Long ago was a time where testing was purely seen as an activity by a siloed team who executed 1000’s of tests towards the end of a project. In the modern world, this is still a very real situation in some areas, but on the whole, testing as a collaborative, continuous activity is much more the norm.
But getting to that stage is not easy, for some reason, there has historically been a stigma attached to testing as a lesser activity that slows the release of a project down and changing this mindset is a huge obstacle to get over.
In places where testing is perceived in a negative light, it is possible to move forward, but it will take hard work and use of the power of persuasion, while coaching and building collaborative best practices which a whole range of tech teams can buy into.
Improving the Perception of Testing Across the Business
When thinking about the need to move the view of testing forward, it’s really important that a number of steps are considered to help make it a success.
1. Define your End Goal
The most important decision to make when changing the perception is deciding what the goal is that you are aiming for. Is it just a more positive perception of what the Test teams do? Or is it a collaborative approach to testing where everyone is able to get involved when needed? Whatever the decision is, cementing this and having this to work towards is crucial.
2. Communicate what Testers Do
There may be common mis-conceptions with what Testers or QA do, what they are responsible for and what motivates them. These may come out in conversations, but in worse situations, assumptions will be made that Testers don’t need to be involved and therefore decisions are made without any testing input.
My personal way to deal with this, is to face this head on, any opportunity I get to talk about testing, I will. Within two months of joining my current role, I was presenting at an internal meeting to the whole technology department about “Growing a Culture of Quality” which involved talking about:
- The common mis-conceptions of testing
- What testers actually do
- Showing where Testers could work collaboratively with other teams to improve quality
- Highlighting the concepts of Testability and Continuous testing throughout a project
- Inviting the wider business to join some lunch sessions with TestSphere
This set the groundwork for moving the team forward and eradicating any possible mis-conceptions of what testers do.
3. Spend Time Sharing Best Practices
TestSphere cards are a great activity to get conversations about testing going. I used these both internally within the Test team and also with the wider business to get folks talking about testing activities, and start to suggest ways in which activities can be incorporated.
By making yourself approachable and available for discussions, you will find that those chats over coffee become working meetings where suddenly “can you show me how we could test this more?” or “how can i create a set of tests which i can re-use?” become questions you will hear from non-testers who want to improve the quality of their work.
If you’re in a place where you have collaborative teams who work with you on the testing activities, embrace this but also look for the ways in which the communications could improve and with that, the testing activities could become even more effective.
Finding opportunities to share knowledge is a huge passion of mine, I firmly believe if I can help improve just one persons testing ability, I have done well.
I’ve run interactive workshops on identifying tests, where I’ve looked at heuristics, using TestSphere and other ways, rather than just the ISTQB defined techniques. Broadening the thought process has inevitably improved the testing quality. Running the same workshops with the wider business will help embed the knowledge wider and testers may find opportunities to help testing activities in teams where they weren’t aware they were even needed.
4. Share, Share, Share
Find ways to share blogs, webinars, conference talks and more with the test teams and the wider business. Build a passion from quality within the team and this will expand organically across the organisation. Not every tester is active or even aware of the online community of testers, none of my current team had heard of the Ministry of Testing or the Test Automation University until I signposted them to them, now people are attending events, webinars and taking courses when they have the opportunities.
I’m sure it gets annoying for some, but I’ve blogged several times internally on the company wide blog about testing and can also be seen occasionally wearing MoT or other testing t-shirts around which always guarantee questions from curious folk and yes, you guessed it, another chance to share even the smallest amount of knowledge.
5. Define New Processes and Prove the worth of Testing
Spend time learning the way things are done currently and understand why. Once you have that grounding, you can then explore options to embed new processes which may bring testing activities earlier or make quality part of discussions from the beginning.
One success I’ve had here is incorporating a Testability Assessment of the product requirements before it is “finalised”. This is again a chance for an open discussion with the test team and the wider business stakeholders to understand what is testable from the requirements and what needs more work to be refined and articulated better. This has enabled the team to understand more of the system earlier, ask probing questions which help to design a better system and be able to write more effective tests.
Another area of suggested improvement would be to look at measurable results which show the dial is moving in the right direction, this may be different for the context and organisation you are in, but the important step is again to communicate the metrics purpose and how they are generated widely before first use, so that everyone is on the same page with what it shows. This means the reporting can be more succinct as there won’t be the need to explain what it means each time.
It All Comes Down to Communication
Ultimately, as with most things in our world, communication is the foundation of all things great! A huge part of our role as Testing professionals is communicating effectively. This comes in many forms, but making our world accessible to all is imperative in creating a shared and collaborative culture of Quality throughout an organisation. Yes there will be difficult conversations along the way and some will take longer to come round than others, but stay close to the goal you defined at the start, understand whether you are moving closer to it and enable yourselves to course-correct if needed.