A mirror for testers

The SogetiLabs team consists of a bunch of IT people with a wide variety of expertise and background. But due to the nature of our company testers are a significant part of it.

During the recent international meeting of SogetiLabs fellows we as testers observed a significant attitude of the non-testers towards us. I defined it as them being bored of testing talk. So during the open space discussions I asked the question how they got this not so positive opinion of testing. Then one of the non-testers showed a virtual mirror to the testers by telling the next metaphor:

“Two IT people are cycling up a hill on a tandem-bike. When they finally reach the summit the one in front, the developer, says: ‘It was hard but we made it!’ Then the one at the back, the tester, comments: ‘Yes and I hope you appreciate that I was using the brakes all the time because otherwise we would have rolled down the hill backwards’.”

This little story exactly points out how many people see testing. The common feeling is that although testing may be useful it’s generally slowing things down instead of helping to reach the goal.

Many testers will say this is not how they do their job, but hey, look in this mirror again. Even with all good intentions, often testing is not seen as a contribution to the end-product.

So this is what the testing community must work on:

Change the image of testing from “slowing down” to “contributing to reach the goal”
While organizing, planning and performing testing activities make sure that the tasks focus on speeding the work up, for example by using early reviews that will prevent requirements-defects from being duplicated in other work products. And also make sure that testing tasks that do not really contribute to the specific project, are not done. There is no testing-methodology that says you must do things that do not add value!

Communicate the contribution of testing to the project in such a way that non-testers will notice that testing actually contributes to reaching the goals. And this communication will be more effective when testers don’t stick to their own language and terminology but instead use the language of the other people involved, like developers, project managers and end users.

Now you may wonder: do we have some concrete things to help improve testing? Yes we have! Take for example the 5 elements of the new TMap HD (Human Driven):

People: The real difference between success or failure is made by people that have the right skills, experience and motivation. So work on having this mix in the team. And in a team it’s not just the test professionals that need testing skills!
Simplify: Don’t think that complex is better, actually the simpler things are organized the higher the chance that it will work out as expected
Integrate: Testing is one of the IT activities, but it definitely cannot be on its own. So testing must be integrated with the other activities. Especially in nowadays Agile and DevOps approaches. And although sometimes people argue that no separate testers are needed, make sure that the relevant testing skills and knowledge are in the team. Often this calls for a professional tester to bring this to the team.
Industrialize: I keep being amazed about the lack of use of tools by testers. How can we consider ourselves serious IT people if we don’t use the possibilities of IT to do our own job? So come on and use tools to your advantage.
Confidence: this is what the other elements will lead to: confidence that the IT-solution indeed will be fit for purpose and suited to the needs of the stakeholders.

By applying these straightforward elements I am confident that testing will grow to a significant contribution to the goals and thus no one will see it as a burden anymore.

If you want to know more about these elements check out the TMap HD book “Neil’s quest for quality”.

Rik Marselis is a senior test architect for Sogeti

This blog was first published on Sogetilabs.