Sunday, 7 June 2015

Please, stop telling testers how to test!

Let me start with a scenario.

A programmer works away on a new feature or a bug fix. They finally feel like they're finished and it's time to move the user story over to a tester. They update the user story with an explanation of the work they did, any assumptions they made and one final thing: 
"Testing notes: Try exercising feature X by using entry point A as well as entry point B and assure that the output is the same."
Now let me explain my problem with this. I have a gut-wrench reaction when something like this occurs, because my first thought is, "Wait! If these scenarios have been identified as important, why didn't you try them?"

That's right. I'm proposing that if a programmer can identify a risk area, wouldn't it make sense that they ensure their code works under those conditions? Even better - shouldn't there be coded tests for these scenarios, if at all possible?

I don't mean to lay blame here. As far as I'm concerned, in development there is no "us" vs "them". "We" are a team. So if testing is playing out like this, it is up to everyone to correct it. But, I AM advocating that it gets corrected. Allowing testers to be told how to test is basically boiling down their job to executing steps that others don't feel like doing. It is removing what I believe is the core expertise of testers - to think critically and creatively about how features have been implemented, how they integrate, and how to stress the shit out of them!

So please, stop telling testers how to test - and start collaborating with testers on what to test! In an Agile environment, we have the luxury as programmers and testers to sit together and chat about a feature or a bug fix any time we need to. Theres a few times when these talks can be mutually beneficial and help us build the best products as quick as possible.

  1. Before programming begins: This is an excellent time to discuss what the problem being tackled is (new feature or bug fix), and how both parties see it being solved. The programmer can explain how they are going to approach the implementation of the solution and the tester can talk about how they plan to test it. This gives the programmer the chance to keep those scenarios in mind during development. It also gives the tester the chance the develop a test plan based on the intended implementation.
  2. Demoing before testing: When the programmer believes they're done, a brief demo to the tester can be extremely helpful. (In fact, you wouldn't believe how many times we've caught a glaring bug during these demos...BEFORE any formal testing has begun). This is an opportunity for the tester to ask about integration points, and think about how to exercise those.
    The other thing that could be discussed at this time...UNIT TESTS! Talk about what unit tests have been written and if any more coverage would be beneficial. If certain things aren't unit testable, the programmer can explain why that is the case and the tester can plan to focus on that area (since we know there's less coverage there than other areas).
  3. During development: And of course, in true Agile fashion, any point in time is actually a great time to talk about roadblocks that arise, and possible solutions! Keep the communication up and leverage eachothers' skills early and often! 
Tell me what to test. Tell me where to test. But please, don't tell me how to test!