Interesting webinar this lunchtime from Mike Jarred, courtesy of Jennifer Wheeler at TestingProfessionals.com. Below are my notes from the session, entirely paraphrased. Hope there’s something of interest for you there!
Why talk about the value of Testing?
Different business sizes and industry verticals all seem to undervalue testing. There’s strategy to represent this value – and this is via our stakeholders. They pay for us, our tools and our suppliers. Without their mandate, we wouldn’t test. As testers we need to learn to engage with out stakeholders in a language they understand, and enabling them to make good decisions. By learning how to communicate well with our stakeholders, we gain their respect and trust – and gain their mandate.
“Your intentions don’t matter. Perception is reality. If people perceive you the wrong way, it does not matter what your intentions are…”
You might have the best will in the world, but if your stakeholders don’t perceive you in the right way, you need to do something about it.
If there are questions about the value of testing, trust and respect can become eroded, which creates additional work in reviews of plans, justifying your work, challenges against testing estimates. There can be increased overheads around governance and assurance. Providing this information in addition to the “day job” of testing detracts from focus.
Stakeholder relationships are critical for Testers
A stakeholder mapping exercise can help you discover stakeholders who are hidden from view – things like reporting lines can lead to indirect relationships we don’t recognise. It’s important to speak a language they can understand, rather than just defaulting to “tester speak” which can be alienating and may not address the actual value they need to see from you to care about what you have to say:
Define who your stakeholders are, and crucially, what they need to know about in order to have confidence in you:
“Without data you’re just another person with an opinion”
W Edwards Deming
Stakeholders frequently have misunderstandings about what testing is and what we do. Using data to back up what you’re doing, and the importance of what you do to the life of the product and, therefore, the stakeholders, makes your value hard to argue with. Their perception of value will, of course, vary depending on their relationship to the product.
Credibility is key
What makes you credible with people is your behaviour, how you build trust and how you speak to people. You can be the best tester in the world but without certain factors, you can’t build the relationships you’ll need organisationally.
Key factors in gaining credibility:
- Trust – Integrity, consistency and confidence
- Authenticity – Passion for and caring about what you do (and walking the walk!)
- Transparency – Honesty and simplicity
- Positive Action – Accountability and taking responsibility for errors. Show what you learned and what you changed
- Listening – Showing empathy and seeking feedback
- Responsiveness – Doing what you say you’ll do (when you say you’ll do it!)
Without credibility, you cannot gain strong working relationships – you simply won’t be heard when you speak unless people can see the value you are adding and the efficacy of the work you do.
Define value in your context
If you have a statement of what value for money looks like in your role and can hold yourself up against it, you can demonstrate the value of what you do better. Value doesn’t mean the lowest possible cost – it’s about what you need, what your constraints are. It’s about outcome as much as some objective perception of “value”.
Value extends to value for money. People want to understand that what you’re doing is valuable in relation to other quality practices in the industry. Understanding how your value “weighs up” against the requirements of your software, functional and non-functional, makes it easier to have these conversations – it also requires you to think about how you communicate this value in order to be heard.