Is not enough investment in the right skills limiting the velocity of agile delivery?

Organisations adopting Dev-Ops need to train staff not just for development, but for a new approach to software testing. This is according to recommendations from Lee Cheetham, development manager at IT services firm Spargonet.

While traditional quality assurance roles rely heavily on fixed 'black-box' testing, with the focus is on testing an end-to-end process in static test environments, the move to cloud-based environments has rendered this approach inefffective.

The enterprise needs to apply a white-box approach to testing using integrated testing frameworks and automated deployment methods. Cheetham argues that without these improvements the temptation for teams to release updates to users without adequate testing in order to hit frequent delivery timescales, often leaving the end user to act as the tester.

> See also: How DevOps is demanding a whole new approach to cloud

'In order to achieve ‘true’ agile development and delivery, testing must be automated,' says Cheetham. 'This requires a new set of skills from the quality assurance team, in particular coding the scripts using tools such as Mocha, Jasmine, and Selenium, leading to a much faster and repeatable testing process.'

'Similarly, there is a lead-on requirement from IT operations to improve the support for development and QA by setting up and configuring those automated test environments. Without this crucial step, projects never really run at 100% Agile.'

The test automation engineer, says Cheetham, is critical in facilitating a scalable and trusted environment designed to continually deliver software in an automated way.

Cheetham claims that it is seeing increased popularity among development teams – whether that’s an end user business developing in-house or a technology vendor. Test automation bridges the gap between the development team, QA, and IT operations, rather than having them operate in traditional silo model.

Cheetham argues that this role allows each department to become better at supporting each other, by leveraging a new set of technical skills for QA, and IT operations.

> See also: What DevOps can do for your business

He commented: 'Agile development and Devops have historically been the reserve of smaller organisations with the flexibility and supporting business model to adopt them.'

But it has been demonstrated to work in large development houses. The likes of Google, flickr, Netflix and Facebook are demonstrating their successes, ensuring that they are able to regularly provide consumers with the latest developments on regular timescales – even several times daily.

'However, quicker delivery cycles must not mean that quality is scrimped on, so investment must come in both the additional automation role and re-shaping the role of the QA manager into a more development focused role, and IT operations into a much more ‘software development sympathetic’ team,' says Cheetham.

'Simply, the close relationships between departments required by Devops in order to meet the tight deadlines for continuous delivery mean that a new role needs to be added and the traditional roles need to change and skills gaps need plugging with investment – whether that’s an outside source working alongside QA, or with training and qualifications.'

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...