The Boutique Tester

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when the rules were looser, just as old wooden buildings have more rats than concrete buildings. But there are rats in the building now as well. Now that society is all ferrocrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps in the joints. It takes a very smart rat indeed to find these openings. Only a stainless steel rat can be at home in this environment.

So what would a "stainless steel," boutique tester look like?

Imagine a development project that is outsourced to one of these boutique development shops. The programming budget is in the area of at least $50,000 and also has an outside design firm and internal costs. The total cost of project is probably in the $100,000 range.

Now, imagine the project is halfway through. The customer begins to be concerned with functionality. This is a make-or-break project, the customer explains. Perhaps the customer is a media outlet, like NBC or the BBC. It starts to talk about how the project "has to work" and legal implications. The development staff-a bunch of craftspeople-start to hear about contracts, clauses, and SLAs.

What's does the CEO of a shop with seven employees do now?

Hopefully, the owner will tell the customer that he intends to hire a tester-someone independent, who can make an assessment of the software. This tester will be dropped in to mitigate risk for two to five percent of the development cost. At $5,000 for a $100,000 project, this is a simple insurance policy.

This means the tester isn't going to moan that he was not involved early or insist on detailed documentation-he will have to contribute actively to the project right now.

Perhaps, over time, this service becomes so valuable that the development shop plans on using a tester as part of its risk-management strategy in general. Sure, the developers will do test-driven development and perhaps even automate story tests for the customer. The final layer of testing-the pièce de résistance-is the air-dropped tester.

With a few shops to work with, it's possible that tester could create a boutique test consultancy. There are already a few people who do this sort of thing-stainless steel testers in the maze.

Keep in mind that testing as a profession is not going anywhere. There will be plenty of testing roles in larger organizations in the years to come. But is a testing boutique possible? I certainly believe so. Will it be a good thing? And, what will it take for us to get there? Alan Kay , the man generally credited with object-oriented programming, once said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Let's go prove him right.

About the author

Matt Heusser's picture Matt Heusser

The Managing Consultant at Excelon Development, Matt Heusser is probably best known for his writing. In addition to currently serving as managing editor of Stickyminds.com, Matt was the lead editor for "How To Reduce The Cost Of Software Testing" (Taylor and Francis, 2011). He has served both as a board member for the Association for Software Testing and as a part-time instructor in Information Systems for Calvin College.

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