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Does It Really Matter What You Are Testing?

Rajini Padmanaban
Rajini Padmanaban
Director, QA Infotech
As Director of Engagement, Rajini Padmanaban leads the engagement and relationship management for... more>>
The testing profession has come a long way in the last decade in gaining parity with its development counterparts be it in terms of opportunities, professional respect, financial compensation etc. However, in my opinion there is still a long road to take to get people, especially those that are fresh to the industry, excited about considering this a challenging profession, without any doubts or second thoughts.

Sometimes, I wonder whether the testing profession does not receive the respect it deserves because people do not understand the importance of the job. I've seen cases where the importance of the job is actually tied with the actual product under test. For example, when the product under test is a web application, the mentality of an on-looker could be, "What if something does not work in the application? It would lead to some frustration amongst the end users. The issue can always be fixed in the next release". On the other hand, if the product under test is a flight software or a medical software, where we know that if something goes wrong, the consequences might be fatal, the attention that the testing discipline gets from everyone involved, is very different. This reaction, while justified to some extent given the extent of damages associated in the latter case, is not fully justified in my opinion.

This is the topic I want to take up for discussion with the Silicon India readers today on "Does it really matter what you are testing". The outlook on quality has been changing over the last decade, primarily driven by the market force of more players / product companies in every domain. No longer is software development a monopolistic space where you have just a few players in every domain. For example, if you were to look at operating systems, Microsoft is not the only dominant player, unlike in the past. You have several other leading commercial players as well as open source players in the mix. This force of increased players and decreasing monopoly has given Quality Assurance a facelift regardless of what product is being tested. While this is from the market side of things, from a tester's standpoint, it is important that testers' view every single software they test as the most important one to be released to give it their best. The tester is the true customer advocate on the product team representing the user's requirements, preferences, challenges and pain points in ensuring the product that is shipped does well in the market place.

That said, are we really heading towards a scenario, where everything on the tester's plate is of utmost importance in a given release? This is practically not feasible and not required either. Prioritization is the name of the game in the current day agile world. While I talk about every product receiving its share of importance regardless of its consequences of failure in the marketplace, I am talking about it only from a very high level comparing products across domains and industries. When you take a close look at products within a company, specific features within the same product, areas where resources need to be shared, it is important to prioritize and identify stack ranks, so that efforts are spent in the right areas given the limited amount of time and budget on hand. Let me explain this with an example. A tester working on testing a game cannot be lax on quality because it is just a piece of entertainment to the end user. On the same note, it is perfectly justified for him to say, "Let me focus on the end user facing features of the game more than the administrative modules which are meant for internal use". Such a strategy is in fact a smart one helping tester maximize his resources on test areas that really matter the most from the end user standpoint.

A successful tester is passionate about the quality of any product that is shipped. While he/she may want to build specializations for career progression, for example, testing for banking software, testing for life sciences software, one would never undermine the quality of one product over another. As testers, once we are convinced about this concept, we can work bottoms-up in educating our teams, cross group members, other entities involved about the importance of quality regardless of the product under test and educate them on how they can help/play their role, in improving product quality.

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