"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Story from a company that built "the best software testing tool"

I am sure you have heard of stories of UFO and Alien sighting from many parts of the world. Ask the sales team of this famous company that built "the best software testing tool" and they would tell you that alien visits are because of their tool. The aliens, according to the sales team, needs a one stop solution to all their automation testing needs and that is why they visit us.

If you think I am exaggerating, you are unnecessarily optimistic about your intelligence ;-P. Here is a story that I partly witnessed.

The company that built the best software testing tool, apparently, also built other software products. One of the software products they built was a product not related to testing but something that a lot of people need to use on their computers.  They thought they needed some checking activity to be done. As an example, they wanted to check if certain links load as per mock. This was a no brain job and this company believes in automation. So did they automate those checks? If your guess is - yes - congratulations - you are wrong again. 

They outsourced the work to some large services company in India and called it as "Compatibility testing work" while it wasn't. Large Indian services companies only care for three things - How long is the work? How many people can we bill? How will this help me answer investor questions on the revenue? 

They neither care about testing nor about the future of testers they hire. The job for a tester on this project is to "check" whether the page loads, all images load and a bunch of other things load as compared to mock and design. So, testers have hundreds of links to open and give a report of how many links did not load properly.

What is happening to testers on this project? 
  • The testers on this project feel /testing/ is boring job. They are made to believe that they are doing testing while they are not.
  • The only thing they have been doing over the last couple of years is to wait for the links to load and say "Pass" or "Fail". That's pure checking and not to be done by humans for those thousands of links.
  • The bigger problems are written below
  • As they try to move out, the world isn't considering them as testers because the only thing they have been doing is to wait for links to load. 
  • Of course, those testers can put big brand names in their resume but they realized nobody cares for it anymore.
So, is that the end of the story? Nope! The above is just a premise of the actual story. 

Several months later, the same large services company of India got an enquiry from one of their existing customer for testing page load compared to mocks but they did not need humans to do it, instead needed automation solution. Notice how carefully, I am not using the word "test automation", in previous sentence.

The services company agreed to do it and a team of automation testers by designation pulled out the best software testing tool and wrote a bunch of tests and at times record playback then tweak to get it done. One time effort and as long as the mocks or designs don't change - this solution works. Its shipped. Works well on rough seas.

Somebody within the services company noticed these two projects and said what I would have said, "Hey, the best testing tool serves the purpose of what we seem to be doing manually all this while" and then the businessmen inside "Sssh! No, it does not. We have a 5 year contract for 20 people and you know what that means to the business?" As far as I can tell you, it is in million(s) US dollars.

However, the company that built the best software testing tool is not a company that is ignorant of this. They are well aware of their tool capabilities but seem to fail in putting their own tool to use for another product within their company. When someone actually told this to the company that built the best testing tool  - they were excited. Excited not because they could save some humans for what they were not supposed to be doing but to change their marketing communication with sentences like, "Case study of how a large services company used our best testing tool to test millions of links". Interestingly they show how the large services company saved millions of dollars for their customers whilst they themselves were paying millions of US dollars to get manual checking done where they did not want to use their tool. 

Moral(s) of the story : 
  1. Humans are made to run tests that humans were never supposed to. 
  2. When automation kicks in - comparison to humans and automation also kicks in - indicating how poor their understanding of testing is.
  3. Business decisions can decide how boring testing can become.
  4. Most large services companies remain large at the expense of killing software testing and upcoming testers.
  5. Software testing tools are as useful as spoon and fork - they are needed everyday but shouldn't cost as much as a Ferrari.
  6. The world needs more bold people than just more skilled testers at the moment. So if you are focusing on training testers, don't just teach them testing.
  7. Those who trade their time for money and are designated as testers aren't testers anyway.
  8. Most often, companies that are proud of building the best or popular software testing tool are actually putting the field to shame.
  9. The best software testing tool is always the human brain. It can operate in "non thinking" mode too and unfortunately seems to be the popular mode among most testers since they are paid for it. 


Shanthi said...

You mention above that if you are training testers don't just teach them testing. My question is what are top things that you believe should be taught when training testers. Thanks!

Joe said...

"The companies that are proud of building the best software testing tool are actually putting the field to shame."

Be careful not to generalize here. I once worked for a test automation tool company. We pointed proudly to the fact that we always used our tool to test new versions of our tool.

Not all tool companies should have shame.

Lalitkumar Bhamare said...

"The world needs more bold people than just more skilled testers at the moment. So if you are focusing on training testers, don't just teach them testing."

- cent percent true! Not sure how positively that boldness will be accepted in industry ( I mean boldness of #a few people in giant IT firm) but it is very much needed. Without #mutiny there is no revolution !

Mahathi Ramya said...

nice post Pradeep.. i think almost everyone working in IT field might have noticed what you have explained.
completely agree with below sentence:

Most large services companies remain large at the expense of killing software testing and upcoming testers.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@ Joe,

That is great to hear. It is quite rare that they publicly admit to have done such stuff. So, I have made some changes to the sentence having listened to your advice.

Thanks for bringing that up.

Unknown said...

"This was such an informative post. I have definitely learnt a point or two from this.

Great work!. Keep ém coming."

Nika said...

Nice *bold* post.. !! :) I agree to most of the thoughts listed here. Just one question from my perspective. You have mentioned that large indian companies are worried about 3 things. As far as i knw,for some of the small companies story is same. What they want is buisness as they want to grow. There might be some companies which are really good and take care of the careers of testers. But then they are few. All the good testers cannot join those few companies. So what is the choice in front of *good* testers if they want to keep their testing job?

PasserBy said...

I like the crux of this post. But i do disagree on few things in your post.

Not always all Large Indian services companies cares for three things alone. There were quite a few instances, these companies has done helluva job which makes the customer keep coming for more.
IMO, Considering the platform, generalization of these kinds should be avoided to get the message without hurting anyone.

Seconly, in business world, no one cares about anyone's future. Going by the saying, there's no such thing as a free lunch, a firm hires someone to do a job. It is upto an individual to figure out if that is what he /she wants to do. If yes, go on with it else walk off without making a fuss.

To understand the kind of work you had described in your post, should not take billions of years.

In my personal opinion, company is the not one to be blamed. Testers/professionals who does this kind of work and whine about it, is the one to be blamed.

Think of a sweet fiction, where a whole testing community stands up to these things and says that it won't be part of an assignment which doesn't need limitless capability of a human brain.
I think that's exactly this world will realize the importance of testing professionals.

Sandeep Netha said...

That was a nice post. It is very interesting, I will try it now

Anonymous said...

Damn good article! You hit that nail square on the head! I'm also agree with all your points named under "Moral(s) of the story".

I'm a Tester by passion from Germany and I think that here in Germany especially the point 6. you listed under "Moral(s) of the story" is still a problem, because most companies here in Germany (maybe also in whole Europe?) which need human resources for testing believe in "ISTQB" or something else that has a well known name.
But what does an "ISTQB" certificate for example realy mean?
Although I'm a so called "ISTQB certificated Tester, Foundation Level", in my opinon it means nothing! Cos good testers needs a bit more than only the know how of basics of testing tools, testcase design and boundary testing...Realy good people in test must have social competences, build the know how of their SUT and invest some time in newest test approaches such as rapid software testing.

KR, and greetings from Germany

Ralf (I've created a new blog for testers named http://thespiritoftesting.wordpress.com - please have a look on it, if you want.)

jaiwanth said...

Excellent article by Pradeep which not only highlights the mindset plaguing our testing community at large but also the way our industry is headed.
Pradeep is one person who is solely responsible for inspiring many test engineers like me.I too was inspired to start my own blog with my first blog out only today,do view and in case it is not too taxing do leave a comment which would help me in learning to move ahead "http://mytrysttotesting.blogspot.in/".
My special thanks to Pradeep for inspiring people like me to come up with my own blog.

Sree said...

Hi Pradeep,
Nice and Brave Post! Even I agree with your view that testers are often used only for checking or observing purpose only.