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What is the purpose of testing?

Posted on: 25 January '12

Life has been very hectic in the last two months, before the New Year. This is the time, when our customers renew the IT contracts and prospects invite us to bid for new testing opportunities. This is a great time for two reasons:

  • The number of interactions with the customers / prospects increases.
  • The quality of the interactions is much more substantial.

The questions are direct and mostly fundamental, something that you and I have perhaps forgotten during the daily grind of project execution. During one such instance of customer interaction, a testing head of one of the fast-growing business lines asked me “What is the purpose of testing?”

While I responded to that question, we felt that there was a merit in discussing it with a larger group separately. What followed was a long debate with the group, including the customer.

Many of us talked about “analysis,” “diagnosis,” “defect finding,” “verifying,” “stability,” “performance” and many other purposes. After spending considerable amount of time, we all came to a consensus that in the IT context, testing is carried out to “ensure that the end-user of the system has a great experience using it.”

If this is the purpose, then there are many aspects to look at. First and foremost, the testing team needs to be involved in the SDLC testing phase completely and all artifacts must be tested. To ensure a great product, the issues need to be unearthed at the earliest, preferably in the phase of introduction.

The second aspect is the capability of the testers. Many testers are used to verifying the product against a specification. Additionally, a deep insight into the end user is what is needed. Simulating the deployment environment is also equally critical.

Last but not the least, a tester truly needs to be the voice of quality. Being a tester, one has to only think of the end-user experience. Keeping that in mind, a tester is expected to be fearless in exposing the issues before the product is released.

I will be glad to hear your thoughts with this short experiment on back to basics thinking.

Ananda Rao Ladi

Ananda Rao Ladi, Senior Vice President and the Head of the Testing Business Unit (BU) at Mindtree Ltd. Ananda heads the Testing Service Line at Mindtree which has 2600 strong testing experts. Anand has been instrumental in setting up the Three Testing Pillars of Excellence - MindTest™ for processes and methodologies, Test Academy for competence development and Test Labs for thought leadership and innovation. Ananda, currently, is also the President of the STePIN, a leading testing forum in India. Anand, in the past, incubated and grew the Storage and Computing Systems business lines for Mindtree. Prior to joining Mindtree, Ananda worked for Wipro Technologies, where he pursued a technology career path in Operating Systems and Compilers. He has deep expertise in OS and compilers. Many of his cutting edge work have been published in leading international conferences. Anand holds a B.Tech degree with distinction in Computer Science and Engineering from NIT (REC), Warangal. Ananda has been an invited speaker in many leading international conferences and is known for his ability to incubate new initiatives. Ananda is learning piano and likes to ride bicycles and swim.

  • Leena D R

    Very valid points Anand but making the end user to have great experience using the system is a larger context and has multiple dependencies like the system down time or browser the end user is using is not supporting some features on the system or the end users system might not have supporting tools installed etc. which would eventually lead to dissatisfaction for end user. But this does not necessarily mean the purpose of testing was not met as in the given time frame and context testing would have been performed well.

    Also it would be difficult to read every end user’s mind and make every end user happy. If the larger groups of people using the system are happy then the purpose of testing can be said as “met”. I completely agree to your thought that tester should always wear the ‘end user’ cap but tester should also ensure that he wears the ‘obvious’ end user cap who will use the system to great extent for its actual purpose.

    Some where I have read that purpose of testing should be to focus on helping to deliver the system successfully, which I also feel is true.

    • Ananda Rao Ladi

      Good point Leena. The external dependencies will always be there. We should publish the interfaces clearly and ensure that the product or the application works well within those interfaces.

  • Vageesh

    Yes, seeing in end-user perspective is the main focus or objective of testers. But, putting a hat of end-user will not always be possible like as described in the scenario described below. I am involved in a project where we do testing of electronics used in trucks where the testing will based on functionality of each electronic unit. Till now I don’t know how to drive a truck and also there are many constraints like impossible to simulate many scenarios and will not be able to test. The best way to resolve is to have full knowledge of what a truck driver thinks in his view should be captured as requirement and these inputs should be captured from the beginning of the project or the other way is to have another different level of testing done by drivers of truck also is possible way. In fact large number of bugs will get raised from them as they test based on their experiences of the product usage .If they find any bug; they may not know the product requirements or the technology used.

    • Ananda Rao Ladi

      Hello Vageesh

      Your project is a great example. Even if you are testing an ECU, you are expected to know the working conditions and the deployment scenarios of the ECU. That is the only way to ensure that you simulate the use cases.

  • Leadership Development Workshop

    Thank you for clearing this up. Testing is really important.

  • Manish Grover

    Very valid points. In his pioneering book “Qaulity is Free”, Crosby defined quality as “conformance to requirements” (not specifications). He quoted that there is no low or high quality. Either you have quality or you don’t have it. I think the implications are profound, if only we can get people to think like that.

  • Sujit Chakravarty

    Really worthy points, Ananda – especially, I can’t agree more with the aspect of quality assurance circumsribing the end2end SDLC. Quality concsousness should involve attention to validation (r u building the right thing?) as well as verification (r u building it right?). More often than not, we seem to be engrossed with the latter and end up with something taken care to be built perfectly right but digresses away (in some respects) from perspective of intended use/purpose?

  • Harsh

    Why we need to Test?
    Software development process however mature it may be involves ambiguity,assumptions and flawed human communication. So this introduces the possibility of errors,
    the risk that the software will not fulfill its intended purpose increases.

    What is purpose of Testing?
    A brief answer to this question is we test application to come up with data that help customer make decision that application is ready to go into production or not?

    What is data all about?
    The data we provide cover Test analysis of various parameters like usability, performance, security, accuracy, reliability etc. as applicable for that application.

    How data is collected?
    Testing team create test environment which depicts production environment
    and tests the application as close as possible to cover all real life scenarios/situations.The applications behavior during the test is noted down.

    The close we get to actual evironment and actual useage of application more accurate the data.

    What can be done to get accurate data?

    The better coverage means more accurate data. The coverage can be made better by
    involvement of Stakeholders and end users by sharing the testing artifacts and getting their views.

    Having domain expertise helping team in Test design.

    Additionally Testing also contibute to improve the quality of application by identifying issues and getting them fixed right from early stages in SDLC.