Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BOOK CLUB: How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing (1/21)

For almost a year now, those who follow this blog have heard me talk about *THE BOOK*. When it will be ready, when it will be available, and who worked on it? This book is special, in that it is an anthology. Each essay could be read by itself, or it could be read in the context of the rest of the book. As a contributor, I think it's a great title and a timely one. The point is, I'm already excited about the book, and I'm excited about the premise and the way it all came together. But outside of all that... what does the book say?

Over the next few weeks, I hope I'll be able to answer that, and to do so I'm going back to the BOOK CLUB format I used last year for "How We Test Software at Microsoft". Note, I'm not going to do a full synopsis of each chapter in depth (hey, that's what the book is for ;) ), but I will give my thoughts as relates to each chapter and area. Each individual chapter will be given its own space and entry. Today's entry deals with the Forward and Preface.

Forward by Cem Kaner

Cem makes the point that we have been going through challenging economic times, and the software testing world has certainly been affected. There is no question that in challenging financial realities, the desire to control costs comes to the forefront in many organizations. But what are the costs of software testing? Can you name them directly? Are your impressions of costs correct? How about your organizations impressions? Do we want to have those who have no real understanding of the true costs of software testing (and of quality in general), making decisions just on the dollar values?

When we approach software testing and quality, there needs to be a balance. Cost is only one variable in the equation. Another vital variable is waste. How much of what we do in our day to day testing is busy-work, there because some department in an organization says they need it, but never look at the data provided? Is that waste? It is if the work that could be done is of greater value, but can't be done because we are too busy dotting i's and crossing t's. Note, I am not saying that having documentation or providing information is not important; information is the key deliverable of any tester. However, I feel it has to be the right kind of information, at the right time, in the right amount to tell a compelling story. If what we provide isn't optimized to do exactly that, then any of the "extra junk" is just that. It's junk.

So what's the answer? We as testers need to consider a different way of thinking. We need to up our game in the skills department. We need to focus on the activities that deliver high quality information and can provide as complete a story as possible so that stakeholders can make an informed decision. Learning about techniques will help, but so will learning what areas we should diminish or avoid altogether. How to do that? That's what the chapters in this book should help us all do :).


It's become a thing of legend now. Govind Kulkarni asks a fateful question on a LinkedIn group, and the whirlwind picked up momentum. 500 responses later, an idea is born. Let's create a book about reducing the cost of software testing, from the perspective of the testers themselves. Let's edit it collaboratively. Let's recruit authors from many different industries and from different countries. Let's use a wiki to share our ideas and develop the different areas of the book in parallel.

The net result is this book. Many people took  time to help coach the authors and help them deliver drafts of their topics and help them polish them until they were solid and ready to be included in the book.

There are three main areas; first, identifying the costs of software testing, and after reading the first section, you may have a different consideration of what those costs actually are and how they are approached (well, I certainly did).

The second part of the book relates to "What Should I Do?" A lot of that "what" depends on "who" you are. This book is not specifically written for testers alone. There is a great deal of valuable information for developers, development managers, executives, financial comptrollers, and others who have direct impact on where the dollars and cents of an organizations finances are applied.

The third section is "How do we do it?". There are many ideas presented from different vantage points and from different levels of experience. You may not find everything is applicable, but you will very likely find something you can take away and do right then and there.

The final section is an Appendix, and for those that just can't wait, there are key areas with immediate methods you can use to get to work cutting costs right this second. However, do you really want to prescribe medicine before you know what the sickness is? That's why I'll be reviewing those sections last ;).

I hope you'll join me next time so that we can dive into "Chapter 1: Is this the Right Question?"

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