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UK Test Management Forum Balls Brothers, London 5 th February 2014. Software Developers In Test: The Supply-Side Crisis Facing Agile Adopters (Take Two) _____________ A bit of background A discussion on increasing supply. Facilitated By Richard Neeve www.richardneeve.net. Some Warnings.

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facilitated by richard neeve www richardneeve net

UK Test Management Forum

Balls Brothers, London

5th February 2014

Software Developers In Test: The Supply-Side Crisis Facing Agile Adopters (Take Two) _____________A bit of backgroundA discussion on increasing supply

Facilitated By

Richard Neeve


some warnings
Some Warnings
  • The evidence herein is anecdotal
  • This session isn’t for you if you’re anti-agile/an agile denier/dismissive of SDIT demand/etc [delete as applicable]
  • There may not be any realistic answers but any answers are probably in this room
  • We won’t crack this today; I would like us periodically re-visit this topic to gauge progress (hopefully in a more evidence-based fashion)
  • I’ll be cantering through the background material. The detailed slides (Take One) from Oct ‘13 are here
definitions 1 of 2
Definitions (1 of 2)
  • An SDIT (Software Developer In Test) or SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test) can:
      • Write automation frameworks
      • Develop automated test cases
      • Use their coding skills to pair with a developer in TDD (for example)
      • Independently develop non-trivial bespoke test tools
      • Conceivably produce production code if appropriate
definitions 2 of 2
Definitions (2 of 2)


  • “A stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point”

(Source: www.dictionary.com)

    • Seems justified to me. SDIT supply could get a lot better/worse depending on whether/how it’s addressed
where are we
Where Are We?
  • Broadening/accelerating/committed demand set against limited/illiquid supply
  • We’re all fishing in the same puddle for resources considered to be pivotal. Can we at least turn the puddle into a small stream?
  • Indications of a dysfunctional market (e.g. £120k for a lead SDIT)
  • Client awareness/impact seems to vary substantially
  • Questionable preparedness for a large wave of capex by corporates (if it happens)
  • There are technical, financial and political factors in play
  • I think this is a huge challenge for the next economic cycle
how did we get here
How Did We Get Here?
  • Historical structural separation between dev and test (certainly post ‘Y2k bug’)
  • Apparent long-term downward trend in the technical skills of candidates
  • Testing’s initial reaction to The Agile Manifesto seemed somewhat delayed/passive
  • Unfavourable career path dynamics
is doing nothing an option
Is Doing Nothing An Option?
  • Opportunity cost implications?
    • Look enormous to me (w.r.t both influence & revenue)
  • Do we have bigger fish to fry?
    • Perhaps the offshoring nightmare? Hard to think of many compelling candidates
  • Is it too late or is the problem simply intractable?
    • Maybe but the situation still feels redeemable
where are they now
Where Are They Now?
  • In the short term and on the margins, clients may benefit from being more informed/proactive in knowing where the existing supply can be accessed:
    • Events that are disproportionately likely to attract the interest of SDITs such as: LTG, Skills Matter seminars, eXtreme Tuesday Club, Meet-ups for SDITs, etc
    • Focused Linkedin groups like this one
    • Specialist recruitment agents
    • Bonus Poaching Tip: I’ve noticed media organisations seem to do well in recruiting SDITs
  • On a selfish tactical level this may help some individual clients, but it doesn’t create fresh supply in the market as a whole

Rolling back market norms?

    • Paying to train contractors?
    • Tackling specificity of job specs?
    • Restructuring pay grades so people don’t have to go the management route to progress financially?
  • Taking more risks on graduates?
    • More use of propositions like FDM and Novus?
    • Deeper links with universities?
  • Changing contractual arrangements for recruitment?
    • Tighter PSLs (carrot)?
    • Looser PSLs (stick)?
    • Can we do anything different commercially to encourage risk taking? Changing the risk/reward balance?
  • Exploring insights from recruiters?
    • Any discernible themes in the reject pile? Are there risks in there that we could ultimately manage as we do in other areas? How would we need to flex to turn the top, say, 10% of rejections into placements?
  • Any scope to skill-up non-techies or de-skill the SDIT role without impacting its effectiveness?
    • Anything around tooling?
    • Converting script readers to script writers? A matter of building confidence through coaching?
  • Can we cut demand too?
    • Any scope to cannibalise the SDIT remit across other, more readily filled, roles?
    • What might it take to make more (pure) developers want to do this kind of work?
  • SDIT demand is broadening/accelerating/committed and set against limited/illiquid supply, provoking symptoms of market dysfunction.
  • Recruitment consultants and direct hirers seem to be increasingly desperate.
  • Questionable preparedness for a large wave of capex by corporates (if it happens).
  • Status quo looks unsustainable to me.
  • A key challenge - both present and future – and not just for testing.
  • Dynamics involved are numerous, complex and inter-connected. They are financial, technical and political; some having origins dating back many years.
  • Some clients are unaware (through not having to go to market, or luck, or having a strong market position).
  • On the current trajectory, even those with a strong market position may soon start to struggle.
  • On the margins, clients and their recruitment agents may be able to identify new sources of existing candidates by being better informed and more proactive. But taking a market-wide view, this is just ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.
  • Genuinely and sustainably freeing up supply in a way that will benefit the broader market will require time, innovation and risk-taking (if it happens at all)
thank you
Thank You
  • This deck and the key discussion points will appear on www.richardneeve.net in the next day or two
  • This deck will also appear on uktmf.com
  • The deck and discussion summary for the Oct ‘13 version (Take One) of this session are here
  • I‘m on Linkedin
  • Email: richard@richardneeve.net