Track Talk W4

Testing Ponchos – One Size NEVER Fits All!

Jackie McDougall

11:00-11:45 CEST Wednesday 8th June

Have you ever bought an item of clothing or accessory from a store or online, and saw the phrase ‘one size fits all’? It’s quite a claim – and it’s not true of course! The key word here is ‘fits’. I can buy a ‘one size’ rain poncho that looks like an XXXXL on me, and some could argue that it ‘fits’ – that is to say, I can wear it and it does the job of keeping me from getting wet in the rain. But does it fit comfortably? Does it cover my suede boots that would get ruined if wet? Does it match the rest of my outfit? Is it reusable, or made from environmentally friendly material that can be easily recycled? Do I like it? These are all questions that are specific to me – they may not be applicable to all other users of the poncho, but to me, they’re important.

Test approaches are like ponchos. People can ‘claim’ that one size fits all – but in reality, those kinds are at best, an ok fallback if you have nothing else. This talk will explain how I changed from being a consultant who had been tasked with ‘industrializing’ the test approach, churning out more or less the same test strategies to different clients in different business domains for completely different projects – to realising that in doing this, I was doing a disservice to every project I worked on, and a disservice to myself.

The one-size-fits-all approach stifled creativity, didn’t necessarily take into account all the little nuances that made one project different from another, and meant that there was a higher risk of something being overlooked, just because a ‘boilerplate’ approach was being followed. I have learned (the hard way!) that a better option is to have a quality toolbox, from which I could choose components that fitted the different sizes and types of projects I was working on, without compromising the underlying good practice the industrialized approach promoted.

By individualizing the project’s test approach – really looking at it in all its own glory – I could tailor a plan, properly look at the team size, pay attention to the investment(or not) in tools and automation, really think about the creation of test data, ask open questions about system performance. For me, the one-size-fits-all testing poncho has been relegated to the trash can, where it belongs.