One aspect of testing that’s critical to success, but often overlooked by many a seasoned test manager, is the level of business understanding of their testers. With the divide between the business and technology well documented, testing itself presents another divide – with many testers failing to bridge the gap. To adopt an old adage, if the business is from Mars and developers from Venus, testers would be from a different planet entirely.
This isn’t going to work
Those outside of testing frequently ask questions such as “How can someone test my system when they have no idea of how a credit instrument is valued?”, or “What is the point of hiring a test team when it’s the front-office users who have the knowledge and will do the bulk of the testing anyway?” In our opinion, these questions are perfectly valid.
Ability to learn the business
There is only way to address this; put test teams in place who either have detailed, demonstrable knowledge of the business or are capable of learning the business, fast!
This being said, the complexities within financial services will always make this challenging, as will the foundations for testing as a profession. Whilst many financial services organisations require a minimum upper second class degree from a top university, only a handful of British universities offer a degree in testing. For many of the ideal ‘would-be’ candidates, testing as a profession isn’t on their radar as they leave university. The hiring manager is forced to look at candidates from a variety of backgrounds, and derive his or her own formula about who will be right for their team. Get this wrong, and the return on the investment in testing quickly deteriorates, along with the business case for further investment.
Whenever, we put a tester into a project, the first question we ask is; will he or she understand what they’re testing? Of course, business users will always need to be involved and generally have the final say, but their involvement should be kept to an acceptable level with the project test effort having little or no impact on daily ‘business-as-usual’ tasks.
Occasionally, the nature of the business will make it hard for testers to fully understand the subject area; for example, those areas that require advanced mathematics or science. Where such barriers exist, the test manager must put mechanisms in place to incorporate subject matter expertise into the test process but maintain independence at the same time – independence is a fundamental principle of testing and should not be compromised.
The Piccadilly approach – verification versus testing
In most cases, a strong test team will be capable of testing a system thoroughly, and the Piccadilly Group have used the approach described here to help organisations implement testing strategies effectively for the best part of 15 years. We use the term verification to differentiate our service, which builds on but goes much further than traditional test practices. We select our testers for their business as well as their technical acumen, and many have Master’s degrees from the top UK universities.
If you are looking to demonstrate the true value of independent testing, build a new test team or require third party testing support then please contact us to see how we can enable your organisation to achieve its testing goals. September 2011