Double check your audiences values

The other night I tweeted that I thought I’d lost my testing mojo. I didn’t feel inspired to write about testing. Some good friends of mine suggested I get some rest, that it would indeed return and to be patient. So I kicked back and chilled out. As it turns out it didn’t return today so I decided to do the second best thing and re-post a fairly old post from a now defunct blog.

I sense my mojo is returning as my mind is racing around thinking about some very interest..and far out…ideas about megafactories, plastic testers, ghosts, snot (bear with me), testing therapy and idleness. But for now….a golden oldie (apologise to all who’ve read it already). For those that are interested my old blog is here : http://pac-testing.blogspot.com/

 

Double Check Your Audiences Values

I’ve been wondering a lot about phrases mentioned in the test world like ‘quality is the value to someone who matters’. I completely subscribe to this notion that what a tester may perceive to be a high priority bug, the customer (or product owner) may actually not. It is a sound theory and something that I try to remember when testing. Its something a tester must appreciate so that they don’t get all gnarled up over a defect they think should have been fixed.

So day one, you find out what your ‘person that matters’ deems to be important and not important, so you raise defects and only highlight (add extra emphasis on communicating in a rapid way) defects in areas your audience has told you have more value. You keep doing this until one day you get asked why you let a high priority defect go in the pot out without making more of a fuss. ‘But you didn’t see the value in fixing that bug last week…’ is your response.

What’s happened is that some dimension of this persons perception of value has shifted and you’ve been left out in the cold. The ‘person that matters’ now perceives this once low value area to be a high value area because of new information they now have at this moment in time. You feel annoyed, frustrated and betrayed.

So when we say that quality is the value to someone that matters I feel we need to add on to that ‘at that moment in time’, in fact I’m pretty sure someone, somewhere will have already done that….. (as it happens it was none other than Mr Bolton and Mr Bach (There’s a line in the Rapid Software Testing course: “Your context guides your choices, both of which evolve over time”. – Michael B))

I’ve seen this happen more times than I can remember where a defect in an area or a defect of a type (i.e. tab order) was not important at point X, but now a shift in focus has happened and it’s suddenly the top priority now at point Y. Whether you get told about this shift in focus or not is irrelevant – I see it as a testers job to find out what the focus is, from the ‘person that matters’. You can report defects until the cows come home but what really adds value for your ‘person that matters’ is when you report the defects with an emphasis on the ones of value to them.

I’m not saying don’t raise every defect you encounter, far from it, but from my experience, testers have a direct influence on how well communicated these issues are to your audience. So spend the time making the ones important to your ‘person that matters’ read like a horror story and also make them aware of these issues faster.

So find out what is important at that time to whoever may matter and work with them to add ‘quality’. Don’t forget that the person who matters will have more dimensions of information at their disposal than you do. They may not care about 100 defects in module X, they may care about 1 defect in module Y due to commercial issue Z. Work with them, let them know they can trust you, let them know you are pro-active and let them know about the bugs that matter to them. But most importantly, keep checking your audiences values as they can, sorry, they will, change over time.

4 thoughts to “Double check your audiences values”

  1. Hi Rob,Nice to see the odd re-run – am I tuning in to late-night BBC2 now? :)Yes, this one is topical – and worth a re-run(!) – and I’m with you (and others) on checking with the receiver of the work – the relative importance and priorities within projects (and between project phases) can change frequently – often due to external forces.So if you want to stay relevant you have to check in with those guys (stakeholders, PM’s or whatever) regularly – but this “just” (3rd most over-used word in testing circles!) comes down to dialog and communication. If you have that communication path open both-ways and functioning then it’s quite natural that your testing goals will evolve as the rest of the project evolves.Note, I’m saying this without touching on the “quality is value” discussion – that’s “just” a “reminder” that the tester needs to be in-synch with the project stakeholders – and that the test work, findings and results really only mean something to this project.BTW, I’m in the same dip as your testing mojo – still generating ideas but not finding the time to complete – good luck with it – and if you get any insights be sure to blog about it!

  2. Hi Simon,Thanks for commenting. Absolutely perfect to have the communication channel open both ways. Trust and communication are key to success. Often necessary to keep checking that the comms channel is still open as well…let alone the stakeholders opinion of value.Hope you get your testing mojo back soon too….Rob..

  3. I agree when you say “So find out what is important at that time to whoever may matter and work with them to add ‘quality’.” I believe the reputation of the tester and his history of reporting genuine show stoppers in the past plays an important role. Raising a flag for every mundane issue doesn’t add up to anything and building his credibility is very important as it enables him not just to raise the right flag at the right time but also makes sure it gets heard across the board…

  4. Hi Arvind,You’re spot on, respect and image of testing to other departments is something that is completely undervalued in much of the talk and teaching about testing. Thanks for the comment. Rob..

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