Sunday, 5th July 2020

The struggle for software testing

New study finds most organisations like the idea of software testing but struggle to do it effectively.

  • 03 Jun 2020 Posted in
Even though companies say they are committed to improving software testing, they are not following through by investing in it⁠—and DevOps pipelines are suffering as a result. That’s the conclusion of a new survey from Diffblue of 300 developers and engineering managers in the UK and US.

Having testing practices is not the same as having a testing culture: 41% of the developers who responded to the survey said their organisations have fully adopted Test-Driven Development (TDD), but only 8% said they write tests before code—the very definition of TDD. 61% of respondents said that their organisation is resistant to a culture of software testing and only 30% considered themselves “leaders” in testing practices.

Most companies have room for DevOps improvement

Even though all of the participants in the study worked at companies that have adopted DevOps initiatives, only 13% said they have achieved continuous deployment, and 58% have not yet fully adopted agile methodologies. Most also said their organisation's software quality (77%) and regression suites (76%) need improvement.

Despite this, only 35% of respondents said they always build time for testing into their release schedules. Overall, 81% of developers (compared to 55% of managers) agreed that the biggest hurdle to developing a testing culture is a lack of dedicated resources from management.

Cultural change requires tooling support

Developing a culture of testing requires more than just asking developers to change their behavior: it also means giving them the time and tools they need, and establishing norms that support testing throughout the organisation.

Almost half (49%) of respondents said they write tests before writing code less than 40% of the time. This disconnect suggests that behavioral changes like TDD are ineffective without also giving developers better tooling that makes it faster and easier to write tests.

Rachel Stephens, of analyst firm Redmonk, has noted, “It’s an industry truism that DevOps is about culture change rather than products, but tools can very much lead a culture change and we shouldn’t underestimate their role.” The issue is that culture change is too abstract to resonate with developers: “Tools can be critical to changing people’s mindset. It’s hard to practice the right behaviors without the right foundational toolset. Tools can enable new ways of working and collaborating.”

Automation can eliminate testing bottlenecks

Companies that rely on behavioral changes alone to solve their testing problems experience bottlenecks in the DevOps pipeline; 89% of survey respondents agreed that finding a solution for testing bottlenecks is a priority.

One solution is to introduce more AI technology to automate time-consuming tasks, such as writing tests themselves: 86% of participants agreed that being able to automatically create test code would eliminate a bottleneck in the testing stage. The top expected benefits of automating processes like writing code were saving the organisation time (first choice of 16%) and improving the quality of the work (first choice of 15%), both of which benefit wider DevOps goals.

"Software testing is clearly a struggle for developers and their managers, yet never has it been more important to accelerate DevOps adoption,” said Diffblue CEO Mathew Lodge. “Modern AI techniques mean unit tests can be written and maintained automatically, relieving pressure on developers and helping drive the cultural change necessary to embrace high quality DevOps pipelines.”

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