Ensuring quality

“A tester ensures the quality of the product.” — Probably just as much as my donations to wwf are helping me to “save endangered species.”

The other day I listened to a podcast by the Bach brothers. One of the things they pointed out as needing improvement is the accuracy of testers’ statements. As an example, they cite — and question — the familiar statement “a tester ensures the quality of the product” which many of us use to describe what we do. But then I guess it can’t be helped. Someone I follow on twitter shared that a book on software development described the tester’s task is to verify that software is correct.

Is that really what I’m supposed to do? Ensure quality? Well, it does make my work sound more powerful. It sure makes for better marketing than “find bugs”. And probably for more attractive hiring. But there’s a shred — ok, a tiny sliver — of truth to it albeit so indirectly (just as i am saving endangered species… somehow).

In the podcast, Jon Bach suggested the term “assistance.” Between “ensuring quality” and “helping” to do so, what we do comes closer to the latter. We help our SAs by spotting design holes. We help our devs by spotting errors and misses in their code. We help them when we give clear and concise bug reports — all the more when we do bug isolation and provide accurate reports. We help our team leads by providing information on the product under test. Et cetera, et cetera. Sometimes it may not be quite obvious but we, testers, are a very helpful bunch!

We do our bit, we play our part. But no matter how well we play it, by ourselves, we (testers) cannot ensure quality. I reckon it’s a team thing. What we do as members of the project team (be it testers, devs, SAs, etc), how badly or how well we do it, can either make or break our software product.


4 thoughts on “Ensuring quality

  1. Hi testkeis, I like the thoughtfulness of your post. I detect a feeling of resignation in it though. And that puzzles me along with the last sentence.

    You start by asking whether “I” ensure quality and close with “We” cannot ensure quality.

    Do you mean “I have never ensured software quality.”

    Do you mean “I can never ensure software quality where I work now?”

    Do you mean “I will never be able to ensure quality as a software tester?”

    Do you mean “A software tester has never ensured quality by themselves?”

    Do you mean “A software tester will never be able to ensure quality by themselves?”

    If you disagree with any of the above statements, I would enjoy reading how you transform the “has/can/will never ensure quality” parts of those statements to “has/can/will ensure quality WHEN…”

    Best regards, Steve

  2. If “ensure” means “make into a certainty” then no one has ever ensured quality in that strong sense, and no one can. You can’t even know what quality is for certain, so how could you ensure it?

    In a weaker sense of “do what is reasonable to achieve a reasonable confidence that quality is reasonable for our reasonable purposes in our reasonable time frame” yes, that has been done. Then we get into the second issue of what control a tester has over that process. At that point, Steve, your questions become more relevant.

    I recommend avoiding the word “ensure” and either using “assist” or simply to call it testing and leave it at that.

  3. @Steve, I see where I had been vague. My usage of “we” as testers and of “we” as project team members wasn’t quite clear. I made updates to the last paragraph. Thanks for pointing it out 🙂 Coherent writing isn’t my strong suit (yet).

    My main points / what i wanted to get across (and kinda failed at):
    (1) We, testers, can’t ensure quality. That’s a tall order.
    (2) Quality doesn’t fall on the shoulders of testers alone. It’s a team thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s