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Do we need a TEST Consultant or a Test CONSULTANT?

  • 10/08/2011
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

An often seen career path in testing is Test Analyst – Test Manager – Test Consultant. An advantage of career paths like this is the deep knowledge the Test Consultant has concerning testing. The Consultant should have years of experience in testing, knows everything about test techniques, knows how to perform a product risk assessment, has his ISTQB certificates, knows models like TMMi et cetera. The TEST Consultant knows what he is talking about, and that is how it should be, isn’t it? No, it isn’t how it should be.

I’ve 18 years of experience in ICT, which started with implementation of systems. In this position, I did my first acceptance tests. The testing part of the job was fun so I specialized in testing and tested for years. Later I became a Test Manager, QA manager and Test Consultant. And often I thought: ‘Why don’t they understand it?’ or ‘Why doesn’t this manager do what I think is best for him?’ Was it that bad? Well, I had my successes, but also my failures. I was a TEST Consultant.

About 10 years ago I did my first CMMI implementation without relevant system development experience, other than testing and QA. It was successful and you probably know how these things go: I got a second CMMI implementation assignment and it also went well. For the past 5 years I have specialized in requirements process improvement, at the start without experience in requirements development. And guess what: I’m successful with it! For 2 years now I have been doing a lot of test process improvement again, especially TMMi-assessments and implementation. And I do that in a different way compared to 10 years ago. I am a Test CONSULTANT now. And my recommendations are better accepted than before, so my improvement project are more successful.

What is the difference between a TEST Consultant and a Test CONSULTANT? A TEST Consultant knows everything about testing, that’s clear. A Test CONSULTANT has different skills like political skills, listening skills, he/she knows how to convince people (no, you don’t convince people by talking). The Test CONSULTANT has more sense of the goals the stakeholders have, the Test CONSULTANT will propose an acceptable solution, not a perfect solution. And the Test CONSULTANT will sell the solution better.

Do we need more Test CONSULTANTS? No, that’s also not true. Testing is a profession. Without any knowledge of testing you can’t improve that process. You simply need to know a lot about testing to be able to improve it. When I started in CMMI I read books about software engineering until late at night, I did the same when I started in requirements process improvement. And the experience I needed in software development for requirements development? I became friends with the best software and requirements developers in the organization where I did my assignments.

So, at the end of the day we need TEST CONSULTANTS. Let me suppose you are an experienced Test Analyst or Test Manager wanting to become a TEST CONSULTANT, please be aware that you need to work more on your consultancy skills and less on your testing skills to make this step. A colleague of mine told me once that in consultancy the result is determined by the quality of the solution and acceptance of the solution. To be more successful as a consultant we should put more effort into the acceptance of our solution.


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