Sunday, 2 January 2011

(One of) The most important question in testing

.. is not about the testing itself, but:
"What are you going to do about the information that testing will provide you with ?"
This is the kind of question that really shoves lots of stakeholders out of their comfort zone. I've seen more than one with flickering eyebrows, when I've asked this question.
I think, with such reactions, that this is truly an important question to ask:
  • If there's no answer to this question, is the testing we do going to be useful ? - to anyone ?
  • If there is one answer to this question, we might forget to debate it to figure whether it's the right answer (one could be reminded of Jerry Weinberg's Rule of Three here..)
  • If there are more answers, they are bound to be in conflict with each other. Which are more important for now ? - and later ? (oh yes, priorities do change over time ;-)
You get the picture.. we are in trouble, regardless.

I find this question to be very valuable to ask, though. It gives some insight into why testers are called onboard a project. It might be, that a project manager just realised that the project manual called for testing to be done (in which case the project manager would probably be surprised and perhaps even angry when you present her/him with the bug list after testing... this was supposed to be the last activity in the project, right ?).  Or that a customer have huge problems with a delivery and wants some input to throw in the face of the developers.  Or that the scrum master needs to get his demos to actually not crash - or wants to feed his team with tasks that stabilize the code.

Testing comes in multiple varieties - so does the usage of test results.
The best advice I can give you is: ask the question and debate the answer.

In a way, this is where testing really starts...