How can we communicate what agile testers do?

A tester’s job is to test, well that is what our job title says, however, we add value in a number of ways to features that we work on.  We need to be able to communicate how we add value.

Some time ago we had some new managers where I was working and I wanted to show the new managers how the testers added value. I needed to find a simple model that I could use to show what we did and I also wanted to involve the testers in showing how we add value. 

The model needed to describe the role of an agile tester as we worked in agile teams and the testers were involved in every part of development. We were not testers who only tested work that was “finished”. We did a wide range of things to build quality into the product and so regarded ourselves as agile testers. I wanted the model to show this range of work that we did.

I searched and read but could not find a model that solved the problem for me. At the weekend I had a session with a spin bowling coach who showed a model to illustrate three aspects of spin bowling. I realised that you could describe a tester’s work as having three aspects and that I could adapt the model of spin bowling to be a model that described what testers do.

The spin bowling model enabled me to create a model that grouped testers skills in three categories: testing skills, soft skills, and hard skills. Hard skills would include work such as programming skills. I decided not to use the phrase “technical skills” to describe any one part of the testers skill set as testing skills and “hard skills” are both technical skills. In the centre of the model I put a sentence describing what agile testers do. The model is shown above.

I discussed the model with the testers and together we added, under each heading, examples of the work we did. Under soft skills we included things such as questioning and facilitating root cause analysis, and under testing skills we included items such as boundary value analysis, and equivalence partitioning. The items we wrote under the heading hard skills included test automation, Bash scripting, writing sql and reading stack traces. 

The model was useful in communicating to the managers what the testers did because it showed all that we did to add value and it fitted on one screen.

I have used the model more than once and found that it successfully communicated the range of activities that agile testers do. Please leave comments to this post on how you think the model can be improved.

Published by Mike Harris

Mike has been working in testing for 20 years and is currently the lone tester for Geckoboard. He has been a Test Lead and has also worked as a part of waterfall, lean and agile teams. He is also Programme Secretary of BCS SIGiST. Mike has a B.Sc.(HONS) from Middlesex University and is an Associate of the University of Hertfordshire. He has set up and led a Testing Community of Practice and been part of a successful agile transition. He is Co-Programme Chair of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing. He also contributed to the e-book Testing Stories and has had articles published by the Ministry of Testing. Follow Mike on Twitter: @TestAndAnalysis

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1 Comment

  1. Love the simple 3-part model approach. I recently noticed the soft skills area means that because the tester themselves is more often well positioned to observe the development life cycle if your team does not have a scrum master. And thus well placed to ask for process changes and observe impact of a process change on quality. (And by ‘quality’ I also mean robustness and speed.) Reminding ourselves of our soft skills is pretty useful IMHO to the team, without blowing my own trumpet. And simple models are often good for highlighting big picture aspects of the system.

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