Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Testers and Developers - Thoughts about Collaboration

This post had been triggered by a survey conducted by Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Franzi Sauerwein about the collaboration between testers and developers. As I'm quite passionate about the topic I wanted to share my experience as well.
While taking the survey I felt the increasing desire to write about my thoughts. So I asked Maaret and Franzi whether they would agree with me posting my answers, as I didn't want to spoil the research or bias anyone. Fortunately they confirmed I could go ahead. So, whether you continue reading the following or not: if you haven't taken the survey yourself yet, please do so and support the research!

The Survey

The survey starts off with the question with which role you identify (developer, tester, both, neither). As I identify as a tester, I took the related option. Here are the questions and my answers.
  1. Tell us about a memorable moment of working together with a developer
    Not long ago, I detected a strange behavior in our product and wondered what caused it. It seems I expressed my astonishment loudly. A developer overheard it and instantly came over to see the strange behavior himself. Another developer joined in as well, we debugged the problem together and identified the root cause way quicker than I would have done it on my own. (I really like those situations of spontaneous collaboration and joining in myself in case I overhear a developer struggling. Another perspective often helps, no matter our "roles".)
  2. Has a developer told you your contribution is valuable?
    Yes
  3. What did you do?
    • Going through test ideas together early and asking questions to clarify behavior/risks which had not been addressed yet
    • Testing an early increment together
    • Going through test findings with the developer and instantly fix them together
    • Finding issues in places the developer did not expect at all
    • Constantly trying to improve the product/team/myself
  4. What frustrates you when working to developers?
    • "Them vs. us" mindset and behavior; "those evil testers"; testers seen as inferior monkeys clicking around and doing monkey stuff -> fortunately all those points are not the case in my current team
    • Communication via ticket comments instead of direct face-to-face communication
    • When the developer hands over a build but did not basically test it themselves yet; e.g. when an issue is identified on first interaction with the product
  5. What do you enjoy when working with developers?
    • Close collaboration in general; pairing and mobbing (mob programming and testing)
    • Complementing each other regarding skills and perspectives to build a great product together
    • Shared vision to deliver a quality product which helps our users

The Other Side

After submitting my answers I was curious which kind of questions I would have gotten if I had provided another answer on the initial question regarding my role/identity. I found that interestingly two questions for developers are framed slightly differently: "Have you worked with a tester that turned out to be invaluable to the team?" and "What did they do?" This made me think. Right now I have an awesome team around me who really appreciate how I contribute and see great value in me being on the team. But when talking to other persons in our company I received different perceptions of testers.
  • Testers being the evil ones breaking the software. I'm with Maaret here: "Testers don't break the code, they break your illusions about the code". It had been broken before.
  • "Manual testers" only clicking around the software, just following endless scripts, and doing their "monkey stuff". I had been told this to my face; I guess the other person did not realize what they were saying. In that moment I did not succeed in changing their view on things, so I'm still pondering how to address this perception issue: testers as people who are not valuable if they don't automate things. You know, everything should be automated.
  • Testers being inferior when compared to developers. Probably a consequence of the last point, but we're often still seen as the underdogs who are either not good enough to be developers themselves, or who are still on their way of finally becoming developers.
  • Developers being proud of not needing any testers. Well, if the testing expertise and experience exists in the team and the team shares responsibility for quality and testing, I don't see any problems with not having a dedicated tester. However, even if not having a dedicated one, I would say they still do have testers on the team. I really promote the whole-team approach to quality and testing. But when a team tells me that they don't need any tester, I would love to join them for some weeks and just observe to learn how they do things.

Collaboration

After taking the survey and having those kind of thoughts, it occurred to me that I had posted the following tweets in the last weeks about tester and developer collaboration.
This made me realize again how much I enjoy the close collaboration with my awesome teammates. When working together it does not matter who has which role or does which activity in the moment. And this finally confirms again what motivates me and keeps me going: building great products which deliver value together with great people.

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