Balancing Application Development and Testing

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In general, there is usually a 20 percent gap between the salaries of application developers and the folks who test applications. As first blush, that may seem reasonable given the challenges associated with creating applications in the first place. But Rajini Padmanaban, director of testing engagements at QA InfoTech, an independent application testing services firm, says that in this age of compliance and security, many IT organizations are starting to put a higher value on the skills of application testers.

The reason for this is fairly simple. It costs a lot more to fix an application once it has been rolled out than it does to fix an application during the development process. But the people with the best skills tend to shy away from testing simply because they can make more money being a developer. So unless the salaries are relatively equal, there will always be an imbalance between the skillsets of the testers and the developers.

The good news for application testers is that given all the security and compliance issues, more companies are not only willing to pay more for quality testers, but they are also enhancing the prestige of the application testers within their organizations. With the realization that application testing needs to be a continuous process that is tightly integrated within the application development process, IT organizations are starting to think of application testers as an intrinsic part of the application development process, versus something that happens after the application is developed. In fact, Padmanaban says IT organizations should not be surprised to see application testers eventually rise to become the program managers that control the application development schedule.

Of course, with increased visibility there is usually increased accountability. Padmanaban says she is starting to see stricter service-level agreements (SLAs) being applied to application testing organizations as companies move to embrace application lifecycle management (ALM) methodologies. The challenge, of course, is that as companies embrace methodologies such as agile development, they have to find ways to make sure they don't leave application testing out of the overall agile process in the name of productivity at the expense of quality.

There has always been some level of tension between developers and testers. And while it's critical that testers maintain their independence from developers, it's also apparent that there is a greater need for collaboration than ever before. So striking the right balance between collaboration and independence is going to be a primary management challenge in the application development community for years to come.