Quality? Who Cares?

A few weeks ago I was really fortunate enough to be involved in delivering a Unicom talk on Quality, followed a week later by a round table talk which I hosted, and was set up by Billy Senior.

The topic of Quality is something that intrigues me in the context of software engineering. Most of my career has been dedicated to checking whether the work of someone else does what it is meant to do, and doesn’t do something that it shouldn’t. It sounds bizarre when you think of testing as just that – we are validating that a software engineer has written code that meets the requirements and expectations of an individual or group of individuals. 

But quality is not just about testing to see if something works as it should – plenty of things ‘work’, but the experience is awful, or it takes a long time to do. Quality isnt just about testing to see if something unexpected happens that causes a problem of some sort. Quality is many things to many people, as I found when I did some research for my Unicom talk – and its all subjective!

The essence of my talk was that as testers it is so difficult for us to know whether something we test can be of ‘good quality’ or not. The problem is that we have to make judgements on behalf of others, the end users. As everyone has a different perception as to what quality means to them, the only way that we can do this is by understanding what our end users want from the software we are developing for them. 

  • What is the problem that needs solving?
  • How will our software help?
  • What do they actually need to do?
  • Are there any constraints (e.g. time) that affect whatever it is?
  • What does success look like for them?
  • And so on

Only by asking questions and understanding the end user, can we as testers make any sort of recommendations. Our role is to highlight any risks that we see, and to give information to our stakeholders in order for them to make an informed decision. We may think that something is not good quality but it isnt our role to judge, its to give the right information. Why do we think that? What is the impact on the end user? do we have any suggestions?

Whilst I was writing up the slides for the talk, I still felt that this was too big a topic to do justice to in a 20 minute slot. It was also a monologue, and after doing the research, I really wanted others involved, and this is where Billy came in.

I saw a Quality Advocates post on LinkedIn, and contacted Billy to say that I’d like to get involved with a round table discussion on quality. He called me and within 20 minutes, I was going to be hosting a session 🙂  

He went away and came back with a fantastic group of professionals to join the discussion – Nicola Martin, Marie Drake, Seema PrabhuSufyan Farooqi, Oana Rusu and Rafaela Azevedo. Sadly Stuart Day couldn’t join us on the evening.
We had spoken about how diverse the group should be, not because its a buzz word, or that we need to be ‘seen’ to do it, but I don’t want to hear just from people with my background. I learn less that way, so I genuinely wanted to hear from people that came to testing from different backgrounds, worked in other industries, and in other countries. 

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We had a Slack group and had a group chat to get to know each other – I liked the fact that this gave me the chance to make new friends and contacts – and we did gel as a group.

On the evening, we allocated an hour – and we used it well. The discussion was really free flowing, and it was interesting to hear people disagreeing about what quality is – its fantastic when that happens, and a really healthy thing. We need to disagree and challenge each other at times, and I’m thankful to the group for that.

I havent posted about what we said – and that is because if you are interested in this (and assuming you have read this far, I guess you are), you can watch the recording here.

Please do watch it and add a comment here, as I’d love to know what you think about quality – what is it, who cares about it, who’s job is it to be responsible for it etc.

Thanks for reading.



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