Who Tests the Testers: Software Quality Management Left Unchecked

Posted on Sep 27, 2012 in blogQA

Like accountants and inspectors, software testers are part of that rare breed of professions in which our stamp of approval is the final word on what is acceptable.

We check the developers’ work, locate bugs, recommend fixes, and go through as many rounds as necessary to ensure the final product reaches a certain standard.

Once we (the testers) sign off on a project, it is deemed “good to go.”

It’s an inspiring challenge, and companies are increasingly taking note of our impact on the bottom line. This is especially the case in today’s competitive market in which 80% of all software development costs go to testing and debugging. The better the software test management tools and staff, the fewer rounds you need, and thus, the more money you save.

But in a classic “who guards the guards” scenario, this also means that insufficient software quality testing could spell disaster for a company. The success of new products rests largely on our shoulders. It’s a lot of responsibility.

I’m sure there are moments when we all wish there was some benevolent, universal arbiter looking over our shoulders to help point out mistakes to us.

In a way, there is a universal arbiter. But she’s not benevolent at all. The marketplace is the final judge of any new software suite. And she has a way of discovering mistakes with unbelievable efficiency and publicizing those errors with unbridled cruelty.

There are, of course, ways to mitigate the damage. Some software suites use soft launches to test the waters. But even still, you risk losing your audience if the beta release is too buggy.

Short of creating another level of testing (i.e. a new software testing department to check our own work), I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to completely resolve the “who guards the guards” conundrum. And even that solution merely delays the problem.

So what to do?

At Testuff, we advocate two separate strategies for protecting ourselves from shoddy workmanship:

  1. Create better software testers
  2. Create better software test management tools

Creating Better Software Testers

The first step touches on a theme we’ve covered several times over the past few weeks. In Back to School: Software Testing Management, we explored the benefit of continued training and personal improvement.

Like musicians, doctors, and teachers, software testers must constantly learn new tools and re-learn old ones.

Unlike these other professions however, we operate in an industry that undergoes exponential change. Yes, it is true that medicine, education, and even music constantly evolve – but not at the same speeds witnessed in the IT world. Pharmaceuticals and CDs don’t typically become obsolete within a matter of days.

So if you’re a software tester who is truly committed to his craft, you owe it to yourself to study, train, learn, and network. Outside forces may require you to do this from time to time (ex: mandated company training). But the goal is to stay ahead of the curve and pursue continued learning for learning’s sake.

If we all did this, the world of software development would be a very different animal.

Creating Better Test Management Tools

They say that “it’s not the tool, it’s the carpenter.” I personally agree with this general analogy. But the tool is still very very important. What carpenter can build a house with a can-opener?

And thus, the other piece of the “better software” puzzle involves creating increasingly better software test management tools. These tools, like the testers using them, must stay ahead of the curve and constantly evolve.

In a previous post, I outlined our approach to this process. At Tesuff, we rely heavily on community input to ensure that our software test management tools adhere to the highest standards. With monthly updates and constant improvements, our SaaS software testing suite is carefully “guarded” by an incredibly diverse and dedicated community of users around the globe.

Obviously, we’d love for every person reading this post to use our software testing suite. We’re very proud of our product and feel that our approach to creating better tools makes a lot of sense.

But the main takeaway is this.

Whatever tool you do decide to use (ours or a competitor’s), make sure that it is the absolute best software testing platform for your needs – no compromises. The consequences of not doing so are pretty dire. When the marketplace eventually comes and finds you, you’ll know for sure whether or not you made the right decision.