Can testers assure quality? Part 2: nurses vs machines

In previous post I described a horrible hospital where nurses were held solely responsible for patient’s health door-to-door, from entrance to exit. Surgeons were motivated to operate as much patients as possible. Story sounds insane, but sadly this is reality for many testers and for many teams struggling with quality.

Michael Bolton replied that nurses are responsible for patients health. True that, but not solely! He also suggested testers are analogous to pathologists and epidemiologists. I disagree with pathologists analogy. In modern Agile teams testers can be great epidemiologists and almost avoid being pathologists.

Epidemiologist analogy sounds very interesting. I will get to epidemiologist role in detail in some later part. For now I can say that epidemiologist is something rare and is in some way far more experienced than a nurse and is unlikely to be found in an average software development/hospital surgical department.

To make things more clear, let’s agree we are not speaking about whole hospital, but about orthopedic department: doctors diagnose, surgeons operate, patients are then transferred to rehabilitation department and department is paid per operation, not bed days. Nurses are solely responsible for patients’ health and there’s pressure to get patients out of the hospital ASAP.

Now let’s see how people usually try to solve problems at hand in such imaginary crazy hospitals.

Continue reading “Can testers assure quality? Part 2: nurses vs machines”

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Can testers assure quality? Part 1: if nurses were testers

Time and time again I bump into opinions, quotes, tweets and comments saying directly or indirectly testers are responsible for quality of software products. People who think so claim software error(s) that reach end user is testers’ fault and testers are the ones who can save the user. I strongly disagree with that.

Saying testers are (solely) responsible for software quality is same as saying a nurse is responsible for patient’s health before and after a sloppy operation.

I think this situation comes from the often used job title QA (Quality Assurance) and it’s variances: QA Engineer, QA tester, Quality Engineer, Quality Tester. Key word is assurance.

I especially like job title Quality Engineer as if there is Inferior or Poor-Quality Engineer. Quality Tester is a good one too, does he test quality or is it implied that there are Inferior Testers too? If job title is simply “tester” how did we end up tying it up to quality at all?

To some this assurance means simple bug hunting. In some radical examples developer slips through unfinished work on purpose hoping corner cases won’t be noted during business acceptance and won’t be encountered in production. Development process turns into hide and seek, cat and mouse game.

Continue reading “Can testers assure quality? Part 1: if nurses were testers”