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Finding testers in times of shortages

Published: 3 Oct 2022

Richard Mort, a senior consultant at Eurofins Digital Testing, an independent company for quality assurance, testing and cyber security for software systems and devices, explores the challenges faced by the testing industry, and suggests key approaches to ensure organisations’ quality assurance remains a constant capability alongside software development

The appetite for companies to increase test capability by introducing new blood shows no sign of diminishing. The software testing market size exceeded $40bn in 2020 and is estimated to grow at over 7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2021-2027. This growth is underpinned by several key factors.

  • The growing technological developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • The rise in home working creating a high-growth need for AI-based test automation for remote applications.
  • The expansion of digitalisation in Asia, where software testing is set to grow from a 20% global revenue share to 28.5% by 2027.The growing rate of IoT usage, estimated to accelerate well past the 25 billion connected things in use by the end of 2021 statistic.

The ability to hire test specialists is proving ever more difficult, with everyone fishing in the same shrinking resource pond. Exacerbating the problem, many testers are reaching the end of their careers; these are key people with many years of experience, and are difficult to replace.

Resource challenges are having an impact on ongoing digital transformation programmes. Technology recruitment firm, Harvey Nash, stated within a 2021 poll that 67% of IT managers polled said a lack of skilled staff had slowed their digital transformation programmes.

Grow your own testing teams

Many companies are put off undertaking internal apprentice and graduate training schemes because of the perceived set-up costs, the expertise required to build and run such programmes, and the ongoing pastoral care required. However, the alternative is typically to increase the use of third party contractors. This provides a quick fix but inevitably leads to higher costs, and a loss of valuable systems knowledge when they depart – in other words, a false economy.

A variety of companies provide the necessary learning structure, tailored technical and soft-skill programmes, and ongoing management and mentorship to accelerate the creation of new highly-skilled, motivated and certified testing teams. These schemes are typically run off-site in classroom conditions and also at the client’s coal face, ensuring full exposure to the client’s technical and business environments and encouraging the capability to network with other key IT and business representatives.

This is a highly competitive market so the cost of undertaking such a third-party scheme could be very attractive.

Take a leap of faith with junior testers

It is a common misconception among employers that they need to hire the most experienced software testing engineers. The truth is, the world of software development is constantly evolving, and what was relevant in software a decade ago is completely obsolete now. There is also a view that testers require experience in specific toolsets in order to be immediately effective. However, the majority of testers with a base knowledge of tools can pick up other tools rapidly.

“The ability to hire test specialists is proving evermore difficult, with everyone fishing in the same shrinking resource pond”

Richard Mort, Senior Consultant at Eurofins Digital Testing

There is great potential in deploying testers with less experience in roles perceived as requiring ‘heavy hitters’. It takes a leap of faith to undertake this, but the results can be hugely beneficial for both the individual and the company involved. The key focus for recruiters may be to find test engineers who have the ability to learn and rapidly apply new skills, rather than constantly searching for the ‘unicorn.’

Consider managed services offshore

Offshore as a managed service test resourcing alternative has been around for decades and  does dip into the same global resource pool as everyone else. However, it’s time to stop thinking in terms of vast offices, housing scores of manual testers blasting away at hundreds of manual test scripts – those days are coming to an end.

The key objective now is to automate everything. Companies have invested in training highly-skilled test automation engineers, working offsite, who use both commercial and open-source toolsets to undertake all testing required. This approach reduces the need for large manual testing teams, switching the focus to technical test capability – less really does mean more.

Many companies are still reticent about using offsite managed services, claiming their systems are too complex, and industry knowledge is required. However, managed service-based companies focusing on testing are experienced in taking on such systems and deploying highly effective knowledge acquisition and proven landing programmes. Thus, in the majority of cases, these concerns do not hold water.  

Recognise the value of software development engineers

Testing is changing, thanks to the ever-expanding set of open-source toolsets and their ability to dovetail into each other, together with true machine learning and the rise of the software development engineer in test (SDET). These SDETs are even more difficult to recruit, but a handful of companies have recognised this. They have developed new services that not only combat the current skill shortage by providing highly efficient and effective managed services but also provide 100% test automation that can be delivered within days of service initiation. To define, deploy and run these services, requires a different mindset and set of capabilities.

IoT – A resourcing headache for the future or for now?

By 2025 forecasters predict the IoT industry will hit between $1tn-$3tn in revenue, due to a shift from standard connectivity to IoT-driven applications, platforms and services.

IoT brings a lot of new challenges requiring a testing capability that incorporates functional, network/connectivity, interoperability, security, device, spatial, performance and behavioural plus many other factors.

From a resourcing perspective, IoT will add to the headache, with the need for greater technical capability within the testing workforce combined with skills that organisations had not required before, such as device and mobile testing. In the short term, this means using third parties who have built up their own skill base to provide IoT quality assurance services although not many can offer a complete one-stop solution. Organisations therefore need to consider their future IoT needs now and better understand the skills that will be needed.

Summary 

International Testers Day on 9 September gave us the opportunity to reflect on the true value of quality assurance for those who work within the testing industry. The ongoing resourcing challenge is a big headache, but a little thinking outside the box may provide the answer.

All of the solutions require a leap of faith; some require the confidence to deploy less-experienced testers, while others focus on utilising highly-skilled and experienced third parties, who can transform an organisation’s quality assurance capability while at the same time removing the resourcing challenge.

Read about training opportunities and resources at the CQI