“The landscape is changing and test capability is respected from the outset” Matthew Clarke tells us about the exciting things happening in testing

Edge Testing is a software testing firm based in the UK that helps to deliver services to a range of clients from the financial services to the media industry and everything in between. Matthew Clarke, works as a Senior Performance Engineer at Eurofins, Edge Testing’s parent company, and as well as discussing his recent experience at this year’s DevOps North Conference, he also tells us why his firm has created digital test hubs in the UK.

What were the highlights of the DevOps North conference?

It’s fascinating to see such a wide spectrum of individuals who are engaged in radically different delivery approaches, for me the highlight is the insights gained from the diversity that such gatherings bring.

Why did you decide to do a talk on “Crystal ball gazing: Marrying capacity models and load testing” at the conference?

With the development and adoption of cloud infrastructure, lambda and microservice architecture, we now more than ever have an incentive to optimise services over buying more hardware.

Firms can now justify and articulate the benefit of spending resource effort on capacity management when you can measure the financial benefits as easily as checking a cloud invoice cost at the end of the month. As part of a performance specialist team, I want to capitalise on this new development to make faster and more efficient applications and services. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for our customers and it’s good for society. Better computers, running better programmes which in turn use less hardware and less power.

When speaking to people after the talk, were there any topics that came up that enabled you to think in a fresh way?

People don’t like maths, useless maths. But more than that, we need a consensus as an industry, about what we should be doing in terms of how to achieve depth and maturity. IT still lacks the gravitas and institutional structures that many of the most established industries such as medicine, law, and finance have built up over the centuries.

What is your company doing to help the IT world right now?

The best thing to happen to IT at least in the UK, in my opinion, has been the development and rise of Small and Medium Enterprises and the government’s shift to utilising them, the entire ethos is radically different to entrusting IT to a few large stalwarts. The number of times large service organisations choose litigation over delivery is remarkable. I don’t begrudge them for it; indeed, I understand the rationale behind it. But that doesn’t change the fact that actually delivering is usually the better thing for our customers and clients.

Edge Testing has an attitude of delivering service first and generating revenue second, the questions my team and I ask are normally “How do we do this better? More effectively?” And Edge Testing supports that culture of earnest delivery. In my view, Edge Testing is helping the IT world right now by understanding that philosophy of customer satisfaction, which I’ve rarely seen.

 What can you tell us about the Digital Test Hub in Manchester and why was it important to build?

The Digital Test Hub (DTH) was founded to meet requirements for low-cost, on-demand testing services while operating as a challenger to offshored testing providers. It was important to build one at our Manchester location to enable easy access by organisations across the North West that might be looking for a remote testing service for applications and back office systems.

We opened the fourth base in the UK in Manchester city centre, to service Northern clients and continue our UK-wide growth. The Manchester-based DTH is our third one, alongside the original DTH that we launched in Scotland six years ago, and the second one at our Birmingham office. We also have an office in London.

Our Manchester DTH has created eight new jobs in the area already, with the aim of creating 60 new jobs across the region over the next two years, from experienced test managers and test analysts to trainee software testers.

What is the most exciting thing happening in software testing right now?

The rise of engineering – instead of treating test as a QA service on a production line. We are moving to be an intrinsic, indelible and salient factor in the architecture and ongoing development of a service. The introduction of test-driven development and test resources who are on par with architects, senior programmers and the leaders of other departments. The landscape is changing and test capability is respected from the outset and is an equal member at the table. From this position, we can develop a product that is true of quality. For me treating test as a legitimate and sophisticated technical practice is the most exciting thing happening in software testing. 

When building a testing team, what are the most important qualities to look out for?

Tenacity and curiosity of mind. We need people who, with a substantive cause will champion a task, be that the resolution of a defect or the standard in which we deliver to. If your quality gate is made up of articulate well-rounded individuals who leave their egos at the door and are invested in the delivery of whichever programme your working on the results are phenomenal. It’s the responsibility of management to set the tone and enable the members of their teams to work that way. But when they have the fundamental presence of mind and have that support then your best teams are made.

Edge Testing has its own software testing education programme, Edge Academy, which was set up in 2013 as a learning program that combines hands-on experience with classroom-based software testing training over three locations – Glasgow (Belshill), Birmingham and Manchester. The Edge Academy is accessible to anyone interested in testing as a career, including school leavers with a passion for IT, graduates, graduate-level apprentices, and older career changers, and candidates are paired with experienced mentors to work on live client projects, either on client site or at one of the DTHs.

Another interesting initiative we have at Edge Testing is enabling organisations to build in-house testing teams at low risk and cost with our new Academy as a Service offer. It also provides testing sector job seekers a fast-track opportunity for qualification and employment. Edge Testing’s Academy as a Service addresses the business risks associated with not having the right in-house testing skills and provides an alternative to contract recruitment. The process is simple – a client decides on the number of testers required and, while working on the client site, Edge Academy participants are supported by an individually tailored mentoring programme to develop them to the highest practical standard in the shortest possible time.

 What problems tend to come up in testing that you feel can be easily avoided?

Perceived lack of ability. People assume that the test capability of any given programme or project is made up of those who couldn’t cut it. It takes time to demonstrate the kind of strategic and technical thinking that earns respect. It’s human nature to make assumptions which are comfortable and give us structure and a framework to understand and engage with the world around us. Which is why this perception isn’t going to change in the immediate future. How do we avoid this? Come at a programme like it’s the last thing we’ll ever do, we want everything to stand up to the most trivial scrutiny. The end result is that we operate at a level that’s beyond reproach. Mistakes will still be made, but no one can fault you for your commitment.

 What trends do you think we will start to see in tech in 2020?

The continued shift towards lambda and microservice architecture, an increase in service delivery expectation. More technical resources being able to do better work more frequently. I think large service organisations such as Oracle or SAP will continue to decline as clients begin to expect more flexibility. The need for more full stack capable resources will trend upwards. Ultimately, I think the number of IT roles will eventually saturate and begin to decline as we adopt better automation and set a higher skill celling for IT resources. I think there’s some irony to be found in the fact that the IT industry, which is the source of AI, smart systems and automation is making itself more redundant than any other industry. Wouldn’t it be funny if IT achieved full or near full automation before other industries caught up, and there was no one left to ask how to automate?

 What can we expect from you and your team in the next few months?

The Edge Testing performance engineering team is looking at developing a concept we call production symbiosis or production symmetry. Where we have a state of continuous testing that is being fed real-time telemetric and volumetric data from production into a 24-hour fully sized performance and automation environment. That environment will be subject to automated scripts that are being adjusted to be at the exact load levels as we see in prod. Doing this, we know almost to a T how production will be impacted by new releases.

Matthew Clarke will be discussing how ‘Right Sizing’ testing solutions can deliver impressive application and infrastructure cost savings at Edge Testing’s upcoming TeSTing (Software Testing Improvement Networking Group) events below. These are free-to-attend midweek breakfast forums (08:30 – 10:00) for testing professionals to attend and meet to share knowledge, and address the challenges and issues facing the software testing industry:

He will be talking on Wednesday 6th November in Glasgow at the Grand Central Hotel in the Saint Andrews Suite as well as on Wednesday 13th November in Edinburgh  at The Crowne Plaza in the Duke of Edinburgh Suite.


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