Testing is more than finding bugs. Most readers would agree with
me that Testing is a multi disciplinary profession, Challenging in
more than one way.
I remember once having a tester in one of my training sessions
who explained to me, that she was really satisfied at the end of
her working day with a huge pile of new bug reports. She was not
really bothered with the follow-up and she was certainly not really
aligned with goals of the organization she was working for.
An exotic example? Maybe, but I do believe that testers in
general can increase their added value if they focus on their
stakeholders a little more. If you want to increase your added
value there are three things to keep in mind.
Design for traceability
The first tip is self-evident really. It is all about
transparency and traceability. Even a medium size project has many
systems, functions, interfaces that need to be tested. Just
executing a lot of tests might result in great bugs being found,
but that alone is not enough. If we as testers want to add value,
we should be able to translate each single bug towards items that
have meaning to our stakeholders. This translation should not be a
tedious process that takes hours to figure it out, but we need to
have an clear overview, dashboard so you like, that can be
generated easily on the fly. Unfortunately many of the test
projects that I see around are neither have traceability in their
architecture, nor does the test department knows what the
organization really wants.
Align with stakeholders needs
Testing is a risk based activity. Sure, but recent research
learned that only 50 of the testers actually do RBT. For the other
50%, the ones that do RBT, risks might seem a nice translation of
the customer needs. But, risks do not tell the whole story.
We should not forget that many decisions are not based upon
rational arguments, but are in fact fear driven by Project Managers
and stakeholders who aim for success, comfort and a feeling of
being in control. Conversely, loss, pain and fear are strong
negative drivers that determine our behavior to a great extent. We
cannot neglect them. How do these key players act when they are
pushed outside their comfort zone and the fear of failure becomes
If we really understand what drives our Project Manager and
stakeholders we can design our tests in such a way that is provides
them the comfort and takes away their fears. Luckily testing is a
discipline that provides us with many tools to do so. With these
tools we can improve our tests, and do better test reporting. Good
test reporting requires good data and an understandable message.
The first is created by having a good traceability. The second is
achieved by telling a good tester story.
Tell a good testers story
Recently I coached a colleague of mine who was about to present
the results of his test project to the senior management. His first
impulse was to announce the number of executed tests, bugs found,
etc. It took him some time to translate this data into useful
The useful information is of course strongly related to the
comfort needs of the stakeholders and it tells a story. The story
explains what you and your team did, the problems you had to
overcome and the solutions you found. The story also justifies the
effort taken, it clearly explains how this aligns with the needs of
the organization and the benefits gained from the results.
Important lesson learned is that a story is nice to listen to and
it's personal. You need to back up what you are saying by solid
arguments, but should not blur your message by putting in too much
Combining these three elements will help you designing better
tests, putting a focus on the right areas and make your efforts
better understood. Doing these will make the difference between
being one of those people in the office who cost money or one of
those who matters.
Derk-Jan de Grood works for Valori as product manager and well
known speaker at conferences. He is specialized in getting more out
of testing by focusing on the value chain and business-it
alignment. Recently he published a book in which he describes the
human side of IT and explains how testing can help to increase
comfort and grip for our Project Managers and stakeholders. This
book is supported by a full day training that enables you to get
commitment for your test activities, contribution to the project
success and become the wing partner of your project manager.