Pointless Testing

I was chatting with a fellow tester on Skype the other day and he said that it’s pointless doing any testing at his place of work. His reasoning for this pointlessness was because no matter what issues he finds late in the day or during defect retesting they usually ship the product.

But I cautioned him that this is not as black and white as it may seem.

It is not pointless at all. If the information he finds when testing informs his next set of testing then this has been very valuable. If the information he finds feeds in to the next set of releases and the business take account of his feedback then it has been valuable. The business will always have more drivers and information to make ship/no ship decisions than any tester. It is not our job to say yes/no anyway. Michael Bolton points this out nicely in his blog post “get out of the QA business”

This “pointless” testing may have provided confirmation of his views on how “not” to do testing, or given insight in to how to improve the testing for the future, or provided a classic example to take to management to make some changes or highlighted some high risk areas to explore further. There are countless others.

I believe no testing is ever pointless. There is a lesson to be learned from everything we do. Some lessons may be obvious, others may be just that little bit more subtle. If you ever find yourself thinking your testing is pointless time and time again…then maybe the harsh reality is that you’re just not valued where you work.

 

(Note: My fellow tester didn’t mind me sharing this story)

8 thoughts to “Pointless Testing”

  1. In such situations, there are other possibilities, and a few pointed questions to be asked.1) Are there business concerns that trump my technical concerns? Are the business people simply not sharing these concerns with me (for which they might have legitimate reasons)? Or, worse, am I so oblivious to other dimensions of value that I can’t see them?2) Have I reported the problems that I’ve seen in the product in such a way that the product owner understands the meaning and significance of what I’m reporting? That is, have I done a capable job of test framing and bug advocacy?3) Do I think that the release decision should depend on me? That is, am I in the wrong line of work as a tester, since I apparently believe that I should be a project manager?—Michael B.

  2. Testing is rarely pointless. I can think of a few situations where it is, at least where I work. However, back to the fellow tester’s comment, speaking for myself: if it FEELS pointless, it is very discouraging. I also think the way the message is communicated makes a huge difference. It’s not that the bug is not important, but in the overall picture, it is not worth delaying the build, so it gets thrown into the pile to be fixed later (maybe). OK, I can live with that. To enlarge this picture, as the pile grows and decision makers are in denial that there is actually a bigger problem, and even cancel bugs to make metrics look good, this is where the “pointless” feeling begins to creep in. I empathize with my fellow tester because I have felt that.

  3. Another possible way to add value would be to get this ‘pointess’ info. to the support team (if one exists)… At the very least it will arm them with the types of production problems people may call about…I agree with Ruth in that these situations ‘feel’ pointless. I experienced it for about 8 years with one employer… However using the above suggestion I managed to pull some satisfation out of the work that myself and the greater test team had done.

  4. Context is the king as usually. And as Michael pointed out multiple cases can be there.I would check:1) did I report something valuable there? something that is worth delaying shipping? Are the bugs really that critical?2) did I point out the possible problems from that issue? prove it that is a big bug, so everyone sees my view?3) was I clear enough in describing it? If I had multiple bugs proven as invalid*(especially unreproducible) I would double check the situation to keep my credibility.4) is testing having a good role there? maybe you should just change job if they hired formally someone to test4)

  5. Hi Michael,Absolutely. The communication of defects/issues found is crucial and something many people overlook. With respect to the release decision. I see it quite often that testers are asked if it’s ok to ship..but the next release they aren’t consulted at all. Often this comes down to a poor release process and can sometimes be due to people shifting the blame if the release is risky, or taking the glory if customer issues are solved.As always Michael – you give me more points to consider and new angles to observe. Thanks for commenting.rob..

  6. Hi Ruth,Thanks for commenting. Absolutely. I left the post vague about “feelings” as this is the biggest influencer on whether a test is pointless or not.I see other people, in other businesses running tests and I wonder why. I think they are pointless. But to them, that test could be valuable. It could be a high risk area, a comfort blanket test or simply a problem area test. But I may “feel” they are pointless.I like the point about the bigger longer term picture. These issues stack up. They can soon become a real burden. I’ve felt like I’ve done pointless testing in the past too and it is indeed discouraging. Sometimes the feelings are fleeting. Other times they are constant….. Thanks for your insightful comments.Rob..

  7. Hi xtremedmg,thanks for the comment. nice point about communicating these issues further down/up/along the chain. Interesting angle I’d not considered. It could be very valuable to inform other teams about potential support calls.thanks Rob..

  8. Hi Eusebiu,Thanks for commenting:1) did I report something valuable there? something that is worth delaying shipping? Are the bugs really that critical?- Indeed. Sometimes a bug we testers find critical means nothing to the person that matters.2) did I point out the possible problems from that issue? prove it that is a big bug, so everyone sees my view?- It comes down to bug advocacy – nice point3) was I clear enough in describing it? If I had multiple bugs proven as invalid*(especially unreproducible) I would double check the situation to keep my credibility.- I have a post in draft about reporting bugs…It all comes down to communication.4) is testing having a good role there? maybe you should just change job if they hired formally someone to test- Agreed. Some places simply don’t value testing and instead rely on “checking”. Anything that is not “checking” can be deemed to be not important. Bad Move. The reverse is true in my experience :)Thanks for commentingRob..

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