Testing in a Squeezed, Squeezed World

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  • time hours but with careful management this should not be a hindrance. Beware though, if your end user works for a client company, this could result in a conflict of interest.
  • Extramural Staff —sometimes you can run your testing into the night and on weekends. If so you might be able to make use of people who need a second job, either internal or external. You will need to ensure though that these people can last the distance, as there’s no greater bug sieve than a tired tester.
  • University Students —the obvious place to start is with IT students however this does not always turn up good testers. I’ve found engineering students make good testers and believe it or not, so do music and psychology students. Make sure your students can commit the time though, as when exams roll around they will be decidedly scarce. You may also have the perfect timing for your project and have it running during their summer break.

Methods of acquisition can include advertisements in local papers, soliciting candidates from business managers, use of ‘intelligence’, advertisements on company noticeboards, calling student job search agencies, beg, steal or borrowing in any way you can.

However there is one major trap. You have to make sure that your tester is up to the task and obviously the risk is much greater with untried personnel. A few pointers for identifying potentially good testers:

  • Pessimism but the type that is not confrontational and keeps within the bounds of searching for the worst to achieve the best.
  • The ability to hone in on the important issues and gravitate towards the areas most likely to turn up issues—the proverbial tester’s nose.
  • A curiosity that wants to try the unexpected as well as the routine.
  • A polite firmness with the ability to raise the red flag when its required.
  • A degree of computer literacy (not being able to use a mouse might be a problem).
  • At least some sort of exposure to business software.
  • A total and complete lack of fear of hard work and long hours!

You can minimize your risk in a number of ways:

  • Do a characteristic/skill assessment —your HR department may be able to help or a friendly recruitment agency (for which you may need a good excuse as to why you’re not hiring from them). As a test manger you know (or should know) what attributes make a good tester, make a list and ask potential candidates to rate themselves. If they’re internal people, get their manager to rate them also.
  • ‘Good Buddy’ system—put the casual alongside an experienced practitioner. Have the casual learn by watching the masters (assuming you have one or two).
  • Training—maybe you can run an ad-hoc training course for your casuals. If you have the budget, you can bring a trainer in or send them on a public course, if they’re available.

If you want casuals to help you through the execution phase of a test cycle then you need them to be able to do two things:

  • Execute a test script
  • Write a defect report

Assuming that your test scripts have already been developed and are clear and concise, they must able to follow the instructions and when something goes amiss, describe accurately what happened. I won’t go into the details of writing defect reports here, suffice to say the more detail that is provided and the more accurate it is then the better the chance of a fast remedy.

Don’t assume though that your casuals will be restricted to execution. If you need them to develop test scripts, many will

About the author

Geoff Horne's picture Geoff Horne

Based in New Zealand, Geoff Horne has more than thirty years of experience in software development, sales and marketing, and project management. He founded and ran two testing companies which grew to enjoy an international clientele. In 1994, almost by accident, Geoff found himself involved in testing a complex fault management system that led to further testing assignments covering a wide range of applications and tools. Of late, he has focused on a few select clients running complex test projects in a program test management capacity. Geoff has written a variety of white papers on the subject of software testing and is a frequent speaker at testing conferences worldwide.

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