Testers have forgotten how to plan tests……

The tester of 2015 cannot seem to plan tests in a general sense, as they are lost without a user story.

I’m being contentious here, but this is a serious subject, it’s not just done to provoke a reaction, although I would welcome a debate whether you agree or disagree with my viewpoint.

Before Agile we worked from large requirement documents. It meant that we were testing something of a reasonable size and involved having to plan out our tests to cover all the scenarios. This pretty much covered a complete piece of work from end to end, and as a tester I could plan all the tests needed, identify gaps and add in those as well.

Then came Agile. There are many good things about Agile, and thus far I have only found one thing that is not great (in sprints people don’t go back and compare actual versus estimated hours for each task, so no lessons regarding over or under estimating can be learned), but over the past 6 months, I have noticed another.

During tester interviews, I ask candidates how they would approach testing a website – what are the things they should be concerned with. What I am looking for is a considered list:

  • UI – text, fonts etc
  • Field level tests (positive and negative)
  • Tab order
  • Links, to other pages and other sites,
  • Button functions,
  • Page load times,
  • Cross browser tests,
  • Usability tests,
  • etc

Without exception, every candidate starts by saying that it depends on the user story.  Ok, I get that they work in an Agile way, so I stop them and ask them to do some blue sky thinking. Imagine there are no requirements (a look of shock has appeared on one candidates face!) and you are just placed in front of a website. What general tests would you do.

To my surprise and somewhat sadly I feel, they struggle with this concept – the security blanket of a story has been removed and they do not know what to do.

We have created a class of testers who are only able to work from the very narrow world of user stories, and it is detrimental to our industry. I hear testers talk about Exploratory testing and think they know what it is, but I don’t think they do. Exploratory testing is the art of not constraining yourself to a story as it is written, and to the acceptance criteria, but to think more broadly. What other tests could you do that someone else didn’t think of for you? Does the story fit with the others?

If testers can do this, then they can answer a simple question about how to do a general test of a website.

My worry is that is the tester of 2015 can only test against criteria that a BA has provided, where is the value in having a tester at all? Testers are uniquely placed in any development team to think of scenarios that no-one else has even considered. Every tester should be looking to add value every day to their team by thinking more broadly than just what is written in the user story.

If you read this as a tester, I challenge you to write down for a week every test you have thought of that no-one else did, and share them. Let’s encourage each other to regain the skills that we seem to be losing.

Thinking outside the box is good – you just need to try it!!