It’s been a while from my previous blog post. I’ve been busy with my current project which is actually my first as a consultant. This means that I’m learning all the time a lot and my thoughts around testing are evolving. When I activated on studying testing on March, 2012, I had a clear goal of becoming a software testing expert. Since then I’ve been for example on BBST Foundation and Rapid Software Testing courses. My knowledge about testing has increased hugely from what it was one year ago. I have though run into a problem. The problem is the visibility of our work. In other words, to whom and how much should we transfer our knowledge as testers?
Testing provides information
I like the idea of testing providing information. It sounds natural for my current context that does not have any outside pressure affecting the way we test our system. Reporting bugs is the common way of delivering my knowledge about the system, but I can do more. At least I am trying to come up with different ways of being more valuable as a tester in my project. Basically that means thinking of to whom and how I could give information about the system I test. This can mean informing developers about the condition of the release or providing my opinion about the state of the system to product owner. Both are something that I have done in my current project.
With information comes responsibility
The information itself is rarely valuable to us only so we have to share it. I’ve experienced moments when filing every bug would have damaged a lot my relationship with the developers. James Bach has talked about Sympathetic Testing on his blog and how that is most often a way to start when facing highly unstable product. In other words not putting too much pressure on the product but more like trying to find out what it can do instead of what it can’t do.
So we have to consider what information we provide and when. Especially this is highlighted when you are sharing information about your understanding to people that do not necessarily understand testing. These people might be for example from upper management or product owners. I reported some time ago my opinion about the overall status of the system I was testing. So, basically I just had to describe how I see the status of the system from tester’s perspective. I reported my opinion to several people across the project in one email and I had to make an extra note about how my opinion should not be viewed as final truth. That is why I think we should remember the impact that our information sharing can create. We are responsible for our words and should remember this all the time we talk about our opinion about the system under testing.
When we understand our responsibility we can make a change
The information we have about the system is by no means the truth. It is fallible and biased, but still a result of thought process that is often valuable to stakeholders. When we understand these aspects of our testing – and remember our responsibility toward our information sharing – we can share our knowledge in a way that will benefit the project more than solely relying on bug reports could achieve.
I also believe that in information sharing and visibility of our work lies the answer to changing the public opinion about testing. The better we evolve in explaining what we do, what we have found out or what we are about to do, the more people see the effort we have put to become a skilled tester. This requires though improving our way of explaining problems, clarifying our messages and treating for example every email or document as one that can be forwarded to any stakeholder on a project. I’ve seen the benefit in this when I have put a bit more effort in explaining things as simply and professionally as I can. And when my explanations are bouncing across the project, I can rest assure that it’s piece of my work like any other testing artifact I have produced (e.g. notes, bug reports).
What, Who and How
I do believe – based on my short experience – that the information we reveal via testing can be shared in various useful ways, but the challenge and my original problem is the ‘What, Who and How‘. What do we share (e.g. overall opinion about the system, opinion about a specific feature or functionality)? Who do we share (e.g. all the stakeholders, development team, upper management, product owner)? How do we share (e.g. email, mind map, meeting)? This is also one of those matters that is highly affected by the context, so there is no “One size fits all” -answer for this.
I will continue experimenting with the ‘What, Who and How’ -problem. I also hope I will be able to create conversation around this subject as it’s a lot linked to test reporting itself. Both are my main themes for year 2013 and if everything goes well, at the end of the year I can write “Part 2” post for this one with more wisdom behind it.