In this piece of writing, I talk about what might be the root cause of lack of quality: unbalanced power.
I also provide you with some tips to counteract this problem. I hope you find them useful.
If you agree with Michael Bolton —as I do— that the principal goal of a tester is to help the programmers look good, you might have started wondering —as I did— what is the reason behind all those jokes and memes about the alleged conflict between programmers and testers.
Something that I have hardly encountered during my career in IT by the way.
I guess my previous experience as a programmer helped to put me in the programmers’ shoes once I started working as a tester.
Anyway, the fact that the roles are clearly complementary (rather than antagonistic) and they actually share a goal (namely, to deliver the best possible product to the customer) has made me always believe that the apparent friction between programmers and testers is not a big deal.
After all, the former ones are not the enemies of the latter, nor is programming the opposite of testing.
The thing is, while programmers concentrate on building things and can hopefully also demonstrate that what they are implementing does what it is expected to do, the latter (should) focus (more) on challenging assumptions, by investigating under which circumstances the same product/system might do something it should not do, for example.
Which means that, in order to develop high-quality products, both roles are needed. What’s more, as a I previously said, the principal goal of a tester should be to help the programmers look good.
However, under no circumstances does this mean the mission of a tester should be to make the product look good. Quite the opposite, I would say.
After all, among other things, testing is about dispelling illusions people might have about a product, isn’t it?
Wait. Hold on a minute.
If we agree that skepticism is one of the most important skills of a tester, shouldn’t be people who show overconfidence or lack doubtfulness their best suited counterpart?
Professionals who make (often exaggerated) claims about the product for a living, for example?
It might be, indeed…
Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to trigger another unnecessary conflict here.
The thing is, according to my experience, the relationship between the Marketing department and the testers within a software company is usually a good indicator of the quality of their products.
In other words, the closer (both in terms of time and space) they work, the better the products they are involved in live up to the expectations of the customer.
After all, the more they interact, the more they tend to understand/value/improve each other’s job, don’t they?
And the more clarity there is within the company about the importance of both roles, the better balance there is between the two.
On the contrary, when there is no good balance, when Marketing has starkly much more power than Testing, when Software Testing specialists’ feedback is constantly ignored or disdained, when the claims or the assumptions about the company’s products cannot be (safely) challenged, companies (and their products) usually start dying.
So, do you really want to improve the quality of your software products?
You might consider improving/balancing/optimizing the relationship between your Marketing department and your testers.
Make sure they talk and listen to each other.
Make sure they all have a good understanding of the customer, their needs, their problems. (And they do not cover their ears when the customer tries to speak with them, of course.)
Make sure people from Customer Support are also included in the conversation.
Seek the good balance. Find it. Challenge it. Improve it. Continuously.
To sum up, I would say the best products/companies are usually the result of healthy relationships between different kinds of professionals.
Do you dare to challenge this statement now?
P.S. It might be worth mentioning that, even though I couldn’t go into specifics, this piece of writing was inspired by an accident involving gender bias. You know, challenging assumptions might be a dangerous activity sometimes…
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