Do we have something else than ISO29119?

The ISO29119 standard for software testing keeps a significant part of our test community busy at this moment. A quote from Carsten Feilberg in an online discussion.

“It’s not a guideline for testers to do a good job, or even do a job. This is framing testers – all testers do will be measured by non-testers based on this standard/guideline.”

The standard will force you to write a pile of documents.

” You spend a bunch of (expensive) time documenting everything so that you can prove that you are meeting the standard rather than, in this case, actually spending your time on what you ought to be doing, which is testing.” as quoted by Philip Howard in his blog “A storm about testing

So if you focus on testing in stead of documentation, things will be much better. A good tester is gathering information by testing, by executing his test ideas. A good tester make notes on what he is doing or what he has done, the tools he used and the environment he work on. He also writes down the things he wants to investigate further or even new things based on his observations. This is also structured testing, but with a focus on test execution and not documentation. This is the way of how a skilfull tester works. Exploring and learning. Provide information by using his testing skills to those who can make the decisions.

Can this be put in a standard? The answer is No. “A moment that a tester spends on useless documentation is a moment in which she’s not focused on identifying risks and finding problems that would cause loss, harm, or annoyance” as Michael Bolton mentioned it in his blog ‘Frequently Asked Questions About The 29119 Controversy‘.

If you look it from another point of view, the ISO29119 standard requires you to do a lot of preparation of what you think you are going to do. What you think you are going to do and what you are actually doing during your test execution can be different and will be different. Do not focus on the way the ISO standard describes how you should work. You are working with perhaps obsolete information, gathered upfront with a certain expectation which most of the time will not happen.
When you focus on test execution, you actually see what happens. Your observation and experiences at real time, which you write down in a session report. A collection of session reports which contains information as things actually happened. This is of value to your stakeholder.

So as a tester you focus on test execution. You collect the things you need for your test execution. You observations and experiences will help you make decisions, about which trails to follow on your ongoing quest. To seek out new information which help you to update your test ideas and even create new test ideas. It is all about short iterative loops of Learn, Execute and Design.

“When we test, we do so with a purpose: to discover and share information related to the quality. Any activity, any effort that doesn’t contribute to doing so is waste” as Iain McCowatt puts it nicely.

This is what I think about ISO29119 and what you as a tester must do. I can say this. I can say what I want on my blog. These are my own words. I’m free to think and that is exactly what is a testers I allowed to do, what a tester must do. It is his most important asset. Freedom to think.

Another thing that bothers me with this standard is that it is not providing use new things. It is all of the same from previous standards. They only collected the information and did no improvements. The standard says it fits in all kinds of SLDC, but I have my doubts.

Related to test one thing becomes clear in this standard. They finally accept ET as an approach, but they still don’t understand what is means. Further, they keep to the old test techniques as before. No improvements or new techniques, while I now for sure that there are new techniques a tester can use and perhaps must use. Domain Testing to name one. But that is what you get when the same people created this standard as the ones before. To quote Albert Einstein

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”

Or to put it more bluntly;

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.”

Some unknown Texas genius put it simply:

“If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”

One thing still scares me. “You don’t have to use this” is what the standard committee is saying. At this moment we don’t hear that much from them and they avoid discussions with us whenever possible. I think that they don’t want to spent their energy in debating with us. Their focus is on the regulators. Those bodies are important for the ISO29119 committee. Why? If one of them says, “the ISO29119 is the only standard for Software Testing. Everybody must comply to that”, more regulators will follow and all the poison will be thrown at us.

To come to a conclusion. As testers, we must focus on our test execution with the skills we have. With information we create, we guide our stakeholders with making the right decision.
Further we must focus on the regulators in the world who can make a decision, a statement. We must convince them in such a way that they all say that the ISO29119 standard is not helping me to do my business, it does not add value to my organization.

I like to end with a quote from Laurent Bossavit : ISO 29119 may be software testing’s Laetrile. Never proven, toxic side effects, sold as “better than nothing” to the desperate and unwary.

I know what I have to do the coming period.


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