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Independent testing – a salute to objectivity

If you stand at a high-level and observe a development project team (and in particular, an outsourced development team), it doesn’t take long at all to notice a multitude of dynamics interacting with one another. These many dynamics float around differing agendas and priorities. The project manager is like a conductor, directing and coaxing harmony between the different teams, working together toward the same goal…or are they?

About goals – are they the same?

I was hoping you could indulge me as I dig a little deeper into this thought.

The developers have the goal of designing a system and writing code that meets the user requirements within the given deadline. Depending on the timeline allotted, that deadline may be the primary focus of their stress. Not meeting the deadline would reflect poorly on them to the team.  Other times it may be trying to make the impossible – possible. This stress is more of a spin on a career boost if they can pull it off.

On the other side of the desk are the stakeholders. The new software system will directly impact either their organization, the way they do their jobs, or their customers. They are very specific in their needs, and any deviance must be sold to those above them – with them being the face to the success, failure, and struggles.

You have the people in support roles in-between the developers and the stakeholders trying to do a great job and please everyone. They are often working for and trying to appease both sides. The future of their career depends on them making a good impression on the right people.  Their stress is around the perception of the value they bring.

Finally, you have the project manager pulling them all together. Their goal is the completion of the project, on-time, and within the given budget. Their stress is around all deviations from said goals, for there is someone that they will have to explain to or negotiate with to stay the course.

How goals affect testing

With the project team goals being so different, it is not so surprising that each brings a various degree of bias when it comes to software testing. This bias may have them either apply significant concentration or overlook specific details due to their individual needs and goals, be it conscious or not. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. It just is what it is.

When it comes to testing and ensuring the quality of the system, it’s crucial that the entire project team is involved.  A developer can recognize a code error just by looking at the text, catching it before it even reaches the other parties to test. The stakeholder testing is vital to make sure that the end product meets all expectations. Somewhere in-between, though, is another critical ingredient. That ingredient is functional testing — ensuring the functionality not only does what is planned but also meets the expectations of the user. 

Benefits of independent testing

An independent testing team is unaffiliated with the project team in any other way. They are uninvolved in the project details, dynamics, or politics around the project and its members. The primary purpose of independent testers is finding the bugs before the system is released to production. In other words, they operate with blinders, free of any of the bias mentioned above. Next, let’s examine the benefits of bringing in an independent testing organization to a software development project.

Experienced and skilled professionals in all of the necessary disciplines  – There is more to testing than basic functionality. There is also load testing and security testing. Independent testing organizations bring specific value in having experienced and skilled professionals to carry out all necessary testing activities. They focus not only on quality but also on efficiency, knowing where manual testing and automation testing will be most effective. They bring in the top talent across the different domains to meet the specific needs of the project.

Improved software quality –Independent testing teams are unbiased and the best ones use methodologies designed to optimize their efficiency. These practices ensure that the product is developed and validated according to customer requirements and meets the desired objectives while maintaining high quality. In being absent from the political chatter from the project team and independent of any outside stressors, they operate with discipline and focus. Independent testers identify more defects prior to go-live, leading to a successful implementation and fewer maintenance costs going forward.

Lower life cycle costs – Independent testers focus exclusively on quality, adherence to requirements, maintainability, and scalability to address future needs. Rigorous testing cycles for both functional and non-functional aspects like performance and stress handling are covered. Organizations employing this kind of focus benefit from lower failure rates and reduced maintenance costs.

Flexibility – Most development projects are fast-paced with tight timelines. With that in mind, it is essential to be flexible and still keep up with that fast pace. Independent testing organizations have the expertise to determine the best options between automation testing and manual testing to create the most efficient solution. The best testing teams develop testing strategies to meet the project’s objectives of time to market, cost, and quality.

Example Case Study

A national retailer went offshore to customize a new e-commerce platform but was concerned about the quality.  The client had prior experience with offshore partners and knew the quality wouldn’t likely be where they would need it, so they hired Lighthouse as an independent test team.  Our team of QA analysts worked with the client to identify the highest risk areas of the system, and then we utilized our True North Testing Methodology™ to focus our testing efforts to minimize the highest risks — high volume transactions, low-volume, but critical transactions, and end-to-end scenarios.  In addition, through our efforts and analysis, we were able to identify the most fragile components of the system and helped the client mitigate the risk in these areas as well. 

Focus True North

Is your outsourced development partner transparent, delivering high-quality results, and meeting their timelines?  If not, we can likely help with our professional software testers and our True North Testing Methodology™.  Drop us a line for a quick chat with one of our experts and ask about how.  Even if you’re only looking for advice, we’d love to help out!

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PMIASQIEEESoftware Engineering InstituteInternational Software Testing Qualifications Board