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Three Tips For Increasing Your Added Value As A Tester

  • 16/01/2012
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR
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Testing is more than finding bugs. Most readers would agree with me that Testing is a multi disciplinary profession, Challenging in more than one way.

I remember once having a tester in one of my training sessions who explained to me, that she was really satisfied at the end of her working day with a huge pile of new bug reports. She was not really bothered with the follow-up and she was certainly not really aligned with goals of the organization she was working for.

An exotic example? Maybe, but I do believe that testers in general can increase their added value if they focus on their stakeholders a little more. If you want to increase your added value there are three things to keep in mind.

Design for traceability

The first tip is self-evident really. It is all about transparency and traceability. Even a medium size project has many systems, functions, interfaces that need to be tested. Just executing a lot of tests might result in great bugs being found, but that alone is not enough. If we as testers want to add value, we should be able to translate each single bug towards items that have meaning to our stakeholders. This translation should not be a tedious process that takes hours to figure it out, but we need to have an clear overview, dashboard so you like, that can be generated easily on the fly. Unfortunately many of the test projects that I see around are neither have traceability in their architecture, nor does the test department knows what the organization really wants.

Align with stakeholders needs

Testing is a risk based activity. Sure, but recent research learned that only 50 of the testers actually do RBT. For the other 50%, the ones that do RBT, risks might seem a nice translation of the customer needs. But, risks do not tell the whole story.

We should not forget that many decisions are not based upon rational arguments, but are in fact fear driven by Project Managers and stakeholders who aim for success, comfort and a feeling of being in control. Conversely, loss, pain and fear are strong negative drivers that determine our behavior to a great extent. We cannot neglect them. How do these key players act when they are pushed outside their comfort zone and the fear of failure becomes tangible?

If we really understand what drives our Project Manager and stakeholders we can design our tests in such a way that is provides them the comfort and takes away their fears. Luckily testing is a discipline that provides us with many tools to do so. With these tools we can improve our tests, and do better test reporting. Good test reporting requires good data and an understandable message. The first is created by having a good traceability. The second is achieved by telling a good tester story.

Tell a good testers story

Recently I coached a colleague of mine who was about to present the results of his test project to the senior management. His first impulse was to announce the number of executed tests, bugs found, etc. It took him some time to translate this data into useful information.
The useful information is of course strongly related to the comfort needs of the stakeholders and it tells a story. The story explains what you and your team did, the problems you had to overcome and the solutions you found. The story also justifies the effort taken, it clearly explains how this aligns with the needs of the organization and the benefits gained from the results. Important lesson learned is that a story is nice to listen to and it’s personal. You need to back up what you are saying by solid arguments, but should not blur your message by putting in too much details.

Combining these three elements will help you designing better tests, putting a focus on the right areas and make your efforts better understood. Doing these will make the difference between being one of those people in the office who cost money or one of those who matters.

Biography

Derk-Jan de Grood works for Valori as product manager and well known speaker at conferences. He is specialized in getting more out of testing by focusing on the value chain and business-it alignment. Recently he published a book in which he describes the human side of IT and explains how testing can help to increase comfort and grip for our Project Managers and stakeholders. This book is supported by a full day training that enables you to get commitment for your test activities, contribution to the project success and become the wing partner of your project manager.

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