Since I am new here I hope it is not inappropriate to post some thoughts that came to me following SIGiST on Tuesday...
One of the comments that came up in one of the talks was that ‘end to end’ testing of processes often contains light, marginal or no coverage of the human interactions that are taking place. This got me thinking about the extent of our influence as testers on all the subsidiary things that make our processes work and enhance our organisation's reputation - not necessarily the software itself but the complete package.
In my current organisation I feel that testing has a wide sphere of influence because it is seen as an overall service to the company. My main role is to test work coming out of development but I also provide the Helpdesk with in-depth diagnostic testing to help them ascertain whether an issue reported by a customer is a problem or not. I also provide a proof-reading service (a form of static testing in my eyes) for the Marketing team making sure the material that goes out to enquirers and advertising our services accurately reflects our products. If a potential customer approaches our Sales team with a bespoke request I am often called upon to give advice on whether I think the approach being taken by the enquirer is best given their needs.
I work in a very small organisation (20 of us) but I am wondering to what extent testing is viewed as an overall service function in other organisations. How does your organisation differ from mine? If we are purely focussed on testing 'development' work at the moment is there any merit in seeking to extend that? It might be a way of making testing more visible and seen as less of a bottle neck.
I'd say count yourself lucky to be working in such an organisation that not only values testing for what it is but adds different facets to your job as helping out support and marketing.
I found that even within one organisation different departments, even different PMs have a different view of what the test team is. Some see it as a service providing them with the information they need to ship/not ship; others see it as a box ticking exercise, basically saying test this, do your stuff, let me know when you're finished.
Working cross-departmental not only makes your work more interesting it also helps to see people testing as a service function vital to the companies functioning.
Just testing what comes out of development, sometimes remote work with no interaction other than with other testers is probably more of an issue in bigger companies, although this is a harsh generalisation.
Hi Thomas. Thank you for your reply. I know that I am very fortunate to be working in such an environment though it has not been an easy road to get there! When I started testing here (and I'm the sole tester) I was very much 'the bottleneck' that stopped products going out and 'stopped us making money'. Over the past few years I have been able to show other areas of the business that testing has a benefit to them too - and not just in terms of 'software'.
There are still huge challenges that are taking time to sort out but where I work, at least, end-to-end testing means exactly that. We are taught that we should all be aiming for testing to be recognised for what it is but I don't see that reflected in the real world. I felt quite despondent after the ISEB courses which describe this panacea but attending conferences such as SIGiST shows that everybody goes through the same problems. I feel passionately, though, that these issues of recognition in our workplaces need addressing sooner rather than later if we are to progress as an industry.
The way I approached it was to start off simply. I made sure that I gave feedback whenever there was a meeting to discuss branding, for example, or how we were going to market a product. I had to learn to adapt my communication style to suite a different audience - this is an ongoing process - but it is very rewarding. I also made sure that when developers went off into 'developer speak' explaining why something requested by sales was impractical that I summarised into english. My next plan is to start a "Glossary of Terms" that other people can add to so we all know what we are talking about - or can find out about new terms easily.
sounds like you're doing what many other succesful (the key word here) testers have done before - recognise where to stand your ground but also realise where you can add value to the business as a whole.
For the Glossary you could do worse than use THIS as a starting point.
I adjusted it to our internal needs and put it up with a reference where it came from (Thanks JS). In retrospect I have to say that it didn't get much use as people talked more about what a certain term meant rather than looking it up. Might be different for you though.
"We are no more special than dev or marketing or sales or documentation etc. We are all part of a team and hence I don't see us as a service for the company to use. I had some discussion with Michael Bolton about this and he pointed out to me we are all in service with each other - which is completely true. But I often see people using the term "service" to mean that testing are detached, separate or distant from the rest of the process and this feels wrong to me."
I see where you are coming from there and I agree with you. My view of a "service" is that we work together to help further our goals, not something that is detached from the rest of the process. I feel that is wrong too.
When I talk to a Project Manager I haven't worked with before I usually start with the words "Let's discuss how the test team can provide a good service to you." implying that we
- are not responsible for quality, a common misconception
- need to discuss what that service should consist of
- are willing to help the project and PM
- that there is a team of individuals with previous experience in doing this "test stuff" and that wer are willing to help you any way we can think of.
So providing a service in my eyes is a good thing, but it also comes with limitations. You can't throw a build over the wall but have to tell us what the expectations are so that we can discuss if they're reasonable.
Oh, and this one I missed in my first post, WELCOME.