Software testing is not … meant to add value
I know this is controversial claim and many testers might object it. So, let me explain.
This is my position on a silly claim that was trying to prove that human testing is not useful, because it doesn’t add value to the product, the way that software development does, therefore, we don’t need it and we can absolutely replace it with machine driven checks.
Now, I want to make an important distinction here. Testing is being valuable as being part of the development process, but that doesn’t mean our testing performance and expertise adds monetary value to the product itself. On the opposite, I think our job as investigators and analysts, providing information, assessing risk and quality is actually to help the product to keep its value and help the team to prevent devaluation.
In other words, testing is not meant to add monetary value from which our product or company can benefit. It is meant to provide information and insight about the product, about the processes, about the risks that can harm the value or compromise it and/or our credibility or our client’s as provider of a software solution. And let’s not forget, software is a solution to a problem our clients have, we as testers are not the solution itself, but we are involved the solution as far as we have to make sure whether or not the solution we provide solves the right problem, if it solves it at all and if it solves it in the most optimal way we can provide as a team, given the time, resources and constraints that we have. And this is not an easy task.
Therefore, saying that testing isn’t valuable because it doesn’t provide value is like saying breaks in the car are not useful, because they don’t add horse power. Also person claiming this must have very limited or shallow view on the software testing profession and its expertise.
… playing with the product
Many of the things I can add to this will overlap with the ones I mentioned in the first part of these series, that’s why I want to add some different point of view.
One of the reasons why people see testing as an easy activity that everyone can do is, because it looks easy, in fact to some non-testers it looks like playing with the product. Tell me how many times did you hear that phrase from a developer: “Just play with it a little bit, to see if it works” or “just check if it works”.
Pretty recently Ministry of testing made a list of the icky words in software testing and “checking” was one of them. Michael Bolton stated his disagreement with the presence of “checking” in the list, then he clarified he meant checking in the RST context.
Yet, I think words like “checking” do belong to the icky list and the reason why they belong is the reason why Michael Bolton and James Bach did so much work on checking and testing series – and the reason is – we, as professional testers, don’t like someone to downgrade our effort and expertise to simply checking. In other words testing is not limited to checking simple facts that can be formalized to the pattern:
if (condition) check that result == something.
Same thing applies to the term “playing”. We might look like playing with the product, but we don’t do it to waste our time or to entertain ourselves. Anytime you see a tester or a QA specialist “playing” with the product, you should be aware that there’s way much more analytical thinking, planing and structured actions behind what looks to you as “playing”.
In fact, every educated approach towards an activity looks like playing to a viewer non-familiar to the area of the expert. Have you ever seen a master chef preparing a meal or a professor in the university explaining on a subject? They always look like they are doing minor effort doing what they do, almost like playing. Yet, what they do is the result of years of experience, improvement, planned actions and most important – errors. In fact, this is one way to make sure you are actually becoming skillful in an area, if I have to rephrase Einstein’s words, is to make your field of expertise look like you are playing.
This is it for this part. Any comments and shares are welcome, thanks 🙂