Working with the testing debt – part 2 Martin Jansson

This is a follow-up from Working with the testing debt – part 1 [1]. The reason for the clarification is that you so easily come up with a tip without a context or example.

Tip 2: Focus on what adds value to developers, business analysers and other stakeholders. If you do not know what they find valuable, perhaps it is time that you found out! Read Jonathan Kohl’s articles [2] on what he thinks adds value for testing.

In one project I worked with a group of experienced developers. I had not worked with them before close hand, but they had received some of my bug reports and knew me by reputation (whatever that was) in the company. When I got their first delivery to me to test I started right away. Immediately I got the feedback that I was not testing the right stuff and there were a bit chilly in their demeanor towards me. I investigated a bit what had happened and found out that they were not really interested in the minor bugs at that moment and that I should focus on the major issues. I explained to them that I report everything I find, I was not expecting everything I found to be fixed though. What was fixed was up to those who prioritized the bugs. Before I started testing I asked them what they wanted me to focus on first. After that they were a lot happier, both knowing I worked on things valuable to them and that they understood that I reported everything that I found.

During another project we were two weeks from the release of the product. We were in the middle of a transition from traditional scripted testing to an hybrid with both scripted and exploratory testing. Rather, we had test scripts that we used as a guideline when we explored, but we reported Pass/Fail on those. At that time Project Management was strict in wanting number of test cases run as well as the Pass/Fail ratio. Earlier test leads had not communicated well why these figures held no value. When we had run all planned test cases project management communicated to their managers that we were done. But we were not, we continued with working on our planned charters and ran sessions. We interviewed the support organisation, business analysts, product management and experts in the test organisation. Eventually we got a long list of risks and areas that we should investigate. We also got a long list of rumours that we intended to confirm or kill. Basically, we were far from done and we still had time before the release as we saw it. We had also received areas that people in the organisation found valuable to get information about. Still, we failed because we had not communicated enough to project management what we were doing. We managed to go through most of the areas and identified lots of new issues as well as killing many old rumours. We failed to bring value to some, but not all.

How does this affect the testing debt?

If you continue to work on things that have no value to you or any of your stakeholders, you must take a stand and change things. Do not accept the situation as it is. If you and everyone around you think you and your test team are not doing anything of value, it will just add to your testing debt.

As I state above Jonathan Kohl gives a good set of questions [2] for you to ask yourself to get back on the path. Also consider what Cem Kaner writes about in Ongoing revolution if software testing [3], because it is still ongoing and it not over.


[1] Working with the testing debt – part 1 -

[2] How do I create value with my Testing? -

[3] Ongoing Revolution of Software Testing -

One Comment
Rikard Edgren June 8th, 2011

Suggested activities to find out what is important:
* Pair testing with a stakeholder
* Asking stakeholders about Product Fears
* Talking about which quality characteristics matter most
* Writing a Test Policy (with Information Objectives and more)
* Reading marketing material
* Visiting end users to see what they actually do