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G(r)ood testing 16: Collaboration a wanted skill

  • 18/08/2015
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  • Posted by Derk-Jan de Grood

I often encounter discussion on testers competences. One, who believes testing is an easy job, should try a search on the Internet.

You’ll be surprised how many competences are associated with good testing. They range from relatively hard criteria such as analytical skills, technical knowledge and time management skills, to some difficult to define concepts such as “capable to judge business situations”, “respect for the truth” and “intellectual integrity”. Such a wide range of skills, you’d almost lose yourself in it. What skills should you focus on? What skills should you develop? All of them of course, but for me there is one skill that is rapidly gaining relevance: that is collaboration.


The competence dictionary (yes, there is a dictionary for this) defines collaboration as “being committed to work with others towards a common goal while putting the joint result in the first place and promoting a good working atmosphere.” I think this means that we distribute our workload across multiple shoulders. That team members complement each other in terms of knowledge, skills, availability and personality. Collaboration also means that that you work on ideas your fellow team members and, conversely, that your team is open for the improvement suggestions you make.


Collaboration and continuous improvement are important pillars within Agile. Scrum puts the team responsibility at a pedestal and tries to prevent team members from hiding behind their peers. Quality is not the problem of the tester, the user story’s not the problem of the product owner. The entire team is responsible. Developers also do the testing and everyone involved in the refinement of the story’s. Yet for many people it is difficult to really collaborate. During my high school years I played in a band. A fellow musician gave me a tip that I still remember. He said:”In a band you have to put great effort in making the other sound great. So don’t go about playing freaky solos, but become a facilitator for your fellow band members.” You make them shine by stepping a step back yourself. This last makes true collaboration difficult. At least it does for me.


But difficult or not, testers will have to learn how to collaborate. Our profession is expanding and broadening each day. Users massively move towards mobile applications. Testing them requires specific knowledge. Cloud solutions and programs that are assembled using freeware building blocks introduce security risks that differ from those in traditional office software. In addition, hardware plays a major role in the performance of the app and usability is becoming increasingly important. Testing these require skills that most testers do not yet have. System landscapes are becoming more complex and in order to perform e2e tests, we move to service virtualization or we test in production. One requires that we gain knowledge of virtualization platforms, the other that we are involved in the release and deployment process. This fits nicely with the goals of many organizations to work towards continuous integration, build and test. To achieve this test automation is a must, as is a wide availability of the test team. Test automation is suitable for regression testing, but how are we going to find the real bugs? Exploratory testing challenges the creative and critical tester to use his system and business knowledge to locate unexpected errors.


Because of this expansion a wide variety of skills is required to test effectively. Cooperating colleagues complement each other in terms of skills and availability. It is impossible to know everything and excel in all disciplines. We sometimes need to rely on the knowledge and skills of others. To be indispensable might seem attractive to some of us, but when availability becomes increasingly important it becomes a burden. Ever worked during several weekends in a row?  It’s nice to have colleagues to back you up, and carry some of the weight for you. It’s good to have personalities that complement each other. This enables you to do what interests you. Doing the stuff that fits you makes you perform better. For effective collaboration, it is important to assign every task to the right person, since it makes the individuals shine and boosts the team performance. Testers who know how to collaborate and promote cooperation within their team, therefore, have a real advantage.

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Derk-Jan de Grood

Derk-Jan de Grood works for Valori as senior test manager and Agile Transition Coach. His drive is to improve the visibility of testing in both agile and traditional organizations, by sharing his knowledge and experience by means of training, presentations, workshops and publications. He is a regular speaker at conferences like EuroSTAR, wrote several successful books on software testing and publishes articles for the major testing magazines. In 2014 he won the EuroSTAR Testing Excellence Award.

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