Investigating the skills and capabilities that software testers need: A New Zealand study

Liang, Ling
Buchan, Jim
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Master of Computer and Information Sciences
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Auckland University of Technology

Software testing has changed a lot with the rapid developing software market in the last two decades. Many companies have to either keep up with competitors or gain a competitive advantage by the continuous deploying high quality and user-friendly products. This depends heavily on the efficiency and effectiveness of testing.

New techniques, tools and methodologies are emerging in software testing, which increases the requirements on skills and capabilities for testers and has caught the shortage of test professionals. For example, they are now expected to be involved in software development to the earliest extent due to the prevalence of agile methodologies. Traditional exploratory testing is not enough and automation test is introduced.

The industry has realised the importance of software testing, but the perception of many people on the skills and capabilities for testers is limited. In some people’s cognition, testers explore defects by input and click; almost everybody, either with or without IT background, can do the testing job. It is essential to understand the roles and responsibilities of testers in contemporary software development environments and the corresponding skills and capabilities the testers need. It may benefit different communities, including employers, test practitioners or potential testers, educators and researchers who are doing similar research.

The thesis aims to investigate the most important skills and capabilities for testers and gain insights into the reasons why the skills and capabilities are more, or less, important.

To conduct the research, a systematic literature review was performed to get an overview understanding of the status of this topic. There were just a few studies on this topic. As software testing is an essential part of software development, we extended the search scope to software development team. The key concepts of the research were explained, and the current understanding on this topic from references was presented. The top important skills and capabilities and their associated importance were illustrated.

A two-pronged approach was taken to answering the research questions. Job adverts were designed to answer the research questions from employers’ perspective. Those adverts reflected the most favourable skills and capabilities that employers wanted for testers. Data were collected from the most popular websites that contain job adverts for testers in New Zealand (NZ) and analysed using content analysis approaches. The whole process was conducted in a hermeneutic circle and complemented using VBA and python. The frequency of each of the skills and capabilities from the sample of adverts was used to rank the importance and identify the most important ones. Besides, a conceptual model of skills and capabilities for testers was generated to compare the importance of different sources and present the findings. The categories for roles and seniority levels were also identified. On the other hand, interviews were conducted to gather opinions from test professionals who had rich testing experience in NZ. Data were collected using both semi-structured questions as well as structured questions using the Likert scale. Semi-structured questions were designed to gain a general understanding about the most valuable skills and capabilities of testers while structured questions were used to gather interviewee’ view on the importance levels of each of the skills and capabilities in the proposed model and speak out loud the reasons for the importance. Thematic analysis was performed for semi-structured questions while frequency distributions and median of each skill or capability were used to analysis the importance levels.

In conclusion, this study adds knowledge to the skills and capabilities for testers and may benefit different stakeholder categories: employers, testers, educators and researchers. Further research can be conducted to gain broader and more comprehensive understanding of this area.

Software testers , Skills and capabilities , Tester seniority , Tester roles , Skill levels , Interview , Job adverts
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