Wednesday, July 28, 2021

How Holistic Testing Affects Product Quality with @janetgregoryca (@Xpanxion #QASummit 2021) : Live Blog

 We're down to our final keynote and it's a pleasure to see Janet Gregory, if only virtually, this year. Since the border situation between USA and Canada is still in question (and considering the situation with outbreaks we are seeing, I don't blame it in the slightest), We're still getting to hear Janet talk about the value of DevOps and the fact that it genuinely works when the teams in question genuinely put in the time and energy to make sure that the teams can work. 

Quality is always a vague and odd thing to get one's head around. What makes something good to one person may not be so excellent to someone else. In some areas it is objective but much of the time it is subjective and not even related to the end product itself. Janet uses the example of a cup of coffee. For some, the best coffee is experienced black, so that every sense of the flavor of the beans can be examined. For others, the best crafted iced frappuccino with all of the extra flavors makes the experience a quality one. Does one approach replace the validity of the other? It really doesn't but it matters a lot to the person in question at that point in time. Quality is what matters to a person experiencing the item in question and in the way that they want to experience it.

So, how do you build quality into your product? In many cases, quality is not just one figure but many that come together. Some may argue that Lamborghini sports cars are of high quality. I may or may not agree but the cost for a Lamborghini puts it well out of the range where I will ever find out. Is the level of quality a consideration if you can't consider paying for it? If it is super affordable, does that automatically mean the product is of low quality? Not necessarily. I'm reminded of the app Splice, which is a video editing app that I use on my phone. Granted, I pay for it (about $3 a week) but their regularity of updates and their method of continually improving the product makes it worth that expense for me. It's not s much that it is going to discourage me but it also provides me a value that makes me willing to keep paying for it.

Holistic Testing focuses on the idea that testing happens all the time. To that end, Janet is not a fan of the terms shift-left or shift-right testing. The real question is, "what do you mean you are not doing active testing at every stage of the process?" It does help to know all areas where testing makes sense to perform and why/when we would do it. It may honestly have never occurred to people that monitoring and analytics after a product is released fits into testing and that testing can actually learn from these areas to help improve the product. 

One of the best phrases a tester can use/encourage is "can you show me?" I find that when working with developers and testers, many misconceptions and miscommunications can be avoided just by asking this question.  Using AB/Testing, feature flags, or toggles to turn on or off features allows us to do testing in production without it being a scary proposition. We also get to observe what our customers actually do and use and from that we can learn wi=hich features are actually used, or for that matter even wanted in the first place. We may also discover that features we develop to serve one purpose may actually be used in a different manner or for a different purpose than we intended. With that kind of discovery, we can learn how to better hit the mark or to provide features that we may not even be totally aware are needed.

The key to realize is there are testing initiatives that happen at every level of software development. It's important for us as organizations, not just us as testers, to learn how to leverage that testing focus at all levels and be able to learn, experiment, confirm or refute, and then experiment again. It will take time, it will take involvement, it will take investment, and it will take commitment. Still, the more that we are abe to leverage these testing areas, the better our overall quality approach will have the potential to be.

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