Testing is Not a Service


I taught a one-day workshop at StarEast yesterday with Esther. I was astonished at the number of test managers who think testing is a service.

Effective testing is not a service. Effective testing is an integral part of development. When people–especially senior management–consider testing a service, there are inevitable consequences:

  • Testers multitask between several projects, learning none of them in detail and only cursorily testing any of them. It's hard to see the value in that kind of testing.
  • Few managers make the decision about what project is most important, so ordering projects by value or risk doesn't happen until the project is in test.
  • Testers don't work with developers, so defect reports look more like blaming the developers rather than feedback to the developers.
  • Because testing is a service, project managers and developers tend to throw the product over the wall to test. Instead of collaboration, the project is in an us vs. them dynamic. Too few developers make the extra effort to find all their issues before the testers do. Why should they? There's nothing in it for them.

This perception of testing as a service is a misunderstanding of the dynamics of software development.

When you contrast testing as a part of the development team, developers are much more likely to form partnerships with testers, to clean up their code as much as possible, and to exhibit professional pride in their work. They take defect reports as feedback.

If you're a project manager don't treat testing as a service. Make it an integral part of development.

Labels: project management, testing

4 Replies to “Testing is Not a Service”

  1. I saw an even worse attitude interviewing with a premiere MS consulting shop – our customers won’t pay for testing. Needless to say, I was surprised and thought to myself “Well, they already do. They just don’t know it.” I pretty much took myself out of consideration for the position.

  2. Hi Johanna,
    I really want to have a conversation about this, because my first reaction was to disagree. But then I realised something . . . you have not defined “testing”.
    What do you mean by “testing” ?

  3. Along similar lines to Dave’s comment, I’m not sure that I completely understand ‘service’ either.
    Now, you’ve signed your name to the context-driven school (http://www.context-driven-testing.com/), and it has a section titled ‘Illustrations of the principles in action’. There, we see:
    “Testing groups exist to provide testing-related services. They do not run the development project; they serve the project.
    Testing is done on behalf of stakeholders in the service of developing, qualifying, debugging, investigating, or selling a product”
    Care to clarify? I think it’s something about the difference between providing (good) service and being a service, but it’s impossible for me to disambiguate ‘Testing is not a service’.

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