Ops! I did it again!

Anyone in the software industry I’m sure will have seen by now that there is an unsettling trend to adding the suffix -Ops onto any existing job title in what I can only assume is an attempt to reinvent the role and make it more sexier to a younger, hungrier generation (much like Marathon became Snickers, MSN became Windows Live and rather dramatically, Jif became Cif).

Although the notion of DevOps has been around since approximately 2008 (according to ‘A Short History of DevOps‘) and in fairness the culture around it has become prevalent in the startup world, I was informed more recently about the existence of a thing known as TestOps. I’ve read countless articles about how DevOps will eventually kill off the role of testers or more insultingly learn to co-exist like some extinct animals suddenly brought back to life (looking at you, John Hammond!) (see: ‘Accepting the Tester into the Test Ops Fold’ and, well, ashamedly I can’t yet find the other source I wanted to reference but I will edit this when I can!) but more troubling is how some testers are attempting to make themselves relevant again by simply adding -Ops onto the word ‘test’.

The last straw was from reading a paper presenting ‘TestOps’ as a viable alternative to, well, presumably testing. You can read the paper from Simon Howlett here. Whilst the paper reads well and I am sure the author’s intentions are indeed really positive about the potential transition a tester could make (similar to a post on the Ministry of Testing by Seth Eliot) but I can’t help but think surely everything discussed in these articles and papers boils to one thing – testing.

The notion first really struck me at a recent Belfast Tester’s Meetup when Christopher Clements presented a lightning talk about how there’s no such thing as an ‘Agile Tester’, it all simply boils down to testing. I’d argue the very same sticks to any notion of ‘TestOps’ or indeed the testing that a DevOps is supposed to do (but rarely actually do).

For example, in the above white paper, Simon lists some of the duties that he would foresee someone in a ‘TestOps’ role get involved with:

A ‘TestOps’ team in essence concentrates on availability of infrastructure and platforms required for testing at all levels, from functional testing through integration testing to lower level unit and API tests

If you’re not doing that as a good old fashioned plain-titled tester, then you really aren’t helping yourself do your job – or your company really needs to take a good long look at itself in the mirror. A tester should never be the soul source of any testing that goes on in a company and very rarely are they – though I do think its fair that a tester should do their best to spread knowledge and maintain availability of any testing frameworks for everyone on a team. There’s no ‘Ops’ required here, it’s just simply good test practices.


Where a DevOps team would focus on build, configure and deploy, a TestOps team can interface with the build and configure stages to communicate with this system [sic] provide testing feedback mechanisms, that are defined in testing specifications owned by product teams themselves.

I read this and I think – so testers should get involved with the product at every stage. Yep, sure, again, nothing to do with ‘Ops’ and again everything to do with good test practices.

I don’t mean to be picking on anyone and I can fully understand why people often feel the need to try to justify a vision of an evolved tester, but I challenge that good practices and proselytizing a positive test culture will achieve the same aims as set out in some of the aforementioned articles and papers with really no need to add a suffix onto your role.

My concern, however, is the more that people buy into this and wear a label with a shiny new ‘Ops‘ suffix is that not only does the wider software community believe its own hype but those that adopt these labels start to believe the hype too.


Edit: Blogging at midnight rendered me incapable of understanding the difference between a suffix and a prefix, even though it’s fairly obvious like 🙂 Instances of prefix used incorrectly have been updated to suffix.


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About Me

Hi. I'm Neill. I'm a software tester from Belfast. You could say a Belfast Tester. I've worked in some companies and all my thoughts are my own. Not the man's. I can think for myself. Honestly.

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