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How to create a DevOps testing culture: 3 keys to success

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Adam Auerbach, Vice President of DevTestSecOps, Epam Systems

When people talk about DevOps, they're usually referring to the automation of the build and deployment process and to infrastructure as code (IaC). These are the most popular topics in DevOps because many organizations have separate departments, each with people and processes overseeing the different tasks.

This creates inefficiencies in the development process, which DevOps drives us to eliminate through automation and empowerment of dev teams.

However, with testing you face similar bottlenecks. 

As a consultant, I work with many companies where the testing team depends on other teams for such things as test data or environment setup. Many of these organizations have separate groups that perform automation, performance, and security tests.

So, if you want to drive DevOps adoption across your entire company, you need to dig into testing and change the way it works. That's the only way to maximize the efficiencies of your team.

Here are the keys to enabling a DevOps culture to grow within your testing team.

[ Get up to speed on quality-driven development with TechBeacon's new guide. Plus: Download the World Quality Report 2019-20 for lessons from leading organizations. ]

1. Create the correct foundation

The first key is the hardest. To form the right basis for changing the culture, you need to uplift the engineering talent on your quality assurance team. The QA testing team must function as a team of engineers.

Testers must not only be able to create and run automated tests, but have the technical acumen to understand how the application has been built as well. They need to understand concepts such as continuous integration and infrastructure as code.

To get this uplift, you can train people and/or leverage your vendors to swap out manual testers for engineers. At the very least, don't hire manual testers anymore. While you should still do some manual testing, hire only testers who have the desired technical skills going forward.

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2. Change the way your team works

DevOps is based on lean manufacturing techniques. Those processes are rooted in helping people do work for themselves, rather than relying on others, to reduce wait times and waste.

Since test automation is key to fast feedback and creating efficiencies in the process, it must be a priority. The testers on your team must be accountable for creating and supporting automation from the start. If they have to rely on a separate team, you'll never get the benefits, which is why you are investing in it in the first place.

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3. Empower your team to innovate

Allowing your testing team time to learn and experiment will lead to new ways of working and help them improve their technical skills. Empowering your team means that you, as the leader, must not only say that it is important, but also take steps to help people innovate.

Carve out some dedicated time during normal work hours when employees can invest in themselves and how they work. Also, different people need to be rewarded differently. Rather than just reward project heroics, recognize employees who have learned new skills and used them to improve the way people work. Reward your change agents who are having an impact by improving efficiencies.

Change your culture—and make it sustainable

Successful DevOps adoption requires more than just automation across the software development lifecycle; you also must change the way your team is organized, the way you work, and the expectations you have for people on your team. It means having engineers in all roles and removing the dependency on enterprise IT teams—such as operations or security testing—from getting features out the door.

[ Ori Bendet: Software testing for DevOps: How one QA team sets the pace ]

To sustain the adoption, you as a leader must reinforce the idea that it is important. Don't just promote people who put in extra hours. Offer incentives for innovation, and reward those team members who change the way your team works.

Your testing team is in the critical path to deploying features to production, so as part of your DevOps adoption initiative, make sure your team makes these cultural changes.

Want to know more? Come to my tutorial, "Instill a DevOps Testing Culture in Your Team and Organization," and listen to my presentation, "Building a Modern DevOps Enterprise Testing Organization,at the STAREAST software testing conference, which runs April 28–May 3 in Orlando, Florida. TechBeacon readers can save $200 on registration by using promo code SECM.

[ Get up to speed with TechBeacon's Guide to Software Test Automation. Plus: Get the Buyer’s Guide for Selecting Software Test Automation Tools ]