The State of Software Testing in the North West (UK)

At the first Ministry of Testing Manchester meetup of 2023 we decided to get a better handle on how local companies are testing. We felt that would give us plenty of insight to design meetups for the year, that are going to make a real difference to our community.

We broke the meetup into two halves. The first half focused on understanding how team are actually testing. The how. The second half of the meetup we focused on problems teams are facing.

This is not a comprehensive survey, we had forty attendees, but here are our summaries.

How are Teams Testing?

  1. Early Involvement

My first observation from the data is that testers are involved early on in the North West. Majority of attendees reported they are involved in sprint planning, story refinement and as early as possible.

  1. Dev / Tester Collaboration

We are seeing a lot of tester/developer pairing, and even better we are seeing whole team mobbings. Overall the vibe was very positive with regard to the tester/dev relationship.

  1. Manual Testing

There is still a lot of manual testing going on. Several attendees reported still having to write test cases. We had a few mentions of exploratory testing, but not enough IMO, when compared against the mentioned of manual testing.

  1. UAT isn’t dead

It might be the domains I’ve worked in, but I haven’t really heard the term User Acceptance Testing (UAT) much in recent years, but it came up several times during the night.

  1. Automated Testing

Lots of attendees mentioned utilizing automated testing, however very few were satisfied with their automation efforts. Many wanted time to do more.

  1. Unit Testing

Was great to hear lots of unit testing being done by developers. That micro focus can be very valuable to an overall strategy.

  1. Pipelines

The approach to pipelines was very divided, some attendees taking about releasing daily. Others stating their pipelines are in their infancy.

  1. Whole Team Testing

It was great to see a number of attendees report that the whole team tests at their companies. It’s often viewed as the holy grail, so it’s great to hear some teams in the North West are already achieving this.

Problems Teams are Facing

We provided five categories for attendees to categorize their problems.

Technology, Process, Hiring, Management and Training.

Technology

  1. Test Data. Several attendees reported that Test Data is still a big problem for them.
  2. Understanding technology. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that teams are finding it tough to keep up. Several would like to see better training/onboarding for new tech.
  3. Legacy Systems. Legacy systems are born every day, however, several attendees reported being unable to progress their testing approach due to age of existing technology.
  4. Interestingly several attendees reported struggling to understand why specific technology is being used at all.

Process

  1. Too many meetings! Several attendees have complaints about the number of meetings/ceremonies they have to attend and little value they are getting out of them.
  2. Change! Last minute changes and reprioritisation are proving a real problem for people.
  3. Several attendees reported struggling switching between different process depending on the client or team.
  4. There were also lots of reports regarding team members not following processes, which caused trouble overall.
  5. My final one I spotted was: ‘Over the fence mentality’. Given how positively collaborations was discussed in section 1, I was surprised to read this. We need to stamp this out.

Hiring

  1. Lot of problem reporting regarding the interview process. It reads to me like a lot of companies have an interview process for the company as a whole and not one that is adaptive to the role being hired for.
  2. How to assess a tester’s skills is clearly a problem, from soft skills to hard/technical skills.
  3. Finding that unicorn. Several attendees reporting that they are struggling to find the unicorns their companies are hoping for.
  4. Onboarding. You’ve won, you manage to find that unicorn, but how do you onboard them? Seems to be an area teams are struggling with.
  5. Another aspect that was mentioned several times was RTTO. Which I learnt stood for Return to the Office. It seems this is becoming a difficult aspect regarding hiring, and imagine also retraining staff.

Management

  1. Communication, communication, communication. That’s all people said, but I’m not surprised to read this. Communication is tough, and often poor between management.
  2. Death by KPIs. KPIs and metrics are important, but some companies take them too far.
  3. One that tickled me was: ‘Senior management mandating excessive documentation (they don’t read)’. Don’t do this, if you aren’t reading it, it isn’t needed. Free their time.
  4. Leadership, and a lack of it. Management, and their lack of real world experience. And what the hell is the difference anyhow? Clearly an avenue for a focus here.

Training

  1. Time! Not given enough time for education.
  2. Cost and ROI. How can I justify the cost of some training, but then also show it’s value?
  3. Outdated material. Whether it’s internal training or external, keeping them up to date appears to be a problem our industry is facing. Not surprising to me given the sheer pace our industry moves at.
  4. Mentorship. Several attendees mentioned being unable to find a mentor.

The raw data from all the post-it notes created is available here.

I’m looking forward to discussing this information with the Ministry of Testing Manchester team, and hope to provide value on some of these topics over our remaining meetups of 2023.

If you believe you can provide value on any of the topics above, please share you comments below. Are you aware of any resources that can help with these points, also please share them.

Thanks in advance for doing that.

12 Likes

Hi Richard,

Thank you for capturing this and sharing. It’s a range of good well-known topics :slight_smile: - I reckon they are relevant to folks outside the Manchester IT space.

On the resources side any book from IT-revolution: Make Work Visible, The DevOps Handbook, Accelerate, Team Topologies have my immediate recommendation. Perhaps have a MoT bookclub/library in the UK NW to make it local.

/Jesper

4 Likes

Thanks for summarising and sharing, @friendlytester.

What a super productive meet-up. And great to get this level of insight.

This topic thread is an excellent oracle for sparking future topic discussions on this here The Club. :ninja_navy:

3 Likes

Interesting insights, especially how relatable they are to someone in another part of the continent! :smiley: I’ve only noticed the UAT phase is present in large enterprises that are just getting into adopting Agile and these things take time, other than that it’s fairly still common in Fintech (I guess it could be in other highly regulated domains), especially in banking-related products.