How Does Exploratory Testing Fit with the DevOps Movement?

The barriers between software developers and IT professionals are breaking down in many companies. According to Gartner, DevOps is set to become a mainstream strategy that 25% of Global 2000 organizations will be employing by next year. As DevOps takes off, there’s still a question mark over just exactly where testing fits in.

Automation can’t assume the full burden or replace exploratory testing, and even where it does, experienced testers are best placed to oversee the process. There are also major advantages to employing some exploratory testing when you’re looking to maximize software quality. It’s time QA claimed a place at the DevOps table.


We can’t rely on automation

It makes a lot of sense to automate testing, especially if you’re adopting a continuous integration model of development. It can handle smoke tests, data verification, and reliable deployment. You can also build in rollback scripts and backups to ensure errors are corrected quickly, but automation can’t cover everything.

It may not be practical or economical to try and cover all functional tests and validations with automation when they could be handled much more quickly and effectively by manual testers as part of feature enhancements. Exploratory testing will also take a different approach, and that flexibility, compared with the rigid repetition of automation, can uncover important defects and offer much greater coverage.

Weave exploratory testing in

Experienced testers will prove invaluable in identifying the bare minimum of features and functionality required for software to be accepted by the end users. That measure is important when you come to draw up a list of automation candidates. Finding those key repeatable processes is about factoring in environment stability, deployments, and features to decide where to automate. No one is better qualified to do this than testers.

On top of that automation foundation, you can draw up charters to define areas of focus and employ context-driven testing to maximize your coverage. Exploratory test sessions can reveal whether your software is performing as it should in terms of user expectations. Manual testers are plugged into the business values and the overall workflow in a way that automated tests can never be.

The perfect balance

As with so much in life, the right approach is a balance. Because of the nature of exploratory testing, it can be run in parallel with automated testing. It doesn’t have to slow deployment down. The adaptable nature of the approach makes it well suited to maximizing coverage with whatever resources are available and with whatever time is available.

You can have manual testers engage in exploratory test sessions while the automation suite runs. They can fine tune as they go, removing the obsolete, and revising the automated tests for maximum benefit. The ideal blend of the two approaches should run like a well-oiled machine and offer the most comprehensive test coverage possible. Folding testing into the DevOps mix makes for a better end result in terms of software quality.

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