Testers are not the last line of defense

Thoughts on why testers need to think beyond their role and evolve to become quality coaches for the whole team.

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Hello there,

If you are reading this and are in the software engineering field as primarily a developer or tester, then I have some important thoughts to convey to both of you.

For Dev — Test is not your patsy to whom you can just hand over builds and offload any concerns for the quality of your code.

For Test — Your job is not to enable the above dysfunctional behavior and act as gatekeepers all the time.

Some of you might immediately contradict above since it is quite an opinionated thought.

You might even say, Well that is fundamentally what a dev or a tester has to do! However, allow me to explain why this is just a bad idea.

Throughout my career, I have seen the same thing play out numerous times often with bad consequences for product quality.

Bug ping pong/ Dysfunctional loop:

Does the below scenario sound familiar in any way?

  1. Product managers/Business analysts come up with a set of user stories/requirements for a problem business wants to be solved (most of the time urgently or on a deadline)
  2. Developers get involved from the start along with UX designer’s/PMs and come up with ideas/implementation on what and how to build.
  3. Testers are busy with either other deliverables (automating a mountain of a backlog of tests) and are generally involved late in the game when product/feature is already built
  4. Testers believing that they are the only champions of quality take a look at the app and find design issues and bugs (sometimes even in basic app flows and often times in negative flows or edge conditions)
  5. Dev team is pleased and amazed to have such quality gatekeepers and fix these bugs and mostly ignore design issues as feature misses or differ them to a future release and hand over another build to the testers
  6. Testers take another look and find most of the issues are fixed, however, there are still regression bugs and report it back. (They get feeling of being validated at this stage and happy)
  7. Dev’s are either happy or annoyed that such bugs are being uncovered this late, though without having a real choice they work on fixing these issues.

…… And so the cycle continues on and on and on... This is akin to a game of table tennis or ping pong.

I have lost count of how many times, I have seen this happen.

Do you see any problems with this? At first glance, you might see this as business as usual however there are deep problems with this.

Testing anti-patterns:

This most often than not results in below anti-patterns:

  1. Devs become complacent knowing that test will act as a safeguard and do not build enough test coverage (Unit/Integration)
  2. Dev is mostly happy with basic sanity instead of rigorously exercising the build.
  3. Test often acts as an enabler of this ping pong cycle and are mostly engrossed in multiple cycles of executions (in most cases manually in the interest of urgency to ship the feature or bug fix)
  4. Very less automated tests are written leading to the mountain of test automation backlog.
  5. Designers/PM’s often are baffled as to why so many edge and negative scenarios are not thought of earlier
  6. The whole process as such becomes an exercise in inefficiency.

Here is some food for thought:

How can a tester assure quality of a piece of code which is not authored by him.

Well, I hope the above arguments lead you to see the problem. However, if this is such an issue then what can we do to fix this?

We can certainly take action on below:

In a utopian world.

Testers stop acting as a gatekeeper:

Testers get involved from the beginning of product design asking critical questions and also encouraging the entire team to start thinking on below lines:

  • What is the feature we are building?
  • Why are we even building it?
  • Where is this going to add value to the customer and where will code changes be made?
  • What all app areas would be impacted by this?
  • Who are our customers?
  • How will they use the product?
  • Are we building the product right? Or are we building the right product? (Subtle but important)

Coach developers into the art of testing:

Testers coach developers into wearing the testing hat and help them to get into the habit of thinking about breaking something that they themselves made by pairing, being part of code reviews, setting up and facilitating mob testing or bug bashes and other such formats and essentially help set up a culture of whole team ownership of quality.

Setup automated tests and author them together

Testers help dev team setup automated tests either at integration or functional layer by building easy to use frameworks and tools and dev also takes ownership of authoring functional tests.

Be part of code review

Testers sit as part of code reviews and inquire into the test coverage or even give pointers into what conditions are missed so that they can be automated or tested at the correct layer.

Analyze customer data to learn usage patterns:

Testers look into the customer usage patterns along with UX/PM/Devs to understand and validate if the created feature actually had the desired impact or not.

Isn’t above a much better use of a testers time and creativity.

What we all need to realize at the end of the day is that two brains are better than one and every human (whatever role he/she plays on an engineering team) is inherently curious and capable of figuring out how stuff works or breaks.

Testers need to jump off their high horse a bit and be more pragmatic with their choices. Devs are really more of their partners in crime than the enemy.

So let me leave you with a final thought. Next time when a dev hands you a build to test. what are you going to do? 🤔


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For more posts on test automation or testing, theory check out automation hacks

Happy testing! Cheers!

Originally published at https://automationhacks.io/ on June 24, 2019.

Lead SDET at Gojek, Bengaluru, I ❤️ to code in Kotlin, Python 🐍, and Java to build scalable test automation frameworks. Blog at automationhacks.io 🇮🇳

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