POLL: Two consultants on their attitude towards te

Testers spend an inordinate amount of time on improbable scenarios

by Louise Ege, Tester/IT consultant

What type of projects are your primary focus?
I generally work with testing-related projects in the pension sector and particularly projects related to the Edlunds Liv.Net framework. At the moment I am working on a project at PenSam that involves a large number of business rules and ranges across many systems in the organisation. This allows for focus both on business and more technical integrations, and the mix suits me very well.

Is there a challenge that often recurs in your work – and how do you handle it?Sometimes it's a challenge to stay up-to-date on changing requirements along the way and to adjust the test cases, etc. It often happens that the company forgets to inform the testers when new decisions are taken, but it is essential that testers are constantly updated on the solution.

What you do value most in your work?
As a tester, I value obtaining an understanding of the process as a whole and the business-related background for it. I actually started as a developer, but was deeply frustrated by always knowing just a small part of the system I was helping to build. I have a strong need to understand the whole, and as a tester you get that opportunity. Moreover, as a tester you are in contact with many different people – requirements experts, developers, users, etc. – and are therefore in touch with different parts of the organisation.

What do you find most frustrating?
I can easily become very involved in a project and it can sometimes be frustrating for me not to be part of every detail. I practice telling myself that I don't need to be the expert in every area, and that I don't need to take part in all of the discussions. But it can certainly be difficult.

If you could change one thing about your work with testing, what would it be – and why?

I would really like to have tests at the forefront of the process and involved as early as the requirement specification process. There is a huge loss of knowledge as the test often only occurs when something is ready to be tested. I think it is important that a tester understands what the business wants, and that testing is done with this in mind and not just from what has been understood from the requirements specification process.

With tests involved in the requirement specification process, you can safeguard the important business understanding throughout the entire project, and it will result in much higher quality testing. I often see testers spend an inordinate amount of time on small, improbable scenarios because they lack an understanding of what is essential. Therefore, I also believe that it provides a more efficient testing process.

Often there is no diagram showing how data flows between the systems

by Jakob Øjvind Nielsen, Test manager/Technical project manager

What type of projects are your primary focus?
As a freelance test manager, I am usually brought in to schedule the test of a product with some major offshoots of a larger complex of integrated systems. In practice, this means that I become the project manager's guarantee that the product emerges from the testing process with the right quality and the desired requirements.

Is there a challenge that often recurs in your work – and how do you handle it?
There are some repetitions to be found among the challenges, but if I had to mention just one thing, it's often the lack of a diagram showing how data flows through the systems and how they change.

A number of documents are produced concerning architecture, design, implementation and processes, but that one diagram is missing. The diagram is used in the project to tell a story about how the business's processes affect the systems. It becomes the backbone of the project and the communications tool between the developers, the business and the testers to achieve a shared understanding of the project.

Few people understand the level of detail required for this type of diagram. That's why I'm usually the one responsible for putting it together, which also provides me with knowledge of the system as a whole at a very high level of detail. If the diagram is created at an early stage in the project, I can discover gaps in the system interfaces and can therefore put the parties in contact so that they can agree on a solution.

What do you value most in your work?
When I can see that what is being developed has the potential to help many people in their work, and when I can contribute to creating understanding between business and developers.

What do you find most frustrating?
I get frustrated when the business gets too distant from the project and loses touch with the project's direction. I'm a huge proponent of agile projects in which the business is educated by being close to a project, so that the product under development has a connection with the reality.

If you could change one thing about your work with testing, what would it be – and why?
My greatest wish is to join a project where the development team has introduced continuous integration and where all regression testing is automated by an automation team that constantly introduces new tests to the suite.

If my wish were to be fulfilled, it would be possible to significantly reduce the cycle time from development to production. This would also mean that in-depth testing could be performed in line with the requirements of the project.