Live Blog: Extreme Automation: Software Quality for the Next Generation Enterprise, Theresa Lanowitz, STAREAST 2014

Beth Romanik's picture

Hundreds of people sat in on the first keynote on May 8, Extreme Automation: Software Quality for the Next Generation Enterprise, with Theresa Lanowitz. She is the founder of voke inc., a software industry analyst firm.

Lanowitz's presentation covered the global trends in testing, emerging technologies, and (of course) extreme automation.

She started by covering how important it is for software to work anywhere. People's expectations nowadays are high when it comes to software always working just how it's supposed to, and there is little tolerance for errors. Defects that get to the customer can break a company, even if it's not strictly a software company—today, every industry relies on software. Standard & Poor's is taking notice, and Lanowitz said the agency has starting warning large companies that regularly let defects get to production that their credit ratings would be lowered if that continues.

A self-described optimist, Lanowitz put a positive spin on what's universally been considered a failure: She said that disaster of a website actually gave software testers the greatest gift ever: global recognition. Before October 2013, you could be at a party and tell people you're a tester, and no one would care. After the rollout of, everyone was talking about software and the need to test it—even the president of the United States. Today, Lanowitz says, people understand what software testers are and what they do, and everyone has an opinion on it.

One big reason behind software failures, Lanowitz said, has to do with the line of business. Her firm did some research and found that 59 percent of software organizations said they had no involvement at the business level. That can lead to misunderstandings about expectations for what the finished, working software should be like. The business relationship, she said, should begin with testers—the ultimate customer advocates.

It may not be easy to start thinking in a business mindset, especially if it's not something your organization has historically done at the testing level, Lanowitz said. She suggested testers go out and do their own public relations work—let your company know the high value of a strong business relationship.

Once you understand the business goals of the product, testers have to find the best techniques to deliver that product. Here's where extreme automation comes in. Extreme automation, Lanowitz said, is not just about automating performance—it's automation throughout the entire lifecycle to prevent defects from going into production. We have to deliver on more devices than ever before, so automation can help with the workload and with the quality. Extreme automation is about more than just testing functional requirements, too; it's about testing nonfunctional requirements for security and quality as well.

Lanowitz said she found that only 42 percent of organizations she surveyed do automated performance testing. She has heard the excuses against automation: that it's expensive, that it takes too much training, that it doesn't make that much difference to quality. It does make a difference, she said, and cost and training are no longer barriers. Today, extreme automation is not an option; it's essential.

Lifecycle virtualization can help remove constraints to testing. Lifecycle virtualization is the next step in the virtualization push and includes service virtualization and virtual lab management. Virtualization on the preproduction side can help testers reach all the areas they need to in order to do a quality job. Most testers have to wait to access their labs, and then once they're in, they have time restrictions and are rushed through their testing. Virtualization provdes greater availability of services, components, and devices that testers need, and testers who use service virtualization found their application lifecycles and time to market improved.

Testing needs are getting more complex. There are so many servers, platforms, and devices to consider now, especially because mobile has become crucially important. Embracing extreme automation means getting ready to be a next-generation enterprise. You want to automate functional and nonfunctional requirements so there is very little manual activity across the lifecycle, which reduces the likelihood of defects getting through to production and your brand being compromised.

So, how do you get to extreme automation? It comes down to people, process, and technology. On the people side, you need to build relationships with coworkers on your team, professional service providers, vendors, and above the line of business. From the process perspective, select projects you know will be successful. Smart small and then expand, and figure out if a center of excellence would be right for your organization. The final piece of the puzzle is technology, which ensures that you can deliver high-quality software on time.

Testers, Lanowitz said, are the ultimate customer advocates and brand protectors. It's up to you to make sure the work you're doing is the best it can be, and if there is room for improvement, it's your responsibility to find the tool or process that will make that happen.