-value components of the software.  

2. Test automation is not meant to replace humans 

It’s easy to understand how leaders arrive at the misconception that the more test automation you have, the fewer testers you need. But make no mistake: That is indeed a misconception. Automation doesn’t replace testers. Automation frees testers to go beyond pure application functionality and instead focus on ensuring that the flow and overall user experience are intuitive and in line with your customers’ always changing expectations. Think of it this way: Automation can help you determine if your software works, but only testers can help you ensure that your customers will actually like using it. 

3. The role of a tester is not to search for bugs 

Yes, bugs are bad, and bugs are costly, and we testers want to rid them from our software every bit as much as you do. But, ultimately, the role of a tester isn’t to find bugs any more than the role of automation is to replace humans. The role of a tester is to model and advocate for a great user experience. Does that include, to some extent, finding bugs and ensuring they don’t make it to production? Of course. But just because software is bug-free doesn’t mean it’s user-friendly. Just because it is bug-free doesn’t mean the experience of using it is flawless. That’s what your testers should be focused on – ensuring that your customers are treated to a seamless, intuitive experience that keeps them coming back. 

4. Selenium is not a strategy 

Let’s be clear: Selenium is a terrific resource for testers, and it has a place in a holistic testing strategy. But it cannot be the entirety of that strategy. A truly comprehensive testing strategy spans unit tests, API tests, integration tests, performance and visual tests, and even error monitoring in production. More and more it includes newer test frameworks such as Cypress, Playwright, and TestCafe. Selenium solves a great number of challenges, but a modern testing strategy ensures quality throughout the entire software development lifecycle. Selenium alone can’t do that. It’s time to augment.

5. Understanding our business is our business 

If your testers are still off in some far corner searching for bugs without any understanding of your business or its customers, well, you’re doing it wrong. For testers, understanding our customers and our business is as much a part of our job as understanding how to code. We need to know what drives our customers – what they like, what they dislike, what drives them to our software, and what keeps them coming back. And we need to know everything about our business – what drives revenue and growth, what drives customer retention, and how we stack up against competitors. We need to be in product meetings. We need to be in customer success meetings. We need to understand our go-to-market strategy and motion. Understanding the business is our business. 

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