QA jobs morph as agile development methods gain ground

Testing is no longer about script writing, says Capgemini

WASHINGTON -- The recession has changed a lot of things about IT, particularly in the demand for Quality Assurance (QA) professionals who have an encyclopedic-like range of skills.

That change is largely due to the increasing adoption of agile software development, which appears to have gained ground during the recession as companies looked to speed up software development, according to a survey by Capgemini US LLC and Hewlett-Packard Co. of 30,000 IT and QA managers and engineers worldwide.

Agile software development methods promise a faster development time, in part, because they rely less on documentation and more on collaboration and multiple incremental iterations.

The adoption of agile development is also changing the skill sets needed by QA professionals. "The notion of a tester as just a tester is gone," said Charlie Li, vice president of Capgemini's global testing service. He called the skills change a big shift.

"You need to morph your organizations to have more skill sets," said Li at an HP software conference here.

Companies are looking for QA professionals with a range of skills and an ability to look at software quality from multiple angles and disciplines, said Li. The survey found that in North America and Europe about 60% of those organizations are using agile development methods. A survey by Forrester Research earlier this year of 1,300 IT professionals found an adoption rate as high as 46%. It deemed agile software development as now mainstream.

In the Capgemini survey, Agile development methods were credited with cost savings by 14% of the respondents, while 26% said agile development had improved software quality. But 37% of the users cited time-to-market as the leading improvement from the development method.

Joel Singh, director of quality assurance at Comcast Corp. in Philadelphia, said he's in "100% agreement" with the report's conclusions that the role for QA professionals has changed. The skills now needed include an understanding of data quality; networking protocols; databases; and some development knowledge.

In the survey, some 72% said that their testers had several years of business domain experience.

Another interesting finding dealt with cloud adoption. Fully half of respondents said the top reason their companies are deploying into the cloud is for cost reduction; 33% cited increased agility.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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