Friday, November 8, 2013

How to treat a testing contractor

With EuroSTAR 2013 behind me, there's a story to share. I got to listen a great presentation 'Fooled by Unknown Unknowns' by Alexandra Casapu twice, as she was selected to do a do-over session as something you should have seen if you missed the first time.

Alexandra works with me (or for me), and inspired by her authentic story and great improvement in testing with our product, I have my own story to tell.

As a test manager / tester in a customer organization using services from Romania, I could go with a suspicious approach. I could require that the remote tester for visibility purposes creates test cases and runs marks them passed or failed. I could require detailed notes, detailed hour reports and detailed monitoring. I could be suspicious on how she uses her time, and focus on ensuring the time it took to prepare for this presentation was not in any way invoiced from the customer. I could give her the least interesting assignments in our testing that need to get done, and cherry pick the fun stuff for myself. I could give her ridiculously small timeframes to test large features, and then complain that she did not find all the problems. I could show her no support in thinking how to make the testing she does better, implicitly guiding her to shallowness. I could require compensation for missing the bugs she missed that I had to find in the feature she talked about.

I don't do any of that. And I wish there was more customers who buy testing services that would not do that either.

Instead, I guide her work like I'd like my work to be guided. I require thinking, and taking time to reflect and make sure we pay for those hours too. I provide feedback, by testing in same areas and by reviewing ideas of what to cover. I treat her as a colleague she is, with the idea that treating every day of testing as a learning opportunity, every day at work makes us a step better. And I strive for the same excellence in testing myself using most of my time on testing too. 

There are many customer organizations outsourcing testing without involving a skilled tester on their side. These customers may set unrealistic expectations and requirements on how the work should be done, and not have the necessary viewpoint to assessing whether the testing performed by the contractor was any good. The criteria of goodness may degenerate into numbers of passed test cases, instead of valuable testing done with a reasonable effort. With the trust missing, we end up building crazy approaches to manage the distrust.

Someone asked me on my way home from EuroSTAR if Alexandra asked permission to talk about our project. My reply was, that she did not ask - I requested her to do share a real story with real details, as that is a direction that I feel testing community needs. I'm fortunate to work for a company that shares my view on this to an extent that we're having researchers watch us work on testing, and hopefully soon enough publish results about what is it that skilled testers actually do.