Software Testing in Twos

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Shared Understanding, Better ROI
My team has found that when a tester and programmer pair to write business-facing tests that drive development, we usually find differences in the way each of us has interpreted the customer’s desires for the user story. This leads us to use the “power of three” and get the customer involved in the conversation.

In addition, combining the programmer’s code design expertise with the tester’s knowledge of the right tests to write ensures our automated tests are more efficient, maintainable, and valuable. My fellow testers and I have programming experience, but we aren’t designing production code every day. Over the years, my programmer teammates have grown good testing skills, but they still don’t think of all the good questions to ask. Working together to turn examples into automated tests and overcome obstacles to automation ensures a good long-term return on our significant automation investment.

Courage and Confidence
Testing alone is the path of least resistance. Pairing requires that you get out of your comfort zone. Make the effort. On my own, I can talk myself into saying, “Being $17 off is no big deal; I probably just made a math mistake.” When I paired with Michael, he wanted to know what caused that $17 difference. Pair testing gives me the confidence to explore further and really make sure our application behaves correctly. Pairing on test automation builds my courage to take on difficult automation challenges.

There are so many pluses to pairing, but it’s a more intense experience than working on your own and can be tiring. I still find myself slipping into that lazy or sometimes panicked approach of doing testing activities on my own. Like any habit, pairing takes time and practice. At our daily standup meeting, I look for opportunities to pair. In pair testing, we learn faster and find more issues in a shorter amount of time, so even short time boxes of pairing work well. If you’re not pairing now or you’ve fallen out of the habit, experiment by testing with a teammate for an hour or two. I’d love to hear about your own experiences with pair testing.

User Comments

1 comment
Linda Rising's picture
Linda Rising

I love this article! Like many readers, I was expecting to hear all the benefits for the new guy of pairing with the experienced folks, but instead, it's all about how much a fresh pair of eyes can teach the current testers! This is what a learning environment is all about--even the new kid on the block can be a teacher. A great illustration of the author's wisdom. Thank you, Lisa!

April 10, 2012 - 9:32am

About the author

Lisa Crispin's picture Lisa Crispin

Lisa Crispin is the co-author, with Janet Gregory, of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams (Addison-Wesley, 2009), co-author with Tip House of Extreme Testing (Addison-Wesley, 2002) and a contributor to Beautiful Testing (O’Reilly, 2009) and Experiences of Test Automation by Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster (Addison-Wesley, 2011). She has worked as a tester on agile teamssince 2000, and enjoys sharing her experiences via writing, presenting, teaching and participating in agile testing communities around the world. Lisa was named one of the 13 Women of Influence in testing by Software Test & Performance magazine in 2009. For more about Lisa’s work, visit www.lisacrispin.com.

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