Review: Surviving The Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing

Problem this book aims to solve

Software quality is a constant topic for companies and their customers. A major part of the responsibility lays on the shoulders of the people who do the testing and have to verify that the software has achieved maturity. The responsibility is not only to do good work but also to withstand everyday issues while improving the testing process further at the same time.

In theory, we all now how to test software properly and our explanations are understood – but where would we be if theory and practice would somehow be related?
The goal of this book is to solve the biggest issues with pragmatic approaches you can build into your testing process, or apply to communication with your coworkers and managers.
It goes so far as to tell you, that it could be necessary to find a new place to work for – if the climate in your current company is completely against change.


Target Audiences

It is apparent that this title speaks to testers, test managers, and test coaches. The solutions this book is talking about are only applicable if you carry responsibility and are in the position to change processes or to at least propose changes. This book might not be for you if you are a junior tester, but if you want to take responsibility in the future, this could be still something for you.

As usual, this type of a book it also beneficial for managers who want to understand why the testing people do what they are doing and where their issues lay. In the case of this book, it is useful if you are working directly within or around the testing process.

“This book has stressed that the major challenges facing testers are people-oriented. Much of the book has emphasized the relationships between the testers and the parties involved in testing.”

Page 189


Content and Scrope

Before I talk about the substance of the book, there is one thing you need to know to put the information in this book into context:
This book is not state of the art; it was released back in 1997. The age does not touch the content that is talking about how to build processes and how they should be too much. Most of the time is just looks silly what the author think of as “state of the art” (because it was back then)
Most if not everything in this book can be adapted and modernized, but the fancy new stuff the authors are talking about isn’t that fancy anymore.

The book is not starting with the challenges, but with an explanation about itself. It provides you with a summary of the content in the book. This seems to be odd, but is an excellent feature – every book should have it! It helps to recall information and to find interesting parts in the title. If you have a physical copy of the book to decide if you want to read it, you can find this on page 8.

The second chapter is a challenge for the reader, without a provided solution. It is an assessment to test where the reader is on his path to excellence. The authors are explaining the importance of assessing yourself if you want to create a process to change for the better.
It might be hurtful to face reality and to evaluate yourself, but in the context of this book and in general it is a good idea. That the authors put this at the beginning of the book shows their experience in working with people and how to teach them.

The actual challenges are presented as a countdown. We are starting at number 10: “Getting Trained in Testing” which tackles the reason I created this blog. How do you get educated about testing? I feel like our situation got better because of the internet and the actual effort of the community, but the chapter still applies.

The book will also help you to survive the following ten challenges:

  • 10 Getting Trained In Testing
  • 09 Building Relationships With Developers
  • 08 Testing Without Tools
  • 07 Explaining Testing To Managers
  • 06 Communicating With Customers
  • 05 Making Time For Testing
  • 04 Testing What’s Thrown Over The Wall
  • 03 Hitting A Moving Target
  • 02 Fighting a Lose-Lose Situation
  • 01 Having To Say No

 

The authors are talking a lot about management, processes and how to move from a subjective point of view to an objective one so you can advocate for it on a professional level. The book is very much about change.

They talk about what a mature process is versus a young one and how to make processes grow up. They do not do this on a meta level; they explain concrete things to take action on. They present actual processes and solutions to common problems which could hinder a process to grow mature. One could very easy say that this book is a testing management title.
This sounds kind of boring, but it is not, and the writing is done very well and engaging. The authors use a lot of diagrams and illustrations to help the reader to understand their standpoints. They even provide worksheets you can use to work out issues.

The structure of these challenges is always the same, and I like it. The structure provides an excellent outline; it looks like this:

  1. Overview
  2. State of the practice
  3. Impact On Testing
  4. Solutions To The Challenge
  5. Solution Impediments
  6. Guidelines For Success
  7. Plan Of Action

 

The last chapter is condensed but contains a whole framework on how to make an actionable plan to created change. It will teach you how to decide what to adjust, what kind of person can help you do so and which kind of person will not. You will learn how to create a plan for change, how to plan goals and how to make progress measurable. The chapter maybe is the most versatile, because it is transcending testing as a topic and is all around useful.

One interesting thought I took out of this chapter was the difference between a subjective and an objective problem. The issue with subjective problems is, you might know and feel there is something wrong, but you cannot show or verbalize it, which makes it hard to ask for change. The authors provide a worksheet that will help you to analyze subjective problems, so you can make them objective.

Conclusion

“Change is a process, not an idea.”

A tester who wants to improve processes to achieve better testing results will find useful ideas in this book on how to find issues and how to get working solutions running.
However, you need to remember: This book is 20 years old. People still discovering and reading this book shows that it has inherent value, but you might want to modernize and adapt the ideas for 2017.

It is a shame that we probably won’t get a revised version of it.

Appendix

Title: Surviving the Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing, A People Oriented Approach


Authors: William E. Perry, Randall W. Rice
Publisher: Dorset House Publishing
Pages: 202
Language: Englisch
Year: 1997
ISBN-10: 0-932633-38-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-932633-38-5

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